Wow AJ, sounds like you were where the real action was today -- good job you were there to help, and worrying that our practice could have been distracting from a real need elsewhere.
First off, a big thank you to Mr & Mrs Landlord, for organizing today and providing a ride for me!
Both Mr&Mrs are top people (with a very nice boat).
As you can see from the video, Gallahad rafted up with Madness. Ralphy and Gooner-Paul were standing off nearby. The heli radioed ahead right on time at 3pm, so we were expecting them and were in the agreed position.
We lowered the boat VHF aerial, and cleared the deck of any loose objects that may be blown overboard or into somebody.
As the CG approached they first asked that Madness relocated from the leeward to the windward side of the rafting. They also requested that Ralphy and Gooner-Paul move round to observe from the windward side. Throughout the whole practice the heli stayed downwind of the boats. You can see the downdraft and spray on the video is safely away from all the boats.
Landlord allocated the roles for the transfer. He was skippering Galahad and responsible for comms and overall boat safety. I ended up as the high line rope handler, and Mrs Landlord was chief photographer at the bow of Galahad. Whisper was the ballast standing ready to be lifted
The heli instructed us via radio that they were about to drop the highline, that we should not attach it to the boat, and that we should keep the line "under positive control" as the winchman is lowered. We were told to use it to pull the winchman into the boat.
Even when the heli was not very close comms was difficult. Landlord had his ear pressed against the VHF speaker! I had an earpiece on my handheld.
The highline came out with two fluorescent weighted bags attached, they were accurately lowered to about five feet off the water, and the heli manoeuvred them into my outstretched arm with pinpoint precision. As soon as I had hold, the winch operator began to pay out the line quickly and we took about 20 foot of line onto the boat, they keept feeding out line as the heli moved slightly away.
Next, the winchman came out on his wire, holding the highline, and I had to steady him as he was lowered, first to earth any static in the sea, then pull him into the boat. Once aboard he unhooked and the heli retreated once more as I payed out our line. The winchman advised on how tight to keep the line, and said to focus on the winch operator for further instruction.
The cable came out again to get Whisper, and he was taken up and down, then the cable taken away. Finally it came again to retrieve the winchman. We sent him back with some goodies to say "thank you".
His final instructions were to not throw the weighted bags into the sea(!) but to let the heli lift them away out of my hand.
- noise was high, so we had to shout to each other and use hand signals to be understood on the boat.
- spray was less than imagined, I think this was being managed by the CG team.
- I was happy to be wearing a Gecko as the weighted bag was swinging about. It never hit me, but if I had missed it coming towards me then having some head and face protection would have been good.
- pulling the highline was hard work, and I had to do it multiple times. It took some strength to pull each person aboard.
- at times, the rate at which I had to let out line was too fast to go hand over hand, so had to let it slip through my hands. Having gloves would have been a good idea.
I had to focus on the job in hand quite intently. The whole exercise took ~30mins during which time we drifted ~2.25NM. Having Landlord keeping an eye out for overall boat safety was a good thing.
The heli crew are consummate professionals. Their flying skills were incredible, the instructions clear and direct, and it was all done quickly but unrushed.
A great practice, and reassuring to know these guys are there if we ever need them.
(apologies for the long post!)