Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boat Safety!

Today was the first time that I have gotten the chance to get outside of our "orientation bubble". We were able to go to the mall on our own and get a taste of Filipino life. But I will touch on that in another post. Today I will recap our adventure in boat safety!

We first were transported via bus to the beach (about 30 min away) for our boat safety lessons! We went in groups of 5 or 6 (however many could fit on the boats) and practiced jumping into the water and using our life vest in case of emergency. So the reason for having to do boat safety is pretty obvious, I mean we are on an island country. But for other reasons as well - the main type of boat used is called a banka or pump boat, which is a basically a small home-made outrigger canoe made out of bamboo. These boats can be powered by an engine, sail or man power (paddles). These boats are by nature do not have the best balance and they can tip over quite easily. There have been incidents in the past with Peace Corps Volunteers being in such a boat and therefore now we have boat safety.

So my story begins here.
My group was the last to go out. There were six of us on the boat. The Filipino boat captain ordered us around about where to sit so we would balance the boat right. We went out into the water and practiced jumping in and inflating our life vest, we also went over what to do if someone tried to grab onto you or if you need to tow another. Then we had to be able to climb back into the boat by ourselves. After we all climbed back into the boat, our instructor (a current PCV) who was still in the water asked us if we could
get his sandals from the bottom of the boat so he could climb in.

Now the boat is very narrow (as seen above) and we all had on our inflated life vest around our necks, so it was not an easy task to look below us to find his sandals. As we were all trying to look at the bottom of the boat, we began to loose balance and started to tilt back. We all tried to hang on and lean forward so as to flip the boat back (although two people fell off, you know who you are C and J!). Although we were successful is leaning enough to get the boat back on the water, water had already began to flow into the canoe part of the boat and we were sinking. Fast! We all jumped ship and tried to save the boat, but alas we were too late. The poor boat captains life possessions as well as various pieces of the boat began to float away. We all scrambled to collect his things and the boat pieces and helped him tow it to shore. So although the purpose of the boat safety was to make sure we would know what to do if a boat capsized or sank, our group was the only one to actually have hands on practice in such a scenario!

On a side note, I felt really bad for the boat captain because the boat sinking ruined his motor. However I was assured that Peace Corps would reimburse him for the loss.

More about our mall trip into the city later!


  1. I had no idea one of the boats broke! how did you all get it tipped over? Did you break one of the pontoons?

  2. I guess we just had enough weight when we were all moving around that we got it off balance. I'm not sure if the boat would be able to flip all the way over since the outriggers didn't break (thank God!) but we tipped enough for water to just start flowing into the canoe. It was an experience in boat safety for sure!