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Old 15-10-2013, 15:41   #1
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CPR At Sea and May Day Response

On a recent RYA Competent Crew course out of Gibraltar to get our feet week. We had an enjoyable and relaxing week, then on the final day as we were floating around outside of La Linea, Spain before heading back to Gib for the night, a May Day cam across the radio. After getting the coordinates, we realized we were the closest boat as the other sailboat was behind us near one of the beaches. It was another sailing school boat from a different school out of Gib.

We motored over to see someone doing CPR on someone else on the boat. We shouted across to see if we could lend assistance, and then tied up alongside while out in the bay. I used to be a CPR instructor in the Navy, and my wife had spent several years training doctors to do physical exams, she was also CPR trained. We hopped over and took over CPR from the instructor onboard. The other people onboard, 2 taking a day skipper course, and 2 doing competent crew, didn't know CPR, so the instructor was left to try and get the boat in as quickly as possibly while trying to do CPR.

The instructor on our own boat was in constant contact with the nearby marina tower on the Spanish side. 20 minutes requesting assistance and the tower finally decided they maybe should call for an ambulance to meet us in the marina we were pulling into as fast as we could. It ended up taking us right at an hour to get in to tie up. The gate at the marina was still locked so the ambulance couldn't get through when we arrived.

Ultimately, it didn't matter as the old fellow we had been doing CPR on for an hour was long gone. Being a previous CPR instructor, I had always taught that CPR should be done until you were too exhausted to continue or emergency services arrived, thus the reason we continued for so long even though my wife and I both knew he had passed before we hopped aboard to try and assist.

What we wondered is, with the conflict between Spain/Gib recently, would the response from Spain had been different had it been a Spanish registered boat and/or a Spanish person speaking to them over the radio or that had called the May Day? We left fairly appalled and completely unimpressed at the response from the authorities in Spain. A day prior the Guardia Civil speedboat had approached us and 2 other Gibraltar registered sailing school boats to ask us to move along while practicing anchoring in an area out of the way from everyone. The entire time we were trying to make it to the nearest marina, I kept looking for this speedboat to come flying across the bay from La Linea where it was based. I'm not sure where it was at the time, but no sign of it. There were also Spanish pilot boats going in and out of the area, none of which responded to the May Day. We, the only other sailboat in the area at the time, and also the slowest boat around, were the only response on the water. I don't think it would have mattered in the end, but if this was the response this close to shore from Spain, it made me wonder if there'd be any hope for a May Day response from them further out to sea off of their coastline somewhere.

Maybe it is a Spain/Gib conflict thing, maybe it's how the cards were dealt that day, who knows. I also wonder if this had happened somewhere along Spain's coast well away from Gib, maybe up toward Barcelona between Cadiz and Portugal, would the Spanish authorities there have responded differently or better?

As for the fellow that died, he was 85 years old. According to the girl onboard taking her competent crew course, he had just swam ashore and back (yes, that close to shore), then climbed on the boat with a big smile on his face, which she had taken a picture of. The instructor on the boat said he was a friend who came onboard from time to time because he enjoyed it, and would cook and make cups of tea or coffee for the students onboard. He died doing what, hopefully, the way I and everyone else will go, doing something he enjoyed!
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Old 15-10-2013, 16:03   #2
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Re: CPR At Sea and May Day Response

So sorry about all this, very sad. Kinda comforting that he dies so happy and living life. While I was reading your post, I too was struck with questions like, why didn't medical meet you out there? Why did it take so long for them to understand the situation. CPR, means the person is critical, really he is dead, you are just trying to keep the major organs oxygenated till real medical aid/medication etc can be administered. Crazy, is there a way to file a report/complaint? At least to see where the communication lapse occurred.

Thanks for being there to help, I'm sure you two were a great comfort to the vessel in need.
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Old 15-10-2013, 16:21   #3
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pirate Re: CPR At Sea and May Day Response

It may just have been a communication problem/error on your instructors part... when a Cat I was delivering was holed near Cape Vincent I did a Pan Pan and called Tarifa Traffic direct... they had a lifeboat out to my position in the fastest time possible and they stood by ready to provide assistance all the way into Barbatte as I was not prepared to abandon the vessel till there was no hope of saving her..
Knowledge of local procedures is all important in cases like these.. what works in one country is not universal... ask a local sailor in each country you visit how THEY do it...
Just shouting Mayday is not always the answer... also the call should have been... Pan Pan Medico...
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