Days 11 through 13, Year 1: Off-shore Medical Course
Date: Friday to Sunday, October 28 to 30, 2005
Weather: Nice Fall Weather
Location: Hampton, Virginia

It is Sunday evening and we are driving home from our three-day emergency medical course in Hampton, Virginia, as I write this log. The course was an Outward Bound wilderness medicine course taught by Jeff Isaac and adapted for offshore sailors. It was all about managing your own health issues when you are the first and only responder. It was a sobering reminder of the risks any sailor is taking when heading offshore. In this course, heading offshore was referred to as the “big magnifier.” Linda, you will be very proud. We learned a new equation. Risk = Probability x Consequence. When you take yourself offshore, the probability of many health risks might go down, but the consequences are much greater. Not exactly an uplifting thought, but a necessary reality. For those who make this choice, it is vital to know how to deal with medical emergencies and this weekend course gave us a great beginning.

We learned about the “risk/benefit ratio” that has you constantly evaluating whether a medical situation is a low or high risk. Making a good risk to benefit decision is most important. You want to avoid high-risk solutions to low risk problems. In order to do this, you need to know when a situation might be life threatening. And when it is, you need to know how to seek advice from a doctor and how to find a way to get the person evacuated. The course was supposed to prepare us to deal with emergency situations and it exceeded our expectations.

We learned and practiced many technical health care procedures such as how to clean and dress nasty wounds, how to splint, how to make a cast, how to give an intramuscular injection, how to use a catheter, and how to use various medical tools such as an otoscope for checking eardrums. We also learned the uses for various medications, how to check vital signs of primary body systems, how to relocate a dislocated shoulder, how to do a patient assessment and communicate that information to a health professional over the radio, and on, and on, and on. It is a good feeling to come away from an intense learning experience like this and feel more confident in your own ability to deal with medical emergencies. Your hope is that the situation will never arise, but if it does, Mark and I both feel much better prepared.

As always, the best thing about cruising and cruise related activities is the people you meet. Christina was in the class, and she, along with her husband, Joe, and their seven and nine year old daughters, will be heading to Tortola in the US Virgin Islands next weekend. They will be sailing their 51 foot Switch catamaran named Zia in the Caribbean 1500. For those of you who are not sailors, this is a cruising rally to the Caribbean. Christina and Joe are home schooling the girls and hope to head across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean after spending the winter in the Caribbean. Joyce and Gordon were from Chicago where they sail their Slocum 43 in Lake Michigan. Next spring they hope to head up the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Atlantic, and then down to the Caribbean in Jabberwocky. Then there was Kathy and Gene from Houston. They are heading to the Caribbean and beyond next spring in their 44 foot Stamas named Dream Ketcher. Beth and Rob were from Annapolis and are currently between sailboats. The instructor, Jeff, just bought a Cape Dory that he is keeping in Maine for now. The horse ranch in Colorado is just not the right place for that sailboat, but he has been a life-long sailor and hopes to spend more time on the ocean. And at lunch today we met Rex Conn. He was not in the class but is in Hampton preparing for the Caribbean 1500. Steve Black, one of the organizers of the rally, will be a crew member on Rex’s 50 foot trimaran, Alacrity. Rex says he hopes to be the first to arrive in Tortola this year, so watch for that name.

Tomorrow we hope to sail Windbird out of Lewes, Delaware, and to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. I say “hope” since we have changed plans so many times in the past week. When I called my daughter, Heather, this weekend, she greeted me by saying, “Mom, you guys are crazy. You can’t stick with a decision for more than 12 hours.” Well, there’s no denying that she is right. But then I guess that’s one of the perks of retirement!

Note: The price of gasoline down here is $2.25 per gallon. That is considerably lower that the price when we left New England. Have things changed that much in the past two weeks or are the prices here that much better? And did it really snow in Boston this weekend?

051030 Day 13 Boston to Norfolk, USA–Emergency Medical Class