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Old 03-08-2015, 08:59   #1
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What to do - crew dies at sea?

I'm interested in the procedure or rules if a crew member dies at sea.

For discussion purposes, let's assume more than 500 miles offshore, making it difficult to return or continue to destination. I'm assuming one would contact the USCG via SSB/Satphone. I think it would be unreasonable to keep the body onboard for 7+ days.

What to do?
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:11   #2
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Reckon getting contact to some ship in reasonable range. They might have better facilities for storing the body. Of course notifying also flag state and other necessary authorities..
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:17   #3
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

There was a similar thread a little while ago, I believe one consideration is a body bag, of course you have to have one on board and that's a little morbid, maybe?
One thought then was of course if an older Woman could even handle (physically) the situation assuming of course the person passed away down below.

I would think disposing of the body would be problematic at best with authorities.
If it happened to me, and it wasn't my wife, I'd consider placing the body in the dinghy, as you infer a body in tropical heat for a week would make the boat un-inhabitable
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:48   #4
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Best to dispose of the body at sea, but notify authorities if possible and document the hell out things with pictures and video.

True story--husband shot and killed by pirates off Venezuela, wife tried to sail back to Trinidad with body on board, couldn't, then abandoned the boat and body for the liferaft. She was picked up over a week later off the ABC's--lucky woman.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:56   #5
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

If you do a quick search of the forum you will find

What if.....There's a Death at Sea

Morbid Curiosity - What to Do with a Human Cadaver ?

I seem to recall a few more but these covered the subject pretty well.
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Old 03-08-2015, 10:10   #6
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Weird, I was thinking of this the other day. They pickled Nelson in a barrel of brandy after Trafalgar, but I doubt the typical cruiser's booze locker is that well stocked. Perhaps a lot of salt? Bicarb, for those with big battery banks and paranoia about acid spills? Unless there's an embalmer aboard with his supplies, it'd probably mean burial at sea, or if lucky, the nearest land. Triggering the epirb would probably be contraindicated, since the emergency isn't life-threatening. Maybe the subject should be discussed and settled amongst the crew before sailing.
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Old 03-08-2015, 10:17   #7
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Well... That would be very sad, because the only other person on board is my best friend and wife the Pamster.
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Old 03-08-2015, 11:24   #8
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Thanks skipmac - I do recall reading these threads earlier, but couldn't find them. Rereading and to summarize,

1. Document everything, logbook, photos, video
2. Contact authorities, notify of situation. Also keep radio contact log, showing attempt to contact every 4 hours. Perhaps a passing ship will take body.
3. After a reasonable period of time, (around 24-36 hours) dispose of body overboard. May wish to wrap in sailbag, sleeping bag, with weight (weight belt, anchor, chain). May also want to get in cockpit or on deck before body decomposes.
4. Have beforehand a written, notarized medical history for each crewmember

I don't agree with
1. Triggering EPIRB - this is not a rescue situation.
2. Towing the dinghy with corpse - even at several hundred miles offshore, the birds will find the body.

This topic came up regarding a long-distance off-shore race, in which case there are daily position reports, checkins, which would provide another way to contact authorities.
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Old 03-08-2015, 12:54   #9
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

I cruised for three years and know of two horror stories involving cruising boats reporting deaths at sea and trying to deal with the locals.


I would suggest you add to the list:


Assuming you are not returning to your Home Country, try and contact the Embassy of the deceased BEFORE your arrival with or without a dead body on board. They may be able to take care of some very problematic details or questions by authorities.


If in International Waters when the death occurs, your vessel's home country will have jurisdiction over the death and you should contact them immediately if a death occurs for instructions. So if you have a US Flagged Vessel, you should call the US Coast Guard and report the death.


Log everything you did involving the death at sea... Notifications, names, etc...


This link has most of the information US Flagged Vessels need to know: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/nvic/pdf/...ng20150721.pdf
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Old 03-08-2015, 14:54   #10
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

I remember a thread along these lines somewhere on the internet.
The OP in that case was asking questions phrased in such a way that I think everybody pretty much decided they didn't want to sail with him lol.
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Old 03-08-2015, 14:57   #11
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

you never know when research will come be handy
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Old 03-08-2015, 15:55   #12
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Best get the body on deck within first day or so before it gets skin slip then its lots of fun to move. You have at most 3 to 4 days before the corpse would be unbearable in tropical heat.

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Old 03-08-2015, 15:57   #13
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Quote:
Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
Best to dispose of the body at sea, but notify authorities if possible and document the hell out things with pictures and video.

True story--husband shot and killed by pirates off Venezuela, wife tried to sail back to Trinidad with body on board, couldn't, then abandoned the boat and body for the liferaft. She was picked up over a week later off the ABC's--lucky woman.
I guess we have different definitions of lucky.
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Old 03-08-2015, 16:02   #14
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

Chuck it overboard.

Can you imagine the stench after a few days? And a ship certainly isnt going to stop and grab it.


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Old 03-08-2015, 16:13   #15
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Re: What to do - crew dies at sea?

At the beginning of the maritime mobile service nets, they ask for "medical, emergency, or priority traffic". The death of a crew member falls in that category. So, via the SSB, you, the survivor, would be able to contact a ham, at certain times of the day when propagation allows, in the country of the crew member. They will quickly offer help. They can notify people for you and are anxious to help. A ham will handle this kind of traffic for a non ham licensed boat. The marine SSB may be blocked from the ham frequencies; however, some of those radios are able to tune and transmit & receive on the ham frequencies.

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