On Saturday January 14, 2011, I stopped by the Life Flight Trust as there was mention that they were going to be doing some winch training. This training is a regular occurrence to keep the paramedics up to date and current with being lowered from the helicopter to a moving vessel at sea. They were able to accomodate me on board the Coast Guard boat which was being used in the training operations.
After a briefing at the airport, I drove to the Coast Guard in Evans Bay. They kitted me out with a life jacket and short safety briefing and was loaded onboard the boat. As we sped out to the meet up location between Soames and Ward Islands in Wellington Harbour, it quickly became apparent how windy it was. The chop waves were large enough that the boat started to get fully airborne launching off one wave into the trough of the next. It was a really difficult thing to stabalize my camera with the 70-200mm (long lens) between my knees, the other camera with the standard lens with one hand, and to hang on with the other hand in the stand up silos. All the while conscious not to bend my knees too far for fear of loosing my teeth on the metal hand rail!
The exercises were pretty harrowing. With the high winds and spray coming off the boat, it was a great challenge to get the guys on board the boat and off again. The boat and the helicopter were trying to maintain the same speeds, but the waves meant that the relative speeds were always changing. The pitch and roll of the boat kept changing the target to hit too. Its a real testimony to the brave guys and girls who brave the elements and go out in treacherous conditions to rescue others.