The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is bringing its safety drill conductor workshop back to Homer Feb. 21 at the Bidarka Inn.
The course runs from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and covers cold water survival skills, man overboard recovery, flooding control, firefighting, abandon ship procedures and much more, and includes an in-water portion in a survival suit that is usually done from a vessel in the harbor.
After having to charge fishermen $95 for the class due to cuts during so called “sequestration” during federal budget negotiations in 2013, the class is again being offered at no cost to commercial fishermen thanks to a contract from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Having to charge for the class affected registration and attendance, according to AMSEA promotions manager Jeff Pearson.
“When fishermen are used to getting something for free, it presents more challenges,” he said.
He said the class was never free, fishermen were being given a scholarship from the Coast Guard.
Pearson said it was his understanding that the law requiring a drill instructor be aboard a documented vessel that fishes in federal waters, beyond three miles from shore, went through with the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, but that the regulation had not yet been written and released, so it is not being enforced.
However, those vessels are still required to conduct the drills, and the person who does the drills needs to have successfully passed the drill instructor class and be certified.
That regulation covers a vast majority of vessels fishing in Alaska, including the Upper Cook Inlet drift fleet and pot cod boats during the federal season.
“In any event, it’s really a good idea, required or not,” Pearson said. “It’s really valuable training, and everybody should be conducting drills. It saves people’s lives. We know that.”
Pearson expressed surprise at how few adults, even recreational boaters, wear personal flotation devices, even though the new ones are comfortable and do not create snags or entanglement dangers.
“I’m a big fan of the inflatables (such as suspenders),” he said. “They’re comfortable, and they are the only thing that will right me if I’m unconscious.”
The class will be taught by Chris Lopez, and already has the minimum number of registrants.
To register for the class, call AMSEA at 907-747-3287, or register online at www.amsea.org/.
Cristy Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.