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View Poll Results: What suspected injuries have you had to manage at sea?
Head injuries 6 27.27%
Spinal injuries 0 0%
Internal bleeding 0 0%
Serious Illness 5 22.73%
Lacerations 11 50.00%
Burns 4 18.18%
Broken bones 11 50.00%
Other 6 27.27%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 22. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 07-08-2014, 05:27   #1
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Unhappy Poll. Serious Injuries at Sea

I am interested in the types and causes of serious (or potentially serious) injuries while sailing. I was at the sydney boat show and was very surprised how slippery the floors of many of the latest yachts where. It got me thinking about how lucky I have been to only have had a few nasty accidents occur while I have been far from help. Of all the bad things at sea this one that worries me the most.

With the collective seatime here I am sure a fair few of you would have seen a few injuries that where concerning at the time, even if they turned out to be less serious .

The Poll allows multiple choices. In many cases it might only have been a suspected injury, and it turned out less severe than it seemed, thats OK. At the time you where treating for that possibility so put it in the poll as that one. Ie broken bones includes fractures or even bad sprains.

But what I am really interested in is the stories, what happened, how you dealt with it, the outcome, causes and ways to prevent it happening in the future. Any links to accounts of injuries would also be interesting.

I am happy to take any good medical advice on treatment of the injuries, beaing in mind that we do what we can with the situation at the time.

Quote:
  1. Brief description of injury (type and cause)
  2. Details of what happened
  3. How it was dealt with initially
  4. Long term care and outcome
  5. Causes
  6. Prevention
Just quote the post below to get a proforma with these headings,
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Old 07-08-2014, 05:34   #2
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

  1. Brief description of injury (type and cause)
  2. Details of what happened
  3. How it was dealt with initially
  4. Long term care and outcome
  5. Causes
  6. Prevention
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Old 07-08-2014, 05:38   #3
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

I guess I'd better start with one...

Quote:
  1. Brief description of injury (type and cause)
    Head injury and laceration to crew due to lee cloth failure
  2. Details of what happened
    Running in heavy conditions at night with a Northerly probably about 30-35 knots with a big sea running. We where about 200 miles south of the Horn on a 60 foot lightweight sled. IIRC We had double reefed main and a poled out headsail and where surfing at well over 20 knots on the bigger seas. A nasty westerly swell was catching her and making steering very difficult. I gybed at least 6 times and the skipper did it a couple of times. Each time was reasonably gentle due to our speed when it happened. I went below for some shut eye, and woke up with the boat going into a bad gybe and leeward broach. We didn't heal over too far but it was opposite from how she normally was broaching and very violent, lots of stuff crashed to leeward and it woke me up.

    One of the paying passengers/crew forward started yelling in pain, and when we got there she had been thrown from her top bunk as the knot securing the leecloth clip had come undone. On her way down the 10 foot drop she had clipped one of the aluminium watertight door handles with her head, which was now bleeding very badly. She was conscious but in lots of pain and very scared, crying from the shock of the sudden awakening. We where still flying along, like being on a rough road at speed.
  3. How it was dealt with initially
    We looked at her wound and decided there wasn't much we could do until morning. the wind was forecast to ease by then. lots of blood but no sign of bone. We carefully monitored her signs of consciousness. she got sick to death of us asking her how many fingers we had up and what her name was, date, pupil dilations etc. She passed the tests so the skipper decided not to make any calls to doctors. We secured her in the lee berth with some crude dressings and a pillow shoved on her head. We also gave her a quick check for any other injuries. and posted one of the other ladies to comfort her as she was quite distressed by it all. Understandably
  4. Long term care and outcome
    by daybreak the weather had eased and it was calm enough to have a decent look. The pillow was blood soaked but she seemed in slightly better spirits. carefully peeling away the bandage and matted hair the gash was about 60mm long and bulging and distended due to the bruising. She could walk so we took her up to the main cabin with more light, shaved that part of her head and steri striped it up. Not being confident to stitch it in those conditions and it being over eight hours since the wound.

    We checked her for other injuries, she had a sore neck, and a few nasty bruises but was otherwise OK. My big concern was a delayed brain injury, due to internal bleeding, but we figured the best thing was to keep heading south where if anything major happened there was shelter and bases with medical staff. As it turned out she was fine, but we all kept a close eye on her for the next three days. She soon started joking about the fall, and her funky hairdo. A very tough woman.
  5. Causes
    Twofold. Going to fast, more or less out of control at times. In retrospect something bad was bound to happen. We just didn't have the manpower with only myself and the skipper being sailors to drive her like that. It was my first trip on the boat, but I should have spoken up about my concerns.

    The other obvious cause was the faulty knot on the leecloth. Inspecting the others I found a few other slightly dodgy knots as well. Interesting that they had been used like this for years with no problems.
  6. Prevention
    I prefer to avoid surfing unless everything is in my favor. Now I carefully check all leecloth fittings are solid, most often they seem quite weak, considering that they may take the impact of a body being thrown on them from the other side of the bunk.
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Old 07-08-2014, 06:30   #4
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Great question/topic. I consider myself and my family to be very fortunate in that we have avoided any injuries other than the usual bumps, bruises, scraped knuckles, etc but I worry about someone breaking something, getting badly burned or developing a serious illness that requires professional medical treatment.

I'm curious what other blue water cruisers carry in the way of medical kits. Do you carry Schedule I or Schedule II drugs on board? Do you declare them at different ports of entry? (I'm guessing there might be some cruisers out there who won't want to answer that question.) What medical reference books do you have on board? Have you any special medical training?

The fact is that while making passages we are vulnerable not just by the remoteness of our location but the conditions with which we have to deal: The high loads on standing and running rigging in rough seas could be a recipe for disaster. Add to that the simple process of cooking and handling boiling liquids while be tossed around and its a wonder why more people are badly burned. Much of our time is spent in Third World countries and there are often diseases present that could be life-threatening and/or for which there are no medications. How does one treat that when you're well off shore?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not catastrophizing but I would like to know if others are prepared for some of the possibilities or whether they just throw caution to the wind (pardon the pun) and cast off the dock lines.

By the way, I hope the woman who was injured from the fall had a complete recovery.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 07-08-2014, 06:52   #5
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowpetrel View Post
  1. Brief description of injury (type and cause)
  2. Details of what happened
  3. How it was dealt with initially
  4. Long term care and outcome
  5. Causes
  6. Prevention
We almost always have an injury on passage, someone gets thrown somewhere. Broken ribs, etc. are almost the norm. Luckily the captain is an EMT so can sort out injuries pretty well. All of the outcomes have been good. The major change we have made is to be more careful about using a strap in the galley. We carry a lot of QuikClot for lacerations and a one-handed tourniquet. We also have second skin and burn meds at the galley. We had a case of chikungunya on passage this spring, analgesics and fluids. WE also carry a wide selection of antibiotics for infections.
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Old 07-08-2014, 07:02   #6
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Where to begin, Hannah said it well.
#1 While docking & Walking across the bow with wet decks slipped and did a face plant resulting in a broken nose. Blood everywhere, went to hospital for repairs. Moral: Had bare feet, use proper footwear.

#2 Nice sunny morning standing on the bow with coffee in one hand and other resting on the anchor winch I inadvertently stepped on the foot switch pulling my hand into the winch. Result was severe lacerations and two broken fingers, the worst was powering the winch back to get my hand out. Ouch! Blood everywhere, went to hospital for repairs. Moral: shut the winch off at the main when not in use.

#3 Wife and I were run over by a runaway speed boat while in the dingy, wife took severe blow to the head but remained in dingy & conscious, I got thrown out with a 12" gash across my side and back with a neat lifetime scar as a memento. Blood everywhere, went to hospital for repairs. Moral: Ship happens. Speed boat operator was sober and alert but no one was at the helm, steering cable had broke pitching operator on floor.

#4 Wife was coming up to aft deck from salon carrying drinks with both hands, tripped on threshold and fell hard through doorway. Badly bruised and torn rotary cuff in shoulder. Went to hospital for repairs. Injury haunts her to this day. Moral: Always have one hand free to hang on when walking on a boat.

#5 Nasty storm developing, wife went to lay down in V-berth to read, storm got worse with boat pitching violently causing her to be thrown from the bed against the ceiling and walls countless times. (yes! against the ceiling!) All the while unbeknownst to me on the bridge she was essentially trapped until was actually thrown out the door into the hall. Badly bruised and really pissed. Moral: NEVER buy a boat with a single forward cabin, never use the Vberth in a severe storm, stay to the back of the boat, aft cabin or aft deck preferred.

#6 Raining, windy & miserable while docking at a cement breakwall with a deep surge, wife lost balance, over-reached & fell overboard between boat and cement wall, managed to get out from between in nick of time before getting crushed as boat slammed against wall. Bruised ego. Moral: Ship happens even to the most experienced, Screw the boat, never put yourself in jeopardy to save bumps or scratches to the boat.

#7 Caught in severe storm, off course, lost, low on fuel, boat pitching violently every direction, zero visibility, lightning flashing/striking all around, thunder booming, waves crashing on deck, wind howling, props coming out of the water causing engines to nearly fly to pieces. Wife literally looses it, panic & uncontrolled hysteria as she mindlessly rips through lockers looking for preservers & safety gear. Unable to comfort as can not leave helm for even a second. Ultimately fatigues and sits down on floor sobbing. (first & only time this happened, largely fatigue induced) Moral: At first sign of foul weather, STOP, locate all safety gear, put on harness & preservers, have all safety gear ready. It can't be done during a howling gale on a violently pitching boat.

Have seen several gruesome flybridge ladder accidents first hand. All of my boats have had steps or stairs to bridge.

Footnote: Top notch first aid kit is a must! Often going to the hospital for repairs was many hours or sometimes days after the incident.

I could go on & on as many here could but won't bore you further.
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Old 07-08-2014, 07:54   #7
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowpetrel View Post
  1. Brief description of injury (type and cause)
    Crew got finger caught in winch when winching boat in towards pier against 30 knot wind.
  2. Details of what happened
    We were docking alonside a pier without much room. We'd gotten both a spring and a forward line onto the dock, when one crew decided to winch the stern end of the boat in. She wasn't looking at what she was doing and suddenly her finger was caught in the line on the winch
  3. How it was dealt with initially
    We were on a island with no local medical care. My wife is an RN so we tore open the med kit and bandaged up the finger, gave the crew (woman) a bunch of pain killers and motored at top speed towards the mainland and a hospital
  4. Long term care and outcome
    She lost the end of the finger just beyond the futhermost knuckle
  5. Causes
    Actually my fault - should have stopped her and used the motor/spring to bring the boat in. (this was years ago, before I knew how to do that)
  6. Prevention
    I don't know - she was and is a very experienced sailor. Carelessness on her part and on mine
She's still and avid sailor - but her finger looks a little strange
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Old 07-08-2014, 08:19   #8
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Wow, Krawdad, quite a list. Do you two get injured a lot doing other things too or just on boats?

I've been fortunate, never a serious injury to myself or others aboard. A few nasty cuts and other typical minor first aid injuries, but never anything serious. However, I still keep a well stocked kit and have advanced first aid training...just in case.
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Old 07-08-2014, 14:08   #9
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Wow, Krawdad, quite a list. Do you two get injured a lot doing other things too or just on boats?

Belizesailor, very funny but does makes you wonder eh? I feel sheepish now admitting I could add many to the list but those were the best ones. I did leave off once recovering a body (drowning victim), and a bizarre collision and also being a drowning victim myself once (well... according to the newspapers). Did I mention loosing an eye?

No, surprisingly we manage quite well on shore all things considered, we just aren't there often. I attribute it to mostly chance, with a good dose of carelessness & fatigue thrown in. We learn from the mistakes, adjust our methods accordingly and minus any body parts and non-functional limbs, away we go again. As time passes we regard them as war wounds, a rite of passage and makes for great horror stories at cocktail hour. We have cruised countless miles and mucked about with boats for 50 years so our list might be longer than others but I doubt we're all that unusual. Like Hannah indicated, the more your out on the water the greater the odds your going to get hurt or beat up, it's only a matter of time.... but I suspect you already know that. Sounds like you've had your fair share and I'm sure any one could have been much worse with even a tiny change in circumstance. Cheers!
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Old 07-08-2014, 17:16   #10
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hannah on 'Rita T' View Post
We almost always have an injury on passage, someone gets thrown somewhere. Broken ribs, etc. are almost the norm. Luckily the captain is an EMT so can sort out injuries pretty well. All of the outcomes have been good. The major change we have made is to be more careful about using a strap in the galley. We carry a lot of QuikClot for lacerations and a one-handed tourniquet.(snip)
Wow Hannah, thats pretty serious, what sort of boat and where are people being thrown. Sounds like the galley on the boat was pretty open? floor non skid and handholds? Maybe I have just been lucky, but seemed to have avoided slips trips and falls of a serious nature except for the above example. I guess most of the yachts I have sailed offshore have been small, or specially designed for offshore with not to much open spaces.
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Old 07-08-2014, 17:17   #11
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Thank you all for sharing these stories.This really is helping me to think about
precautions.
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Old 07-08-2014, 18:25   #12
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by Krawdad View Post
(snip)

Have seen several gruesome flybridge ladder accidents first hand. All of my boats have had steps or stairs to bridge.

(snip)
I could go on & on as many here could but won't bore you further.
Please do, very interesting, and some good food for thought. Your wife must be one tough lady! kudos to her for going back to sea.

The flybridge ladders seem scary enough in good weather, at least companionways on most yachts aren't as high or steep. Add a couple of beers, motion and slippery stainless and I can see the potential for some nasty falls.

A fair few kayakers have been run over by powerboats. We are taught to capsize away from the vessel in a kayak, to help protect ourselfs, but it would be much harder to do in a dinghy?

Cheers, and best of luck avoiding any more accidents Go get that wife of yours some sounds like she deserves them.
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Old 07-08-2014, 18:32   #13
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
Brief description of injury (type and cause)
Crew got finger caught in winch when winching boat in towards pier against 30 knot wind.
Thanks Carsten, was it a powered winch or manual? certainly on commercial vessels one of the major causes of injury are warping drums and capstains, but they tend to take whole arms! Was having a bigger mooring line, and maybe it not fitting into a self tailer a factor, or not leading properly a factor?

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Old 07-08-2014, 18:33   #14
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

Beth cracked a rib in a N Atlantic gale. Thrown against a galley counter top/fiddle.

I got a very serious infection while diving in Durban Harbour (to make sure the boat was chocked correctly on a railway).

But, knock on wood, that's it in about 20 years.
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Old 07-08-2014, 18:34   #15
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Re: Poll. Serious injuries at sea

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