The heat inside the life-raft is stifling. A dozen others around you and not one person here is panicking. Why should we? We paid good money for this.
The whistle blows, the sprinklers stop and the lifeguards call you to the side of the heated pool for a debriefing.
'How do you think it went?'
Amazingly well, I may well be a little tired from a full day's learning but I understand the importance of having the right survival equipment. I know how to use it and what to expect. I shall endeavour to read the informative leaflets on the train journey home. I know exactly what to do should I find myself mid ocean in need of a life-raft.
Mid ocean and in need of a life-raft. The skipper pulls at the painter with cripplingly cold hands. He gives the sharp pull that will inflate our hopes of surviving this predicament.
Seven blank faces stare at the half inflated life-raft. These things should contain more gas than necessary to get it to the 288 pounds per square foot of pressure needed, so why not this evening? I't's lucky that the vessel I'm on is still afloat, albeit upside down and in The Bay of Biscay. You know it's bad when that's what passes as lucky.
At least we have in date flares! Only one out of the five works. Oh such fun we're having!
This isn't how they said it would be. Not a single mention of this in the informative leaflets. They never even mentioned that this could happen. This is not how they said we'd survive!
Yet survive we did. It was a large part to do with the training and a greater part to do with the will and tenacity of the crew on board. It was having the luxury of the course that I could even presume what would happen and how to act in this bleak situation.
It was through the knowledge shared throughout one day that I can compare it to reality.
The reality of finding myself in this position however, is far removed from a heated pool. Maybe it would be a good idea for training centres to take on board that it isn't as easy to survive at sea as it is to walk away from a heated pool with a certificate. To disorientate and scare the students, to give them a hard time and to tell them that maybe it won't be okay. It will be worse than worse can be, but you can make it.
In the photo at the above link you can see our piss poor excuse of a life raft.