Well, I have been boating a long time as everyone knows. It doesn't keep me from making an error in judegement sometimes...
We went out last Saturday night on a friends 68' power boat to watch the boat parade. Had a great time. On the way back in, we helped him tie to the dock but the wind was blowing us off. I secured the stern while another friend of mine secured the bow. The captain (he is a friend) got out of the cockpit to resecure the lines
on the bow the way he liked them and apparently kicked the boat into forward. I screamed for him to stop but he didn't hear me. I quickly made my way to the stern cleat
that was made fast and tried to get the line
off before he jerked out the cleat
. I only made it halfway.
In something less than a millisecond, the line
tightened and before I could get away, the cleat
blew off. FOr those that have never seen that happen (especially on a large yacht), it sounds like a cannon and comes out like a bullet. It hit my middlefinger, twice on my wrist, and tore into my forearm faster than I could pull my arm away.
SPent the rest of the night in the ER. Luckily (and miraculously), I did not shatter any bones. I think that is because the cleat
went across the top of my arm instead of directly into it. I did partially tear my bicep and tricep and now find myself waylaid in St Pete for a month or two until I can heal. Bit of a bummer beacuse we were heading to the keys in the next couple of weeks.
THe morale of this story is obvious: don't get anywhere near a cleat that is being tensioned. But another morale is that accidents can happen on the water quicker than we can react. Luckily I was near an ER and they took care of me. But if I had been in a remote location, I would have had to tend to this injury on my own. I immediately thought about what we had in our med kit to stop what was a LOT of bleeding, and how I could secure my arm if it were shattered. Did Kris have the knowledge to bandage me up? Would the kids have had it and known what to do?
Just a thought to those who are in the offseason (and certainly those who are not) to take a peek at your onboard medical kit and books. Do you have sufficient supplies for where you are sailing and time-to-help? Is your medkit well stocked and is it in a VERY easy to access location? When an accident like that happens, I can guarantee you that the person hurt will not be much use for medical advice, and the person doing the patching will need to think fast. Trying to track down a med kit or figure out where your supplies are could mean the difference between life and death.
In my experience, I find many cruisers carry lots of extra engine parts, lots of extra lines
, a few fenders
here and there, of course every tool imagineable... but the items most often overlooked the most are their medical kits and knowledge of them. A few bandaids and some trip-antibiotic doesn't cut it. You cannot think of your medical kit in terms of how many miles you sail offshore. I hear that all the time and it is wrong. You have to think of it in time to rescue or hospital. For example, you might be anchored off an island only a few miles from the mainland, but your time to rescue could be a half a day or better.
I know everyone here will immediately think they would never make the same mistake I made. Hey, I hope not. Just remember, I know better than to do it too, and knew better before I did it. I guess my point is that even those of us who have done this for a long time make stupid errors in judgement. That will never change, and even the oldest salt amongst us will screw up at times. What is important is that we have the equipment and skills to deal with most of those mistakes, especially when cruising. Because let me tell you, when it happens (especially if it is to you), you will not be thinking clearly.
Just some food for thought...