It was actually with some trepidation I set off for Gosport for Level 2 Training. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, just that Level 2 was supposed to be much harder than Level 1, which to be fair – wasn’t helping!
I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym since doing Level 1 and had lost over 2 stone so was hoping this was going to be enough to deal with any extra hardness we were facing!
Level 2 started with us all meeting at 8am for a day of Sea Survival Training. We spent the first half of the day in the classroom learning about cold water shock and how getting into your life raft should only ever be as a last resort. While the course was delivered in a fun, light hearted way there were some horror stories along the way. Although we were all laughing about how to have a pee in a life raft with 9 other people in there with you, there was also lots of information that could potentially save our lives.
After lunch, it was into the pool for the practical session. It is slightly odd being told to don a fully inflated lifejacket before being taught how to jump into the pool and then swim lengths using the best method for swimming in a life jacket, which is actually surprisingly difficult.
The rest of the afternoon was spent learning rescue swimming, how to inflate and right a life raft and most importantly, how to actually get in one from the water. I think the one thing we all came away from that course with (apart from a certificate to say we’d been) was that getting into a life raft in a swimming pool could be a bit difficult. They are hot and they smell and we weren’t sure that we wanted to be doing it for real in a decent sized swell.
I also came away from the course with some attractive bruising after a poolside incident. It was hugely embarrassing, everyone made a big fuss and I had to sign the accident book.
So my planning for Level 2 by having no less than 4 types of knee pads with me for onboard was thwarted by the swimming pool – the very place I didn’t think I needed to be wearing said knee pads!
Next stop was Clipper Training HQ to join our boats. I was allocated to CV6 and before long we were dragging bags of kit down the pontoon once more to take up residence on our floating home. We were a small crew with only 7 of us plus our skipper Dave & mate Rob, so we could expect to have to work hard.
The first evening on board was pretty much the same as Level 1, safety briefings followed by a chat about the week ahead, dinner and then a quick trip to the pub. This time I didn’t make the mistake of leaving sorting out my bunk until after I came back from the pub – so my warm fleecy sleeping bag was all ready for me when I got back!
We were scheduled to leave Gosport around lunchtime, but after lots of briefings and getting familiar with the boat again, I started the engine to pull out at 3.40pm. We slipped the lines and departed on a journey that would involve us sailing 475 miles over the next 3 nights and days.
Seasickness is a topic often discussed by crew. We’re told there are only two types of people – those who get seasick and those who haven’t yet. There have been many articles full of advice written about it, which to be honest just contribute to the fear of it. A few days before departing for Gosport I’d ventured into the local Boots store (other brands of pharmacy are available) and purchased a number of remedies. The truth of the matter is I don’t really know if I can recommend any of them as I wasn’t sick, but I don’t know if that was because they worked or because I don’t get sick. I wore sea bands on my wrists the whole week and I only took the first two tablets a couple of hours before setting sail but didn’t take any more as they made me feel slightly drunk. I did feel slightly queasy a couple of times but nothing compared with some of my other crew members.
Seriously though, full credit to them. Some of them were very sick indeed and yet they never complained, they never missed a watch and were still fully functional members of the crew. Keeping them busy seemed to help, just every so often you’d see them launch themselves to the low side of the boat to relieve themselves of their last meal. Thankfully it seemed to pass quickly enough, which was handy as we came straight out into a Force 6/7 and the first thing we did was break not one, but two reefing lines!