During the first few months we lived on board I would often find myself awake in the middle of the night, my mind swirling around worst-case scenarios, wondering how, or if, I would cope if something bad happened. Sometimes I was worried about the big stuff but as often it was knowing that a chipped tooth, a sprained ankle, a small infection or a high fever can quickly become life threatening when you have no chance of getting proper medical attention for days or even weeks. The myriad of little things that could, in the blink of an eye, go horribly wrong was down right over whelming. When I started to think about the unthinkable, a time when things went so bad we’d have to abandon ship, my fear would almost drown me. Eventually I learned that the only way to control my tsunami of worry was to do as the Girl Guides taught me; Be Prepared.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been preparing to put to sea again, and although I no longer find myself kept awake at night I am going through a lot of the same motions as so many years ago when we first left San Diego. I have spent hours sorting through our medical kit checking expiry dates and making lists of things that need to be replaced. I dug out our ditch bag and tested the EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon), SART (search and rescue transponder), Emergency VHF and back up GPS, made sure our flares were in date and that there was a bottle of honey and a jar of peanut butter packed. (Honey for it’s medical uses on cuts and burns and peanut butter as a protein packed, easy to ration and eat food. And if you’ve never tasted emergency ration biscuits take my word for the fact that they will be greatly improved with these two items.)
We also did something that was long over due; got our Viking life raft serviced. It was the first time it has been serviced since we purchased it, but it hasn’t been easy finding a qualified and reputable service centre. Earlier in the week I saw the official Fiji Pilot boat that stays in the marina offloading a Viking life raft and I wandered on over to ask for some information. The captain couldn’t find the contact details while we spoke but the following day a piece of paper with a name and mobile phone number was delivered to the boat. I called and chatted with a soft spoken man named Willy, from Marine Safety Services, who assured me that he could service our raft and would be able to pick it up the very next day. Sounded almost too good to be true, this is a country that is home to the infamous “Fiji Time” after all. I wasn’t going to hold my breath.
But, true to his word, Willy phoned early the next morning and less than an hour afterwards was knocking on the hull! Not only that, he invited us to accompany him to his workshop to watch the inspection.
We have both seen a larger raft serviced so the general procedure was nothing new for us but it was fascinating watching our very own life raft inflate. After it was fully blown up they wanted to let it sit for a while to make sure that there were no pin holes, which gave us the chance to crawl inside and explore. Although it was tempting to act like a kid at a bouncy castle it was actually pretty sobering to consider the physical size of the raft and how very little room there would be if indeed there were four adults crammed into it.
While we waited Willy opened and inspected the emergency pack that is tied inside the raft, replaced out of date flares, water rations and seasick tablets. He also weighed and inspected the CO2 canister and put in some extra PVC glue, just in case.
I was very impressed by his attention to details, his meticulousness and overall knowledge about several different brands of life rafts. His service was professional, I felt like we were in very good hands. We bought a Viking life raft because of it’s reputation for quality and it was great to hear from an independent source who has years of experience with them that they live up to their reputation.
Many years ago we adopted a saying on board Kate; “Safety never takes a day off.” It is our version of “Be Prepared”, a helpful reminder to be mindful, careful and observant everyday, not just when shit hits the fan. There is still a long list of things to do before we are ready to launch but this is one huge worry ticked off the list.