"" Writer's Wanderings: Life Jacket Drill

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Life Jacket Drill

We have been on enough cruises to know the drill. At around 4 or 5 p.m., after everyone should be aboard and ready to sail, the announcement is made that the alarm will sound and everyone--and they do mean everyone--needs to get their lifejacket from their room and proceed to their muster station indicated on the back of the stateroom door.

Some ships insist you wear the bulky orange vest that makes you feel pregnant all over again all the way to the muster station. I think that's to keep people from tripping on the straps if they aren't wound around the life jacket. Everyone assembles while those in charge take attendance. A demonstration of the proper way to wear the vest follows along with sometimes humorous descriptions of all the nifty attachments--a light for reading and whistle to irritate the marine life. Everyone is usually good natured about the whole thing. Although there was one cruise where the photographers (who are often irritating enough) decided it would be cute to take picures of everyone up to their chins in orange covered cork.

The Antarctic cruise actually had two life jacket drills. The second was for the inflatable life jackets that we would wear while on the zodiacs. The information went something like this:

You will proceed to the gangway with your parkas zipped and hoods up, holding any loose items in your right hand while the crew puts the life jacket over your head and secures the straps for you. If for any unfortunate reason you should find yourself overboard, your life jacket will inflate automatically. If the automatic inflation for some reason fails, there are two red knobs you pull to inflate the jacket. If for any reason that should fail to inflate your jacket and you have not sunk and are still conscious, you can manually inflate with the tubes at the top of the jacket. Of course by that time, hypothermia has probably set in and your life jack will only serve as a means of recovery rather than rescue--which explained the big loopy strap on the back of it.

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