Wow, so my attempt at blogging about my Year in Industry has gone pretty poorly… 6 months have passed since I last wrote about my placement and at that point in time I had only been working with the company a matter of weeks… Well now it’s almost 7 months into my placement and I have a lot to catch you up on!
So, where to start… When I last blogged, I was only two weeks into my placement. Following that I spent the next month in the office! Well, almost all of it but I’ll get to that next. I must say, I continued to enjoy the company, unlimited tea, wandering around in my socks and of course the work! I started to feel like I had a real grasp of what I was supposed to be doing and loved learning and experiencing what it was like working in a professional environment. Having only ever been a waitress/bar staff it was a bit of a shock to the system, I must say, even now I miss being on my feet and talking all day, probably why I enjoyed the offshore component to my placement more, but again, I’ll get to that later.
Anyway, one of my highlights of the past 6 months has to be the, let’s say interesting, week I spent completing the course in the Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Basic Safety training course, a legal requirement for anyone planning to work offshore! The week started off with a long drive over to Lowestoft College, before getting lost in the car park, asking someone as equally clueless as me for directions and finally meeting the rest of the group I was about to spend the week with. With the day focused on First Aid training I felt pretty confident, having a good grasp on this from my time with St Johns, so when going over it back at home that evening, I was not aware of how nerve racking the next few days would be!
The majority of the next few days were spent learning to fight fires! Yes, I got to put out fires! After a morning of classroom training we then found ourselves dressed in full fire fighting gear, which I must note, is not designed for 5’4 women (I wish I had a picture of this), and off we went to the fire ground! The first day was quite tame, putting out fires in steel containers with different types of fire extinguishers, I really enjoyed it. Then we learnt to use the hoses and how to put out slightly larger fires.
The second day however, was much more intense!
This was the first time I had ever used breathing apparatus; I must say, I think it was the most challenging part of the course for me. It is such a weird feeling relying on a tank of air you’re carrying on your back to breathe. Eventually I got used to it, but I found it very off-putting at first. We spent the morning in a classroom learning how to put the equipment on, how to activate the mask and the tank and then we were led around the site, up ladders, crawling through small tubes and jogging out in the open. With the tank on your back and a large hard hat on and dressed in the bulky gear, most of these tasks are not easy. I really respect those who do this every day. It was hot, awkward and uncomfortable, but strangely fun after you got used to it!
That afternoon we were thrown into the deep end! Old containers full of obstacles were set up on their site designed to simulate the ship. Within these fires were lit and the containers filled with smoke. In groups of 3, breathing apparatus on and hoses at the ready we had to go into the pitch black and use our newly acquired sweeping techniques (which make you look like you’re doing some very strange unstable dance), navigate around and tackle the fires. At first it was horrible; not being able to see anything, feeling the heat of the fires and being very aware that the only oxygen you have is that coming from the tank on your back. But after the first simulation (I think we did about 3 that day) it started to become strangely enjoyable. You’re very aware that you’re in a controlled situation with the constant support and guidance of the instructors (who I must say were great), and so you start to relax into it and can focus more on the task and less on the fear! Haha.
I will just say, if you’re planning on doing this course/need to do this course, you will smell awful afterwards! It took a good week to get the smell out of my hair!
Slightly exhausted from the day before, I was pretty glad that the next day was only half a day at Petans, part of which was occupied simply by a multiple choice test. However, once more we donned all our firefighting gear, and into the containers we went. This time they made it a little more challenging with ladders and stairs to compete with but feeling more comfortable with the breathing apparatus and the smoke I was feeling a lot more confident!
After scrubbing as much of the smokey smell off as possible, we travelled over to Lowestoft for the afternoon (I was not best pleased about this) to listen to a talk on responsibilities. After two and a half days of hand on firefighting there were many sleepy people trying very hard not to drift off! But we all made it through the afternoon and I went home to a very well deserved bath!
The next day was without a doubt my favourite! Sea Survival in the pool! And no, even though you’re working at sea, you don’t have to be able to swim! Not once have I ever been asked this question (much to my Dad’s surprise). But I can and I love being in the water so I felt pretty confident about this day.
Until they stood me on a platform above the water looking down at the bottom of the 10m deep pool and told me to jump…
Can’t say I was too happy about that at first! But after a little encouragement from the great group I’d been working with all week I did it (and secretly quite enjoyed it). The day was so fun. It started with classroom training and then we were off. Dressed in our swimmys, overalls (again, they don’t seem to make these for short women) and massive life jackets, one by one, we jumped. Several times in fact; once with all the lights off, which honestly felt like you were falling forever! After learning to flip an overturned life raft and climb into it we simulated a variety of different abandon ship situations, which was in fact great fun! However I don’t imagine this is the case if you have to do it for real! The pool was nowhere near as cold as the North Sea would be! After drying off we had to sit one final multiple choice test and that was it! STCW completed… It was not what I expected it to be at all… not that I really knew what to expect but it was great fun. You really need to throw yourself into it though, don’t sit back. I was pretty scared at the beginning but after a quiet talk with myself I really got into it and ended up loving it! All apart from that smell… I had to throw away a sports bra which just refused to smell of anything but smoke!
So, until next time!