Just one day after the fishing vessel Scandies Rose sank, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association had a surge in participants for its safety training on Friday and Saturday, according to the instructor.
“It was a busy two days, eight hours the first day and approximately six hours the second day. On top of everything else, I visit all of the participants onboard their own boats,” said Arthur Schultz, one of the instructors.
Over the weekend, 21 fishermen learned how to conduct federally mandated onboard drills to practice what to do when someone falls overboard, if there is a fire on the boat, and how to control flooding and abandon ship. Training occurred in the Coast Guard Base pool and in one of Kodiak Air Station’s hangars.
According to Schultz, fishing crews are required to conduct drills every month.
While AMSEA has classes all over the country’s coasts, Kodiak’s classes are unique because of the participation of rescue swimmers, he said.
“The experience of having a rescue swimmer in the pool and being able to visit the helicopter and being trained in hoisting procedures is an exclusively Kodiak thing,” Schultz said. “ A lot of people that have taken the classes somewhere else are blown away with what (they) learn.”
Rescue swimmers Petty Officer 3rd Class Jesse Cipolla and Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Stover helped trainees learn how to ride and enter a life raft, and how to group in the water if they are unable to reach their rafts.
The swimmers also helped during the helicopter hoist training where participants learned how to stay safe while being hoisted in the basket.
The basket can swing wildly when passengers are hoisted into the helicopter, so trainees are taught to keep their hands inside the basket. They were also taught how to handle the lines to lift devices to and from their boats, and how to assist in lifting an injured crewman, he said.
Kodiak is also one of the only places where trainees receive hands-on experience with dewatering pumps, Schultz said.
“Everybody in the class runs a dewatering pump. That’s crucial because the Coast Guard often drops dewatering pumps,” he said, of real life search and rescue situations.
After the course, all participants were certified to lead drills on their boats.
During the winter classes, participants usually include pot fishing vessels and dragger vessels, while in the summer months Schultz primarily trains salmon fishermen, he said.
Fishermen take these classes for a variety of reasons, he said. While some fishermen are idle and waiting for their boat to arrive in town, others are required to take the courses by their captain, the boat owner or insurance companies.
Until this year classes were free, but with decreased Coast Guard funding, AMSEA has had to begin to charge for the courses. Classes cost $95 per fisherman, Schultz said.
Upcoming training sessions will be held on Feb. 28 and Feb. 29. The deadline to sign up is Feb. 27.
AMSEA is a nonprofit that has trained more than 1,600 instructors to provide maritime safety training on Alaska, Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic coasts.