It won’t ever happen to me." At least that’s what every boater who’s ever been injured out on the water thought that morning. That’s if they thought about it at all. There are plenty of things to remember and the thought of an onboard injury just isn’t as compelling as remembering the sunscreen and sandwiches. But sooner or later, somebody will slip and twist and ankle. Or cut their thumb. Or get stung by a bee. That’s when you’ll be glad you took the time to learn a few basic first aid techniques.
Space is at a premium on any boat, but a carefully packed first aid kit needs to be the first gear you stow. Whether you buy a pre-stocked kit from a marine retailer or you assemble it yourself, you need to make sure to include the basics. That means making sure you can treat common boating ailments such as sunburn, scrapes, bruises, sprains, insect bites and even seasickness.
Evaluate The Situation
When it comes to rendering first aid, always remember that your main goal should be not to make the situation worse. If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything and head directly back to shore. Very often, doing the wrong thing can be much worse than not doing anything at all. Of course, most of the time the problem should be pretty obvious. Wrap and ice a sprained ankle. Clean, disinfect and bandage a cut. You know the drill. Most first aid kits come with an easy reference to help you know what to do when. Just make sure and keep any eye out for any signs of the injured person going into shock such as clammy skin, labored breathing or profuse sweating.
Head Back To Shore
If someone’s got an injury or gets sick while you’re out on the water — even if it’s not a life-threatening situation — it’s probably time to head back to the shore. Whether it’s seasickness, dehydration or a bad reaction to an insect sting can get worse. For that reason, it’s a good time to call it a day. For anything more serious, it’s time to set a course back to the dock immediately. Keep your patient low in the boat and don’t hammer the throttle.
Don’t ever hesitate to call for help if you need it. You’ll know it’s a serious episode when someone loses consciousness, exhibits signs of shock, or has difficulty breathing. If that’s the case, call 9-1-1 on your cell phone or use Channel 16 to place a Mayday call. Speak slowly and clearly, announce your position from the GPS, and describe your emergency. Maintain emergency contact until help arrives.
Steve Rosenberg, Avid Custom Media