Written by Adrianne Madden
October 30, 2008
If you ever wondered about the value of survival suits, you need look no further than the sinking of the Seattle-based Katmai last week.
The 93-foot catcher processor, loaded with cod and heading for Dutch Harbor, Alaska, reportedly took on water in the stern and lost its steering before eventually sinking.
Four members of the 11-member crew were rescued. The bodies of five other crewmen were recovered; two other crewmen's bodies were not found.
That four members survived is miraculous. How they were able to endure winds that news reports described as ranging anywhere from 50 to 100 mph that battered their life raft, ripping its canopy off and scattering the raft's emergency provisions and gear, I don't know. Two-story swells flipped the raft repeatedly, claiming three of its seven occupants. Not only was the canopy lost, but the floor was gashed, filling the raft with water.
Yet somehow, over the course of 15 to 17 harrowing hours, the survivors managed to stay with the raft until a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter rescued them.
According to one Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News article, Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read listed their survival suits as one reason the four crewmen survived. Given how long they were being tossed about in the battered life raft and subjected to the 43-degree water, would they have been able to endure their ordeal for as long if they weren't wearing the suits?
That seems doubtful. If there's a silver lining to the Katmai sinking, maybe it's that it demonstrates why it's absolutely worth spending a few hundred bucks to get yourself a good survival suit.
Likewise, it shows why it's important to inspect your suit monthly to check the suit's condition, and clean and lubricate the zipper so that it'll zip smoothly when you need it to. And while you're at it, practice getting into the suit; safety experts say that the more you do it, the more it'll become second nature to you if you ever have to clamber into it for real.
Let's hope you never have to. But if you do, and the suit helps you survive an ordeal at sea, the money you spent to buy it will be the best and most inexpensive life insurance policy you could ever buy.
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