Safety drills on the Rainbow Warrior (C) GREENPEACE / Sharomov
Safety drills on the Rainbow Warrior (C) GREENPEACE / Sharomov
Greenpeace is a stickler for safety. As you might have read in deckhand Alex’s profile, despite working on commercial vessels for several years, he struck a fire drill for the first time onboard the Rainbow Warrior. These fire drills are frequent occurrences, both at sea and in port. It seems that whenever there is someone new onboard, the word “drill” gets chalked on the noticeboard and at a given time, the general alarm sounds. At which point we all make sure we’ve got our pants on (just quoting the safety manual, “it is best to be clothed”) and head swiftly for the bridge deck for the roll call. And this is where the drills can take an interesting turn, because sometimes not everyone is accounted for. Which means a search must commence for the missing, possibly injured and possibly dying person. I must do unconscious well, because I have been lucky enough to play said casualty twice now. I tell you it is a real honour to have been chosen to return to the role of damsel in distress. The first time I played it was during our training week. I ended up in a tiny corner of the room containing all the paints and solvents, “out to it”. Problem is I look lighter than I am. When two able-bodied crew members dressed in full safety suits and smoke masks came to retrieve me, they ran into some trouble. “HELP,” one cried, with detectable desperation. “We need some help here!” I just kept my eyes closed and vowed to skip my second helping of sponge cake and custard at dinner that night.

Kathy plays hurt in the safety drill on the Rainbow Warrior (C) GREENPEACE / Sharomov
Kathy plays hurt in the safety drill on the Rainbow Warrior (C) GREENPEACE / Sharomov
Today the site of my demise was the dry-store, which runs off the kitchen and can only be reached via a very steep stairwell. It’s where vegetables and the like are kept. So alarm goes. I put myself in position (this time ad-libbing a broken leg) at the bottom of the stairs, and wait. The men in yellow arrive with walkie talkies (we cut no corners in these practice runs). There is some question of how exactly they’ll haul me up the stairs in my comatose state. Eventually it’s decided that it isn’t safe to carry out this maneuver unless there is actually an emergency, in which case they’d break one of my arms or legs if they had to to get me out. But we drew the line at losing limbs in a drill. So I got to emerge triumphantly by foot from the giant pantry.

So a dramatic day at sea. Incidentally there are gale force wind warnings in place out here, and I happen to have heard the maritime forecaster use the term “very rough” more than twice. Some have already fallen by the wayside. The rest of us are bracing ourselves. Watch horizon watch horizon watch horizon.