Since medical help at sea isn’t readily available, we prepare ourselves for medical emergencies.

Amsterdam (NLD)

A large cut in Ivar’s skin. He cringes as Floris pushes a razor-sharp needle deep into the flesh, underneath the wound and out on the other side. Just looking at his attempt at stitching Ivar back together makes his hair stand up. He imagines the intense pain he would feel if it were a real wound and real skin. Horrific. Luckily, we are practising on a piece of fake skin that is strapped around Ivar’s arm and it’s mostly for fun. If we ever need stitches, we are advised to use special bandaid and glue instead.

While Luci patiently awaits our return in the Sixhaven, we are in the middle of a medical course for sailors. Our friends Toos and Rolf have organised two evenings at their office for us and a few other sailor friends who are also leaving on a world trip this year. Anne Marieke, a nurse experienced in emergency aid, teaches us the ropes. Or at least the basics to survive at sea until we see a doctor.

The course starts with the extreme, reanimation (CPR), which we may need if one of us falls overboard. 20 times heart message, 4 times mouth-to-mouth, 20 times heart message, 4 times mouth-to-mouth, etc., until exhaustion. Hmm, somehow that doesn’t reassure us. Plus it assumes that we were able to locate the (Wo)Man-Over-Board, get him back onboard, and drag him to a safe spot to perform the reanimation…

Prevention Prevails

The more we learn about medical emergencies at sea, the more we realize that both of us are unequipped to deal with serious medical emergencies. Our vulnerability at sea means that prevention is more important than anything. A close second is communication: in many situations we will need to consult with a doctor who can advise on suitable measures and medication. Another reason to purchase a satellite phone.

Still, some self-help might come in handy, so Anne Marieke teaches us how to pop a dislocated shoulder back in place (not as seen in the movies with shear forces, but patience!), how to apply different types of bandages and how to treat hypothermia. At the end of two nights, we are confident that we know how to deal with most of the medical issues that can occur on or around a sailing boat. Many thanks Anne Marieke for teaching us!

A Thousand Thanks

Our next stop for our medical preparations is AkzoNobel’s medical department, where we are subjected to an elaborate health-check by Wil and her assistant Lisan. This includes some vaccinations! As a big surprise, Wil and Lisan have put together an extensive medical kit with all the medication, bandaids and bandages we could ever need. AkzoNobel’s company doctor Dirk Veldhorst will present it to us at Ivar’s farewell drinks. A huge thank you to them for their help and generosity!

Finally, our friends Erwin & Caroll Berkhout, dentists in Loosdrecht, gave Ivar a thorough dental check-up and are going to provide us with an emergency dental kit – those coconuts can be tough on the teeth, after all.

All these preparations taught us that we’re nowhere near being “Sailing Doctors” and prevention is going to be essential. We prepared for the worst and hope for the best: that we will never have to use all this knowledge and can leave the medical kit untouched!


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