Select Page

Moving about a boat at sea often results in a few knocks and bruises, but if a crew member has a fall or major bump and is in serious pain, they should be examined and treated accordingly. The risk of this happening can be reduced by keeping one hand holding the boat at all times and by keeping knees bent and weight low.

There are two kinds of fracture, open and closed.  An open fracture is where a broken bone has punctured the skin and is visible, whereas a closed fracture remains beneath the skin.  An open fracture carries a high risk of infection and the casualty will most likely suffer bleeding and shock.

Sprains, strains, dislocations and closed fractures have similar symptoms and if in doubt it is best to treat them all as a fracture and to immobilize the injured limb and make the casualty comfortable.

The signs and symptoms of a fracture are:

  • Swelling, bruising and deformity.
  • Pain.
  • Unnatural position.
  • Grinding sensation.
  • Difficulty in moving or leaning on the limb.
  • Shock.

open fracture at sea first aid    open fracture at sea first aid    open fracture at sea first aid

Treating a fracture:

  • Check for levels of response and breathing.
  • Control bleeding.
  • Cover open fractures with a sterile dressing
  • Gently straighten and support the limb.
  • Treat with painkillers.
  • Splint and support the limb with bandages to minimize movement. Splint an arm or leg to an uninjured part of the body. Splint a fractured finger to an adjacent finger.
  • Do not over tighten bandage, padding helps.
  • Apply a cold compress to closed fractures to reduce swelling.
  • Seek medical advice.
  • Monitor the casualty closely for swelling and signs of shock.

Head injury

The most common cause of head injury at sea is when a crew member gets hit by the boom. If this happens, the casualty should be examined straight away and you should send a MAYDAY immediately if the casualty has been knocked unconscious and is not responding. If the casualty quickly regains consciousness then assume they are suffering from concussion. Send out a PAN PAN and ask for medical help and the best course of action.

head injury first aid at sea    head injury first aid at sea

A blow to the head from the boom may result in a skull fracture or bleeding and might also cause a neck or spinal injury.  A fractured skull is a very dangerous injury and can occur even if the patient regains consciousness. The casualty needs urgent treatment ashore and immediate evacuation.

Watch for:

  • Signs of concussion, where casualty has been briefly knocked unconscious, followed by drowsiness, headache, loss of memory, double vision and dizziness.
  • Depression on the scalp, bruising around the eyes, bleeding from ear or nose.
  • Dilated or unequal pupil size.
  • Irregular breathing, with slow pulse, less than 60 beats per minute.
  • Flushed, dry skin.
  • Convulsions.
  • Deterioration, which might be gradual over several hours.

Treating a head injury:

  • Check for AVPU levels of response.
  • Check airway is clear if the casualty is unconscious.
  • Send a MAYDAY and seek immediate evacuation if the casualty is unconscious.
  • Send a PAN PAN and seek urgent medical advice if the casualty was knocked out but regained consciousness.
  • Monitor breathing, pulse, level of response and pupil sizes.
  • If the casualty is conscious, keep them awake but make sure they rest.
  • If the casualty is unconscious, place in the recovery position.

Rudders and steering systems – Part 2

One thing all rudders have in common is that they have three main parts that need to be checked: the rudder, or a steerable drive leg in the case of many power boats; the system that joins the rudder to the steering; the steering control itself.

Essential Knots: Reef knot

Essential Knots: Reef knot Use: Tying two ends of rope together, often used for tying up a bundle of loose sail around the boom. Step...

Essential Knots: Figure of eight

Essential Knots: Figure of eight Use: Stopper knot, prevents a rope from being pulled through a hole e.g. through a block or...

Anchoring – getting it right is not always straightforward

If you can set an anchor correctly with confidence and know your boat will be safe in a secure anchorage, then you can rest...

Understanding tide tables and tidal curves

There are many factors that influence local tidal patterns and it’s essential for every sailor to have a good understanding of tide tables and tidal charts to ensure they can calculate the level of tide at any given time.

Jester Challenge 2022 – Sailing single handed from Plymouth UK to the Azores: Part 7 – Motivation

Jester Challenge – A modern experiment in old-fashioned self-reliance, self sufficiency, and personal responsibility. This is the seventh of a 10-part post where solo sailor, Bernie Branfield, shares his first-hand account of his single-handed, 2022 Jester Challenge, from Plymouth, UK to the Azores, in his 26′ Invicta Mk2, Louisa.

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 2

To prepare for antifouling, as soon as your boat has been lifted out and pressure washed, you need to check all the surfaces of the hull below the waterline, remove any remaining barnacles and check for blisters.

Boat Handling – anchoring

Anchoring your yacht or motorboat Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you can set an anchor...

Competent crew skills: mooring lines

Mooring lines are used when arriving or leaving a berth. One of the most important competent crew skills is to know how to...

Common marine electrical problems

Most problems with marine electrical systems arise from four possible sources, a lack of maintenance, a poor standard of initial installation, insufficient battery capacity, or ineffective charging systems.
Water ingress is a frequent issue – salt water can corrode contacts very quickly. If connections are not scrupulously clean – or are loose – resistance will be increased, resulting in progressively reduced power.

Understanding your boat’s compass

Article submitted by Mike Rossiter, Certificated Compass Adjuster. Since the magnetic compass was first used by the Chinese...

Understanding your mast and rigging

The rig of a sailing boat is put under huge stresses and strains so it is important for inspections of a yacht's spars and rigging to be...

Keel maintenance and repair – Part 1

Keels are designed to act as underwater foils that generate lift as the boat moves through the water, counteracting the leeward force of the wind and enabling the boat to sail closer to the wind. Keel maintenance and repair is essential for the performance of your boat.

Five dangers a vessel may encounter at sea

What are the main dangers a vessel may face at sea and what should skippers do to reduce the risk of these happening?

Pleasure craft safety equipment recommendations

Safety equipment is an important part of boat preparation and it is advisable for all pleasure craft skippers to check their vessel is...

Marine engine electrical system

The typical basic electrical system associated with a marine engine includes a dedicated engine starting battery, a starter motor, a charger in the form of an alternator, a solenoid and some engine sensors and instruments.

Pre-start engine checks

According to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) almost one third of emergency call outs at sea are caused by mechanical failure. Many engine breakdowns are avoidable. The best way to avoid a breakdown is to carry out pre-start checks before heading out to sea.

Top 5 Reasons Why an Inflatable SUP Should Be Your Next Yacht Accessory

In this article, inflatable paddle board expert Jason Paul gives the top 5 reasons why an inflatable SUP should be your next...

How to use tides and currents to your advantage

If you are contemplating a cruise through tidal waters and strong currents, then planning your trip carefully in advance is essential to enable you to take advantage of favourable tides rather than constantly fighting against them.

Estimating your position at sea

Navigators use a combination of techniques to estimate their position at sea. The primary method used today is GPS (Global Positioning System), a network of 24 satellites that became fully operational in the 1990s and was originally restricted for use by the United States military.

Sailboat rig checks – Part 2

In part two of Sail boat rig checks we run through some useful rig maintenance tips and then finish with a brief look at what a professional rig check involves.

Electric motors and hybrid systems

In recent years there have been considerable advances with the development of electrically powered propulsion in the leisure marine sector. This includes developments with inboard and outboard electric motors, hybrid systems, lithium-ion battery technology as well as solar, wind and hydro powered generators.

Boatyard Health and Safety

Boat storage facilities are potentially hazardous environments and it is the responsibility of both boat owners and boatyards to ensure that the...

Hull inspection – the annual checks

With the boat ashore for the winter it is time to do a hull inspection - the annual checks. Are there any scratches and chips in the...

Peer to Peer yacht charter – How can you monetize your boat?

There is a growing trend in peer to peer yacht charter. How does it work? People already rent rooms, cars and bikes from one...