STCW - Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping.
Q: What does STCW code affect?
A: There are 133 IMO (International Maritime Organization) signatory countries in the world. Every country will issue a document showing the level of mariner certification and the capacity and limitations of each. All professional mariner certifications must be STCW Compliant.
We took our class locally here in San Diego at the Maritime Institute. We were even more fortunate to get to take the course with friends of ours, Lewis and Alyssa from sv Eleutheria, fresh from the South Pacific, Fiji to be exact.
The first two days are primarily classroom lectures and videos, covering Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (think common sense and harassment). Day 3 was fire training day and having the class in San Diego we got to benefit from the plethora of military facilities in the area and thus went to the local Navy base to use their firefighting training center.
Firefighting day was pretty intense. It was warm out, 80ish by the time we left, and those turnouts aren't very airflow efficient. After learning how to don all our equipment we had to put on our full turnouts, air tank and breathing apparatus and couldn't take them off until we were done, about 3 hours in total. It gets a bit claustrophobic wearing all that, hearing your breathing and feeling sweat run down your face inside your mask without the ability to wipe it off as it sits at the tip of your nose wanting to be wiped away. The actual fire rooms we went in were mock up rooms of galleys, staterooms, engine room and boiler room. We used everything from CO2 extinguishers to a 1 1/2 inch hose. The hose was the smaller of hoses used by professionals but holy crap does that thing put out some power. We had two support people and one nozzle handler to hold the hose still and it was a struggle for the short 10-15 minutes at a time we did it. Enough power that I saw the hose team beside me going flying back 3-4 feet when the support personnel let off their hold slightly. Dangerous. Kudos and new respect to the professionals who do this for hours at a time.
Day 4 was safety at sea day, water survival, which entailed donning life vests, survival (gumby) suits, and entering / exiting a liferaft, all in a (heated) community pool. The survival suits you have to be able to get on in under 60 seconds, manageable but a good test. We learned a cool trick, when you store your survival suit wrap 2 plastic shopping bags in the hood, when you unravel it put the baggies on your feet and they slide right in, definitely a time saver!
Made a short video about our day at the pool:
Day 5 was first aid and CPR certification. Spent the day practicing basic bandage and splint techniques before tackling the CPR dummy.
We're now STCW95 certified and able to apply for several jobs including crewing on mega yachts! But we're also quite a bit more knowledgeable on fire prevention and the different techniques for different fire types, got some first hand experience of what it might be like to have to use a liferaft and certified for CPR. All in all it was useful, if not long at times, week and we're glad to have completed the course.