Is there a better time to talk first aid about injuries than when you’re sitting around nursing them? As I’m writing this, I’m nearing the four month mark of having shattered my heel, while jumping off the boat onto the dock. Meanwhile, Gary is sitting beside me with his arm in a sling, from a torn rotator cuff, caused by too much casting and pulling kelp off of the anchor. No one really wants to think about getting hurt, but when you’re out on the water you’re on your own, help isn’t as quickly available as on land. The boy scout’s motto of be prepared is good advice for camping and boating.
We’ve had our share of minor boat mishaps. I stabbed my hand while trying to remove an avocado pit. A friend on the boat jammed his finger while jumping into the dingy and messed up the tendon, and Gary, managed to put the gaff through his foot.
We have a small typical first aid kit, but such a kit will really only handle very minor problems. The standard bandaids found in most first aid kits aren’t good for boaters. It’s better to buy the flexible water proof ones that will stay on better. When you’re fishing, your hands will always be getting wet. When Gary put the gaffed his foot the quickest and cleanest thing to grab was paper towels. After the bleeding stopped we put some gauze pad on it and taped it. It made us realize we needed some bigger gauze pads on board. When he injured his shoulder he wanted to wrap it to his body to immobilize it. We didn’t have any large elastic wraps on board at that time, so he tried using a bungee cord for a few hours. We always make a list of things we want to add to the boat and now we have several wraps. While we weren’t out on the water when I book my foot, it made me realize the importance of keeping a few pain pills on hand. (Doctors will always tell you to get rid of extra prescriptions you no longer need, but it can take hours to get back to land.)
I really like the secure flex wrap that sticks to itself. It’s good for holding gauze and it can be used on your thumbs and index finger to slow the line as the big fish is making a run. Because the tape sticks to itself it’s good for hairy people. Laugh now, but it’s really not funny when you have an injury that hurts and the bandage is stuck to your hair.
The butterfly closures are good for wounds that are a little deeper. When my daughter was young she split her chin and we had her stitched up at the emergency room for several hundred dollars. The next time it happened I said, let’s just go to the drugstore and get some butterflies. She healed up the same, and she didn’t have to get a shot.
The most important thing for any emergency is don’t panic. Your mind is your greatest tool, so take a big breath, relax and think. Even though your phone may not be available on the water, use your radio, the Coast Guard will assist with advice and get help to you as soon as possible.
JoySea’s list of must haves:
basic first aid kit
big gauze pads – no stick is best
secure flex wrap
anti itch cortisone cream
basic over the counter meds for allergies & colds, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, gas x, dramamine
If you don’t have a first aid kit, get one; if you have one, make sure it has some of the bigger items. If you have a suggestion of something I missed, leave a message. Better prepared than sorry; we don’t want to have to cut our outing short if we can handle it on the water.