1. Prepare Yourself
The Harry F. Sinclair, Jr. was still afloat and burning a week after she had been torpedoed. Her fo'c'sle was free from flame. yet men were burned to death because they jumped overboard, and they jumped overboard because they were not prepared.
William Caves, the bosun, safe in a waterborne lifeboat, saw an A.B., who had leaped over the side, struggling in a sea of flaming gasoline. It was impossible to reach the man. Caves saw his shipmate suck fire into his lungs. The A.B. was still fighting while he was being cremated. Then his head nodded briefly as though he were dozing, and Caves watched the charred body float deeper into the flames.
A needless death. The A.B. died because he had no faith in his own seamanship. He did not know the simplest fundamental of buoyancy. (See Chapter 3.) He did not know the treachery of a cork jacket, which is scarcely more of a safety device than a strait jacket.
ADEQUATE DRILLS. -- Do not cheat yourself of life the way this tragic seaman did. Prepare
yourself, which cannot be done simply by engaging in peacetime boat drills. You are not a lifeboatman unless you have had experience in lowering away. Swinging out is not sufficient. As a boat drill, the mere operation of swinging out has left men inadequately trained, resulting in the loss of many lives during emergencies.
The Comal Rico crewmen were prepared. They held a boat drill every other day. When the ship was torpedoed, all survived except two who were killed by a direct hit.
Do not ship out unless you have taken part in a complete abandon-ship drill. Insist on this drill. Joe Melendez from the torpedoed Saber reported: "In the nineteen days since we left New York there had been no lifeboat drills." Do not let this situation occur aboard your ships. Complete drills can take place in harbors and when coastwise ships lay up at night and even at sea.
Frank W. Ferguson reported: "I was on the torpedoed E.M. Clark as A. B. There were 26 men in my lifeboat and of this number only three were completely familiar with handling a boat. Because of this fact we had a tough time getting clear of the ship."
More drills, more survivors.
LIFE SUIT. -- Provide yourself with a life suit. It will protect you against wind, rain, spray, and
cold. You can sleep and work in a life suit. In the water it will enable you to get out of the danger area more quickly. It is fire-resisting for at least three minutes. Unless the suit is torn, it will prevent blood from a body wound getting into the water and attracting sharks. The dark color itself will lessen the danger of a shark attack. If the wearer is also clothed in heavy woolen underwear and takes care to keep his circulation active, a life suit will cut down the danger of frostbit and all but eliminate the possibility of death from exposure.
When the Independence Hall foundered off Sable Island, the vessel split in two, and a heavy sea prevented the launching of lifeboats. Ten men were lost. Reported Vincent A. Slivjak: "If these men had life suits, their lives would have been saved."
Captain Erling Vorberg, master of the torpedoed Norwegian motor tanker Barfonn, reported: "The boatswain, wearing the life suit, was washed into the sea by the first explosion. Due to the weight of the boots, he was kept floating ni a standing position by the kapok jacket, even thou he was unconscious."
Of the other crewmen who jumped overboard wearing life suits, Vorberg reported: "They were floating around in the water like rubber balls
and could easily swim and advance with a rather good speed. When they were picked up in the lifeboats, they were all dry and warm."
In the same convoy, all the men aboard the Ila were ost. They did not have life suits. Only two men were saved from the 30 aboard the Greek ships Evros. They did not have life suits.
R.G. Wallace, a watertender from the torpedoed Collamer, reported: "One man was standing on the poop deck when the well deck was already under water. If this man had a life suit, he would be living today.
"A man was adrift on an old crate, and as close as we could maneuver the boat was ten feet. We asked him to jump, but he was afraid to do it, and after we drifted away, we heard his cries for a while, but then they were silenced."
INSPECTION -- Inspect the equipment and provisions yourself. Do not take anything for granted. Three days at sea an A. B. aboard the Jupiter discovered that the water tanks in four liferafts were dry.
John Larson, A. B. from the torpedoed Allan Jackson, reported: "The turnbuckles were frozen and it took anywhere between five and ten minutes to release the gripes."
Julius L. Schwartz from the torpedoed tanker China Arrow reported: "Two of the lifeboats
had no rudder. The #3 lifeboat was without water."
Do not forget to inspect the screws which hold the mast step in place. In old boats these are sure to be badly rusted. The Prusa's #1 boat nearly capsized when the step pulled loose at night while the boat was under full sail.
One of the breakers in the Prusa's #1 lifeboat contained a top layer of fresh biscuits, but the balance of the contents was old and moldy.
(See page 136 for taking care of boat cover and water breakers in freezing weather.)
FIRST AID. -- Ashore, you should take a course in first-aid; at sea you should practice what you have learned. You should provide yourself with a first-aid manual.
CLOTHING. -- Whether you are bound for the Tropics or the Arctic regions, supply yourself with heavy woolen underwear.
CORK PRESERVER. -- Do not trust your life to a cork preserver. Men have drowned in them. This type of preserver rides high on the wearer's back, and sometimes it actually forced the head under water. Men who have jumped overboard wearing cork preservers have had ribs, arms, and shoulders broken. The front of the preserver strikes the chin, knocking the wearer unconscious.
Albert Pfisterer, a wiper from the torpedoed Gulf America, reported: "We saw bodies in the water, face downwards and feet up. This was the fault of the life preservers. The men could have been saved if it were not for the life preservers crawling up."
The bosun of the Casper, which sank in the Baltic Sea years ago, advised that a piece of nine thread line be used to lash the cork preserver around the body to keep it snug and low.
SHIP'S MEETINGS -- John J. Smith, veteran pumpman from the torpedoed Pure Oil tanker E. W. Hutton, strongly advocates ship's meetings. Though Smith's ship was torpedoed twice, and men were killed by direct hits, there was an absence of panic among the crew. The discussions aboard the E. W. Hutton had much to do in aiding the men, when the emergency came, to keep their heads.
The meetings included the entire crew, divided into two off-watch groups. Besides these meetings, a committee composed of one representative from each department conferred with Captain Carl Flaathan on safety measures.
It was agreed that if no officer were present to take command, the first capable man to reach his lifeboat station, regardless of his rating, was to act as the leader until relieved by a licensed officer. It was also understood that once
launched, the lifeboat was to remain nearby until it was certain all survivors had been picked up from the rafts and the water.
The discussions should take place under pleasant circumstances. If dwelling on the subject of abandoning ship causes the men to grow fidgety, discontinue the discussions for a day or two.
TEXTBOOK. -- It is suggested that you use this manual, which has been written out of the sweat and blood of actual experience, as the textbook for your meetings. For instance, read Chapter 3 on Buoyancy, and then ask the captain or chief engineer to explain the buoyancy conditions of your own vessel. After this discussion it is likely that you will be able, in an emergency, to put down any impulse to jump into flaming oil slick or icy water or a shark-infested sea.
DEMONSTRATION. -- Thirty-one survivors escaped in a 28-foot lifeboat from the torpedoed City of New York. Because of the boat's crowded condition, John Adams, the carpenter, could not get to the mast, and those around it were unable to rig the sail. One adequately trained lifeboatman among 31 persons? The sail had to be passed back to Adams for him to bend on. Then Adams had to shout instructions non how to step the mast.
It is vitally important that the crew -- particularly the new seamen, the Black Gang, and those
in the steward's department -- learn by practise and demonstration the seamanship required in handling a lifeboat. The proper distribution of weight in the lifeboat should be demonstrated, to emphasize the importance of maintaining a low center of gravity. Every one not trained in navigation should read Chapter 9 on Navigation, and practice shaping courses on a Pilot Chart -- before the need to do so arises.
ORDINARIES -- It has been the experience of veteran seamen at ship's meetings that the youngsters are inclined to grin. Consequently the old-timers are equally inclined to drop the discussions. Yet a foolish grin does not make a persons' life any less precious.
Actually these ship's boys are grinning to cover their embarrassment, to hide their sense of inadequacy. Perhaps some of them are even incapable of comprehending danger before it reaches them. Whatever the reason, the real seamen are not to allow an irresponsible attitude to affect their zeal in passing on the benefits of their experience.
MORALE. -- B. A. Baker, the Prusa's third mate, advises: "The most important thing for any lifeboatman to do, is to school his own mind. Make up your mind not to get excited and stick to it. Don't say you won't be afraid, for you will. When the torpedo explodes you will get a
sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach, and your knees may become a bit weak. The best cure for this is action."
SLACKNESS. -- When you review the statistics regarding marine disasters, it is difficult to understand how there ever could be any slackness in lifeboat drills. Yet many a seaman can tell of attending hundreds of drills without once having a chance to lower away and handle a waterborne boat.
Arthur LaBarge, an oiler aboard the Oneida, reported on a North Atlantic trip in March: "No lifeboat drills during the entire voyage, going or coming."
Even in peacetime an average of 1100 oceangoing ships are lost each year. But in wartime Great Britain alone lost three ships a day during 1917, and 2,479 British merchant vessels went down during the first World War. During April 1917, the number of Allied and neutral ships which were sunk totaled 430. The first two weeks of World War II saw 27 British merchant ships go under. In 1917 sixteen British merchant ships were sunk in a single day. Arnauld, a German U-boat commander, using one 4-inch gun -- no torpedoes -- sank during three weeks of August 1917, 50 sea-going vessels.
When a vessel goes down slowly by the head or by the stern, there is not apt to be any suction. (International News Photos)
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