Lifeboat PTSD

I have a major aversion to lifeboats.   As soon as I hear mention that we have to put the lifeboat in the water my stomach clenches with anxiety.  I think I told you that while we’re here at anchor we are completing our annual inspections – which of course include the launching of the lifeboat.  Barf.  I hate lifeboats for many, many reasons – the number one reason being that a lifeboat launching NEVER seems to go as planned.  I should amend that statement….the launching always goes perfectly….it’s the recovery of the lifeboat that’s a biatch.  Think about it – the design of a lifeboat doesn’t include getting it back aboard – it’s design to take you AWAY from the vessel (although I also have my doubts as to how effectively it would get me to safer waters).  I have never seen a lifeboat launching where there wasn’t some sort of snafu – yesterday’s snafu included the sprinkler system not working and a line parting.  Statistically more lifeboat related injuries occur aboard ships during routine drills then in actual emergencies (although in all fairness the amount of times a lifeboat is launched to drill is far greater then it is launched in an emergency).  

When I was a Third Mate I suffered from ‘lifeboat trauma’ and I believe I still have a little bit of PTSD related to lifeboat launchings.  I made my Mom hunt down the e-mail I sent home following my ‘harrowing day at sea in a lifeboat’.  Reading it three years later had me in stitches – I was literally sitting at my desk laughing out loud.  I’m going to re-cap the story and then I’m going to post the e-mail on it’s own….it’s very long and it doesn’t totally make sense….there are lots of tangents (Surprise!  Megan sends an e-mail full of randomness to all her friends and family!).


Basically, we were at anchor inFujairahre-flagging the ship which means, we were doing the annual inspection for the first time.   We had a different type of launching system on that vessel – we had two boats instead of one.  When we launched the boat the first day the second mate was sent to the hospital because he got bashed up so bad – the rest of us in the boat just had bruises and scrapes (I left that out of the e-mail I sent my Mother).  So on the second day we were one man short.  Obviously, no one else volunteered to go for a lifeboat ride after seeing the first launching.  It was about 115 degrees out and it was quite rough….which meant that instead the boat it must have been 120 degrees and we were getting tossed around like a cork.  The launching went just fine but the releasing gear broke – which meant we couldn’t recover the boat.  (We later found out that this particular type of releasing gear had a 70% fail rate and 5 Japanese sailors had died when their gear failed!)  Basically we got beaten up in the seas in a floundering lifeboat for hours while we brainstormed how to recover the lifeboat.  Within a half hour I was vomiting almost non stop and probably suffering from heat exhaustion.  Within an hour and a half I could barely move.  After a cooling water malfunction and a smoking (slightly on fire) engine we ended up getting ‘rescued’ by an Arab fishing boat and the Coast Guard inspectors who were aboard.


Why am I posting this now?  Because, I took photos of the lifeboat yesterday and it seemed like a good time to tell this story and I’d like to start using this blog to preserve some ‘older’ memories.  I’m going to bold some of the sentences in that e-mail that had me totally cracking up – I especially like the part where my delirium plus the heat convince me that it’s a good time to take off my boiler suit.  Ha.