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Mar 1, 2017
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#TheOffShoreDiaries Entry 3 – Stephen Eke

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Getting out of here is usually by one of two means – Boat rides or helicopters.

Helicopters are usually used for those of us who are drilling in deep seas except the location is really close to shore. Where exactly are you guys? some ask. To which I reply “Middle of nowhere”. All we know is that we are out at sea. Google Map isn’t exactly helpful in this regard as it doesn’t really pinpoint the exact location of the water body you are on. Although the guys who work at the bridge (the control center of the ship) – the Captain and Dynamic Positioning Officers (DPO) work using their maps, satellites and other navigation equipment to make sure we are on their radar. If you have seen movies where ships are invaded by pirates, it is that place where they strive to gain access and control.

Helicopter rides aren’t the most comfortable especially where it lasts long. Forget those movies that make it look sexy enough to win Miss Nigeria, it isn’t. Unlike airplane rides that are relatively quiet, choppers vibrate and are unneccesarily noisy as hell. The decibel levels are so deafening that it is compulsory practice to adoorn hearing protection to avoid stories that touch and so you’ll probably be able to hear yourself sef. And oh! Because most of the flying is done over water, we are required to wear life jackets and wait for it – the rather long briefing every time you’re about to get on or off, teaching you the basics on what to do in case of an emergency landing.

The video details what to do, what not to do, how to approach the chopper on embarking, from the sides as shown by the helicopter landing officer and not from the front or back where the blades are. It reminds you not to turn on your phone because if your signal interferes with that of the chopper’s electronics, OYO (a Nigerian pidgin slang to mean you are the architect of your own misfortune) is your case. The video reiterates the need not to inflate your life jacket in the chopper when it lands in water and bla bla. Of course, all of this is done in a laidback but serious voice by the narrator as if discussing the dangers of swallowing fufu morsels cut too large for the oesophagus.


I remember the first time I watched the video my first time out to the rig years back. A son of man stared motherfuckerly at what was being said and on looking around I noticed it was only my eyes that registered any hint of “what is going on here”. They don’t take off as smoothly as airplanes either. They lift into the air, come down, gather more momentum and lift up again slowly gaining altitude before eventually settling into a comfortable vibrating and moving speed. We are flying over water and people are sleeping easy. For me who it was my first time, Lord knows I kept reciting to myself everything I heard in that video.

When confronted with the above, people say na wa o…. aren’t you people afraid of helicopter crashes? Well…we are.

But the numbers tell us there are actually less helicopter crashes than car accidents. So na all of us suppose fear because something must kill a man and it can be anything. Although, I must say that as time goes by, the fear diminishes as with any other activity albeit dangerous that has been done severally.  For everyone who has to go offshore via a helicopter, a course must be done – Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET). This prepares you for every emergency that maybe encountered while on a chopper going offshore or on the rig itself. During the training, I kid you not; you’re put in a makeshift helicopter, submerged with your seatbelt in a deep pool or in a real river, if you use a training center that has stopped fearing God. The helicopter is rotated to an angle where you are upside down and are meant to escape by pushing the windows and making it to the surface (without dying). For a non-swimmer, most times you drink more water than is required in a day, and the instructors will not issue you certificate unless you do it successfully. Of course there are rescue divers but who dem epp? Not me because I drank the pool like it was the water of life.

Although I sometimes tend to pander to the school of thought that believes it is necessary for everyone who goes out there to be able to swim, I also hold that in times of emergency, the BOSIET course as well as an ability to collect oneself and not make rash decisions when confronted with the possibility of death, is usually the difference between survivors and those who don’t survive. And, yes…God’s grace or luck if that’s your belief.

Another thing that boosts chances of survival in a crash is the time it takes for emergency rescue services to respond. Because even if you be Michael Phelps and survive the crash and nobody comes for you, you have become the star actor of Life of Pi Part 2.

There are tons more to talk about when it comes to helicopter rides but I’ll stop here. I cannot possibly cover everything but this should hopefully shed a little light on what happens in that helicopter, making noise “tututututututu” over your house.

My name is Uncle Stephen and this is my diary..

Author’s Bio – Stephen Eke who prefers to be called Uncle Stephen is an engineer most times working off an offshore rig in far-flung places in Nigeria but pens humorous stories about life, love, work, family and God sometimes on his blog, when his supervisor isn’t watching and his village people untie his muse.

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