Thursday, 28 June 2012

Cruising Sailors Sailboat Medical Kits

Medical kits on cruising sailboats are critically important and, just as important, to be regularly updated - this means dumping any medications that are outdated and replenishing with fresh ones. You can take them to whatever level you wish but, remember, you will never be able to cover for all incidents, so be reasonable and sensible with your selections.

Reading another blog recently reminded me of a potentially very serious incident we experienced on my passage from The Galapagos to the Marquesas Islands, and I post the following extract from my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' for you to consider: 

On passage - Galapagos Islands to The Marquesas:   

'Good running for the next few days saw her (our little ship) reeling off one hundred and sixty to one hundred and eighty nautical miles per day. She was feeling rather smug about this and could now see the wisdom of the feathering propeller because, if these conditions continued, it was going to take four to five days off the passage time. This was good news indeed for the captain and he went off watch thinking how smart he was – she of course wasn’t surprised because from the moment it was fitted to her shaft, she knew she was going to be quicker.

Barbara (sister of captain), hailing from a farm, is a dab hand at producing hot snacks and nibbles endlessly from the galley. There would be a lengthy silence from below and then suddenly, her grinning face would materialise in the companionway, and thrusting forward a steaming tray of buttered scones, brownies, cookies of various descriptions or any variety of savoury snacks, the captain and crew Len would be seduced once more into ingesting a vast quantity of these delicious munchies. Even in the heat of the tropics they were treasured and just had to be eaten whilst still warm, prompting many a round of mild indigestion.

Several days out and our captain, searching for the ‘trades’, comes to the conclusion that this being the last of the current batch of ‘El Nino’ years, the weather they are getting is going to be it for the majority of this passage. No problem with speed as she is still effortlessly spooling off close to one hundred and eighty nautical miles, sometimes more, each day. She is loving it and handling the cross seas very well, knowing that her over spec’d rig can take all this punishment and more. She does realise that her pitch and yaw is probably making life on board a little uncomfortable, but also knows that the beneteau is out there somewhere, out of radio contact and whilst not of a competitive nature, she wants to be first in at their earlier agreed destination port of Taiahoe Bay, Nuku Hiva.

Galapagos to Marquesas - downwind in big seas
 She shares this little secret with her captain who then proceeds to articulate many reasons to the rest of the crew as to why, with such a fine wind on her port quarter and the great swiftness they were making over the ground, sail should not be reduced. Miguel’s forestay swage job was so solid, they all had complete confidence in his work, so onward they plunged, angling down the long and gradually sloping rhumb line from nought degrees at the Galapagos to almost nine degrees of latitude south, at the Marquesas.

During these boisterous conditions, one fine afternoon  Barbara decided that a nice pot of boiled down legumes would be an ideal base for one of her culinary specialties. The beans, simmered down to a glutinous mass on the galley stove were approaching the time when they should be removed. Sibling crew deciding to check, lifts the lid for a peek at exactly the same moment our ship scythes sideways up and over a particularly obstreperous crest, lifting the pot off the stove top and sending it flying in a neat parabola directly toward the navigation area. Fortunately, its curve drops it short of the chart table.

Unfortunately, Barbara follows in a tolerable imitation of a pirouette, reverses and slams, rib height into the solid teak fiddle of the chart table. Turning white, then grey, she slides to the floor with the beans. One moment we have an able bodied crew member, and the next, a patient. Obviously in pain but putting on a brave face, Barbara has great tenderness in her rib area (x-rays taken later at Nuku Hiva will show three fractured ribs!).

Turning back to the Galapagos Islands was not an option as beating into those conditions would be horrendous for the patient. So unanimously it was decided to press on under reduced sail. Cleaned up and strapped Barbara spends the next six days sitting on the cushioned saloon berth, moving only when she has to. Fractured ribs are very painful at the best of times, so picture if you will sitting on a moving, swaying and bumpy platform twenty four hours a day with no relief from the movement whatsoever – not a lot of sleep was had! Antibiotics were prescribed along with many pain killers. A pot full of beans can splatter itself over an amazing area and days later many a half cooked down legume would appear in the most unusual places.

Good sturdy Cruising Medical Kit
The normal watch system being used was quite a simple one for a crew of three and worked very well. From eight pm until eight am, each of the three crew members stood a four hour watch. This took care of the night hours. During the day, all members are on watch but can do whatever they wish – wash, cook, read, fish, write, navigate, whatever. The only rule is that when going below, it is made sure that one of the three must be on deck. This was a rigid rule, understood and observed by all and never broken. It was practised throughout the whole voyage, working exceedingly well, even with changes in crew, as we are to discover later in Tahiti.

For the time being however, her crew have a new situation. Barbara obviously cannot stand a regular watch. Captain Vince and crew Len set a temporary watch system of three hours on and three hours off. Add to this all normal duties plus cooking, several days later the strain was beginning to show – no stamina these blokes she thinks! – so it was with great relief when Barbara poked her head up the companionway and announced she was ready to take on a mini (two hour) watch and see what happens from there.

From that point on her recovery was rapid and by the time we arrived in Nuku Hiva she was almost fully repaired.'

As mentioned earlier, on arrival in Nuku Hiva and going ashore for the first time, we trekked up the hill with Barbara to the local l'hopital where the subsequent xrays showed that three ribs had been fractured!

The passage from Galapagos islands to The Marquesas is 3200 nautical miles and one of the longest voyages on the planet. And there is nothing out there, so imagine the difficult situation we would have been in if there had been complications?  

We considered ourselves to be extremely lucky that we had escaped a potentially very serious situation as lightly as we had, albeit with considerable pain for the patient!

Good, powerful and 'in date' medications assisted and illustrates the importance of keeping a well stocked and current medical kit on board whilst cruising.

You can read more about stocking your medical kit and passagemaking in general in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise', downloadable from my website

1 comment:

fareastsails said...

Thanks for sharing importance of medical kit on cruising sailboats.