LESSONS LEARNED

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UNIVER­SAL MAR­ITIME TRUTH #3: KNOWL­EDGE AND PREPA­RA­TION HELP RE­DUCE RECK­LESS CHOICES. Though this ac­ci­dent for­tu­nately did not result in loss of life, some of our pre- and post-ac­ci­dent de­ci­sions might have proven fa­tal in other cir­cum­stances. I humbly of­fer the fol­low­ing lessons learned. SE­CURE SCENE SAFETY. The last thing that oc­curred to Don af­ter the ac­ci­dent was en­sur­ing his own safety. In his role as care­taker, had some­thing also hap­pened to him, it could have re­sulted in two deaths. COMMUNICATEAND GET HELP. Be­sides im­prov­ing scene safety, keep in mind that the sit­u­a­tion may be more se­ri­ous than your knowl­edge or ex­pe­ri­ence can as­cer­tain. Although we thought about call­ing the Coast Guard, we were in de­nial that any­thing se­ri­ous had oc­curred. At a ma­rina, call 911. At an­chor or moor­ing, call the Coast Guard. If it’s re­ally se­ri­ous, is­sue a may­day and blast your horn five times to alert nearby boaters of your emer­gency. Loss of use of a limb is a se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion. With my up­per arm in­jury, a bad twist or wrong move could have caused one of the bro­ken, ra­zor sharp bone pieces to cut my brachial artery, caus­ing bleed­ing that I wouldn’t have sur­vived. Show­er­ing, dinghy­ing ashore, and driv­ing to the hospi­tal all could have killed me. RE­MEM­BER YOUR FIRST AID TRAIN­ING. At­tend to the ABCs: air­way, breath­ing, and cir­cu­la­tion. In my sit­u­a­tion, dis­lo­cated or bro­ken bones wouldn’t have killed me. The cir­cu­la­tion is­sues of in­ter­nal bleed­ing and shock (the in­abil­ity to move oxy­gen into vi­tal or­gans, par­tic­u­larly the brain) could have. The signs and symp­toms of shock are pale skin color, chilled ex­trem­i­ties, and a pa­tient who isn’t think­ing clearly. Since I had fallen in wa­ter, we may have ig­nored cold hands and feet. How­ever, seek­ing a shower when I was in so much pain should have alerted Don that I was off my rocker. He should have taken the de­ci­sion mak­ing away from me, forced me to rest with my legs el­e­vated, and kept me warm to pre­vent in­ter­nal blood loss. My in­abil­ity to move my arm in­di­cated a se­ri­ous in­jury. A wait­ing am­bu­lance could have sup­plied IVs and oxy­gen, as well as en­sur­ing quick at­ten­tion at the hospi­tal. PRE­VEN­TION IS KEY. Ob­vi­ously pre­vent­ing this type of ac­ci­dent in the first place is the pri­mary goal:

• Im­pa­tience and inat­ten­tion are in­com­pat­i­ble with safety. When I trans­ferred to our ten­der car­ry­ing items on both arms, I al­tered my equi­lib­rium. So never place “weights” on ei­ther arm when you are board­ing a dinghy, a moth­er­ship, or step­ping on or off a dock. Pass them to a per­son or plat­form first. • Lower your cen­ter of gravity. Even with weighted arms, I might have im­proved my equi­lib­rium had I sat on the swim plat­form be­fore board­ing. A friend in the Coast Guard Aux­il­iary of­fered these mantras: “Main­tain three points of contact. Two feet and a hand, two feet and your butt (sit­ting), or two feet and lean­ing against some­thing fixed.” He ac­knowl­edged that these are tough to do when board­ing a dinghy, so he re­ferred to the old adage: “One hand for the ship. One hand for you.” • Do not worry about re­place­able per­sonal items!

RE­PORT YOUR AC­CI­DENT TO THE COAST GUARD.

The USCG an­nual re­port on boat­ing accidents should be re­quired read­ing for all boat own­ers to re­mind us that reck­less choices rock boats, sink them, or result in far worse consequences. (Find the re­port at: www.goo.gl/QUjmAF) Ad­di­tion­ally, it is im­per­a­tive that we re­port our accidents to the USCG. Their fund­ing is partly based on these sta­tis­tics. Cu­rios­ity and my work as a writer and re­searcher led me to re­view boat­ing accidents. In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard re­ported 309 ves­sels had been in­volved in 284 accidents where vic­tims fell over­board. This might im­ply at least some had been accidents like mine, go­ing from one boat to an­other. Those over­board accidents re­sulted in 161 deaths. Of those 161 deaths, 126 were due to drown­ing. It took me months to re­port my ac­ci­dent, so I would sug­gest the pub­lished num­bers might be a bit sketchy. In­ter­est­ingly, most accidents do not result from na­ture’s fury, but tend to oc­cur in rel­a­tively calm wa­ters when you are least ex­pect­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a trau­matic out­come. Bingo.

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