Let me be up-front right from the start: when the guys at Norsafe loaded me into a lifeboat suspended at the top of a ramp some 45’ above the ocean’s surface, we were not in a hurry. Our ship was not sinking, nor was an oil platform on fire, and we most certainly weren’t being chased by pirates—though that may have been preferable to eating the pickled herring and raw onion breakfast the Norwegians had prepared for me. No, my launch in the lifeboat was staged purely for journalistic reasons (though I always use the word “journalistic” lightly when referring to anything I do).
I was on assignment, tasked with writing an article about what it feels like to free-fall 45 feet in a boat, which then hits the water so hard it fully submerges before popping back up to the surface with such vigor, it basically launches again. I can sum up the experience like this: OMGwhathappenedtomystomachBOOM! The entire process couldn’t have taken more than three seconds, and once my stomach caught back up to me, I realized I had just experienced a rare moment of adrenaline-induced fun. My one regret: I didn’t see any fish through the windows while submersed.
We putt-putted back to the davit that pulled the lifeboat up the ramp, and that was it. I had traveled 3,783 miles, spent two nights in a Norwegian hotel room furnished like a college dorm, and consumed 3.5 pounds of pickled fish. All for a two minute boat ride. And yet in that short time, I fell in love with the Norsafe lifeboat. Not because of the free-fall, the travel, or the opportunity to review a type of boat I’d never been on before. Not because of the boat’s accommodations, which were exactly like a school bus with super-duper seatbelts. And most certainly not because of the (ahem) glorious food they served me in Norway.
No, I fell in love with this one because it’s a real, honest-to-goodness lifesaver. Every time you see a big, modern cargo freighter or car carrier cruising down the channel, it has one of those ramps with the orange lifeboat at the top. Every time you cruise past an oil rig, you’ll see it too. And countless people count on these boats year in and year out, for their final chance of survival if their ship or rig is sinking or aflame.
The GES 50 MKIII is the latest in a long line of lifeboat models from Norsafe (my freefall was actually in a GES 25 MKII) and I know that if I ever find myself inside one again, I’ll be safe. I may wish I were somewhere else, but you can bet I’ll be loving that boat with all my heart at the very same time. And you would be, too.