Immersion suits are fun. If they had a sheep-skin outer covering I’d bring one home for Bob, knowing Aberdonians would find that completely irresistible. They look like the kind of blow-up girlfriend he’s always fancied, except in pre-inflation mode and much better-looking than his usual live selections.
The difference with an immersion suit is that it’s not inflatable. You have to climb inside and then it adapts to the contours of the wearer. It’s like a one-piece frogman’s outfit with a big zip-up shawl collar that you pull over your head, then wind around your neck before shackling the whole apparatus to a waist-band. The neck-wrap doubles as a flotation aid (keeping head above water’s never been so easy) and there are two lanyards for lashing on to your partner so you don’t get separated. Kinky, eh? But how do you tie a reef knot in a length of rope when you’re treading water and your hands are sheathed in insulated polypropylene? Rubber’s never been my thing, so I settled for watching Linda do the practice run as I had grave doubts if I’d ever get out of it again. The suit’s remarkably clingy and stretchy but there was nothing on the label to say if it was pre-lubricated. Nor was there are any sign of a bottle of baby oil or a can of talcum powder to ease the process.
That was all part of today’s safety briefing – just in case we do a Titanic. If we have to abandon ship, the immersion suits will protects us from hypothermia in zero water temperatures or worse. The Tosca people are obviously taking no chances – even if we are nearing the equator. We were roughly in the latitude of Bombay at the time, so with global warming the way it is and the Antarctic shelf rapidly disintegrating, there could well be icebergs lurking in our path as we move south. You just can’t be too careful these days. We’ve got two of these suits in the cabin so that’s always potential for recreation once we’ve exhausted the book stock. Just have to check if there’s a jar of Vaseline to be had in the bosun’s locker, and then… whoopee!
The immersion suit shall be constructed with waterproof materials such that:
- it can be unpacked and donned without assistance within 2 min, taking into account any associated clothing*, and a life jacket
- if the immersion suit is to be worn in conjunction with a life jacket;
- it will not sustain burning or continue melting after being totally enveloped in a fire for a period of 2 seconds;
- it will cover the whole body with the exception of the face. Hands shall also be covered unless permanently attached gloves
it is provided with arrangements to minimize or reduce free air in the legs of the suit;
following a jump from a height of not less than 4.5 m into the water there is no undue ingress of water into the suit.
- An immersion suit which also complies with the requirements of life-jackets may be classified as a life-jacket.
- An immersion suit which has buoyancy and is designed to be worn without a life jacket shall be fitted with a light and the whistle complying with the requirements for life-jackets.
- If the immersion suit is to be worn in conjunction with a life jacket, the life jacket shall be worn over the immersion suit. A person wearing such an immersion suit shall be able to don a life jacket without assistance.
Passengers ships shall carry for each lifeboat on the ship at least three immersion suits which comply with the regulations. In addition a thermal protective aid must be provided for every other person who is to be accommodated in the lifeboats, who is not provided with an immersion suit.
These immersion suits and thermal protective aids need not be carried if:
a. persons are to be accommodated in totally or partially enclosed lifeboats.
b. If the ship is constantly engaged on voyages in warm climates where in the opinion of authority, thermal protective aids are unnecessary.
With respect to the rescue boat of passengers and cargo ships, each person assigned to the crew of a rescue boat will be provided with an immersion suit of appropriate size, which complies with the regulations.
Cargo ships shall carry for each lifeboat on the ship at least three immersion suits which comply with the regulations, or, if the Authority considers it necessary and practicable, one immersion suit for every person on board the ship.
However, in addition to immersion suits required for life rafts, lifeboats and rescue boats the vessel shall carry thermal protective aids for persons not provided with immersions suits.