15 November 2007 | Fort Lauderdale
The MCA (British Maritime Coast Guard Agency) seems to be leading the way in yacht licensing. The professional yacht crew space is growing rapidly and no one else has stepped up to put standards in place so much as the MCA.
Currently to work on most boats in the Caribbean you need to have STCW certification. This includes Sea Survival (inflating life rafts in a freezing swimming pool at night), Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (what? we need to teach people how to be responsible?), First Aid (standard CPR/First aid) and Fire Fighting. The STCW program composed the first week of the 200 ton masters course.
All of the courses were fun and interesting but I really learned a bunch in the Fire Fighting bit. Day one is class room and day two is all practical. Our Fire Fighting portion was taught at the Resolve School in the Fort Lauderdale port. Oddly the Non-SS Manatee (plumbed every which way with propane lines so that they can burst any part of the vessel into massive flames on a whim) is located a couple hundred feet from huge petroleum tanks inside the port. I suppose the port planning engineer was on vacation that day.
We put out lots of kinds of fires with various types of fire extinguishers but the exercises that put you in an enclosed space with raging flames were the most eye opening for me. The hot box bit where you are in an enclosed steel room wearing full fire gear and breathing through a mask with a load of burning pallets bringing the ceiling temp to several hundred degrees was particularly intense.