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Through fire and flood, yacht crew of Archimedes train to go it alone

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By Dorie Cox

Up to their armpits in water and covered in soot, the crew of M/Y Archimedes immersed themselves in cold weather and damage control training during live fire and water simulations with Resolve Maritime Academy in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 30.

As hatch doors closed in on half of the yacht’s 17 crew, water poured in through nearly 10 breaches to the “ship’s hull” as they systematically and quickly hammered in wooden plugs, and attached rubber seals and metal buckets to stop the fast flow into the two-story shipping container.

Meanwhile, real smoke and heat began to fill the shipboard firefighting simulator as the other half of the crew suited up in self-contained breathing apparatus gear and filed into the dark container to practice shipboard firefighting tactics in the training vessel Gray Manatee.

Now underway on an 8,500-mile trip to South America and Antarctica, the crew of the 222-foot (68m) Feadship took the training seriously. Where division into two groups often creates competition, in this case it fostered teamwork. After the groups switched simulators, everyone immediately shared with each other what they learned and how to improve.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” said a soaking wet Capt. Christopher Walsh after hammering supports to shore up the sides of the “hull” in the wet trainer.

Clearly, he has used this phrase many times, but his crew agree. He’s been around the world seven times and has earned their respect. And in return, he respects them.

“The crew do not have fear, but more, they think about how they’re going to move forward,” Capt. Walsh said. “It’s dangerous. We’re out there by ourselves. We need the team to think ahead and to think about planning. It’s rare to get practice like this, we are better prepared now than we were earlier today.”

There has been increased interest in damage control for superyacht class vessels, according to Resolve Maritime Academy Director Chauncey Naylor. In Archimedes’ case, AIG requested the training for the Antarctic region to qualify the boat for insurance for the trip.

Many crew have had simulated training, but few have learned about cold conditions. The entire group had classroom training on topics such as how to maintain water flow through firefighting equipment, how to prevent freezing of free surface water, and what stability and structural failure issues can occur.

“Where we go is not a milk run. We rely on each other,” Capt. Walsh said. “It helps to better build confidence, to be up to the task if an emergency arises. Between us, we have hundreds of years of experience, but we haven’t seen everything.”

Pondering emergencies at sea is scary, Capt. Walsh said.

“The illusion is that on these multimillion-dollar boats you’re invulnerable,” Capt. Walsh said. “But it’s a big ocean. There is no 911. Water is supposed to be on the other side of the boat. There’s nothing like water pouring in to give you a dose of reality.”

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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