By John Konrad (gCaptain) The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), revolutionized training in the maritime industry by giving mariners hands on and practical safety training. Now one organization is using that model to train boaters.
Despite heavy rain and unseasonably cold temperatures in the Bronx racing and recreational sailors packed shoulder to shoulder into SUNY Maritime College’s (Fort Schuyler) modern event space over-looking a wind-swept and foggy East River.
Sailors flew in from around the country to take part in a Hands-on Safety-at-Sea 2018 a seminar organized by the Storm Trysail Foundation, a day of training geared to teach boaters practical, STCW/SOLAS like skills. At the event boat owners and crew participated in four 90-minute hands-on “blocks” bracketed by talks about leadership and seamanship.
The four blocks included:
- On-the-Water man overboard and storm sails training.
- Survival Training in the swimming pool using inflatable PFDs and life rafts.
- Firefighting, where fires were extinguished by the participants.
- Emergency Signaling, where held flares and parachute flares were fired by every participant.
- Damage Control both demonstrated and hands-on practice of key damage control skills.
“Merchant Marine officers have long known that hands on practice under pressure is the best training for emergencies at sea.” said Richard DuMoulin, chairman of yesterday’s event. “In the days of sailing ships it was no coincidence that merchant ship captains became the great explorers. Men like Nansen, Amundsen, Shackleton, Scott and Peary were first mariners then explorers.”
Richard DuMoulin is a recognized leader in the worlds of commercial shipping, maritime safety, and sailing. In sailing Richard has crewed five Americas Cup campaigns and shares the world sailing record from Hong Kong to New York with American Vendée Globe sailor Rich Wilson. In safety Dumoulin is recipient of the US Coast Guards highest civilian award, the Distinguished Service Ribbon. In commercial shipping he has been Chairman of the Seamens Church Institute and Intertanko.
According to DuMoulin letting students do practical SOLAS skills – like firing a flare or entering a liferaft with clothes and PFDs on – are critical for surviving emergencies at sea but those skills are not the core lessons his instructors are teaching.
“Far more important are basic leadership and seamanship skills” said DuMoulin. “In addition to core competency, men who have survived extreme conditions at sea, men like Ernest Shackleton, could visualize things ahead, remain flexible and inspire optimism in everyone.”
The most inspiring aspect of the event for gCaptain was the interaction between maritime industry veterans, USCG rescue teams and both professional and recreational sailors. “I was most eager to learn from the professional SUNY Maritime staff and the numerous Storm Trysail instructors with experience on ships” said participant Ian Rose, a sailor gearing up for a race to Bermuda. “The venue and involvement of guys who sail ships and tugboats at sea, is what convinced me to attend this seminar.”
“We are learning from real ship captains, mates and veteran racing sailors” said another participant. “This combination adds a high level of professionalism and realism to the training.”
“SUNY Maritime has always used sailboats and dingy’s to train future ship captains.” said Joe Sullivan, Assistant Waterfront Director at SUNY Maritime. “Now we get to give back by helping Storm Trysail train sailors.”
Many participants and instructors where excited to see gCaptain staff at the event and most where quick to discuss the value of these two communities, sailing and commercial shipping, working together in the future.
“The safety at sea seminars contain a lot of detail and useful information.” said bestselling author, America Cup Champion and SUNY Maritime College Alumnus Gary Jobson in the introductory video posted below. “The value in this safety at sea seminar is not limited to racing or offshore sailing. The course content is invaluable for anyone heading to sea.”
Safety At Sea Training For Kids
In addition to offering training for adults at SUNY Maritime College, the Storm Trysail foundation also sponsors events for Women sailors and travels around the united states offering this type of practical leadership and seamanship training to kids.
Storm Trysail hosted its first Junior Safety-at-Sea Seminar in 1997 at Larchmont Yacht Club. “Storm Trysail’s highest priority is to introduce junior sailors to big boats in a fun and safe manner,” said Richard du Moulin. “As much as they need to understand the basics of sailboat racing in order to be successful, junior sailors also must know safety at sea to be responsible sailors.”
This practical safety and leadership training has improved over the past twenty years and has already resulted in one remarkable success… A documented life saved of a junior girl who fell overboard during a sailboat race on Long Island Sound.
“That was so much fun!” said Jack Konrad, my 12 year old son who got to extinguish a fire, shoot a flare and jump into a liferaft with an active duty Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer. “I want to do more classes like this.”