Liz Baugh, maritime and offshore medic from Red Square Medical and Dr. John Ross, medical director of PRAXES Medical Group take you through their top tips for keeping your crew happy and healthy at sea.
As sailors, we know there are many things to consider before pushing off from the dock. We spend time (and money) preparing our boats, but little to prepare our minds and bodies for open ocean sailing, when calling 911 or 999 is not an option. The old saying comes to mind, “If you fail to plan, you will plan to fail” or a favourite in the Royal Navy, the 5 P’s - Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
We have put together some tips to help prepare for being at sea over an extended period, so you can enjoy the full extent of your ARC experience.
- Know your crew’s medical history. Are they taking any medication, or do they have any conditions or allergies? Has a health professional, who understands the rigors of an ocean crossing, assessed them recently and deemed them fit? If they have medications, ensure they pack enough for the entire time, plus extra because you can’t always get what you need in every country. Many experienced sailors put half their medications in one place and half in another, in waterproof containers, just in case. Some crews include a health professional – there can be a sense they will know what to do. But what happens when that key person becomes incapacitated? Have a summary of important health conditions of each member in one place that can be accessed as needed.
- Take enough drinking water. Occasionally, skippers underestimate the volume of water required for an active crew in hot and/or dry climates. Water-making machinery can break down. Rationing water can put the whole crew at risk for a variety of problems such as acute kidney injury, fainting with blunt trauma, kidney stones and others with short and long-term consequences.
- A proper First Aid Kit for your crew size, vessel and voyage. And no, the local supermarket version won’t cut it - but you don’t need to create this list from scratch, there are resources online and companies who build these kits. For our specific recommendation for the ARC rallies, contact us.
- Take a First Aid/Medical Care course – ideally marine focused. It is valuable training while having access to an expert who can answer all your questions pre-voyage. You can hear and share the experience of the other course delegates. No one wants to think about health-related events, but they do happen. And when it does, we promise it quickly becomes the only thing that matters - so the more training you have the better.
- Have a grab bag with vital lifesaving equipment in it. If you need to abort your vessel, you will want to grab some key supplies with you, quickly. This is separate from your main medical kit but includes the vitals. There are lots of resources online and we are happy to help you with some recommendations.
- Buy a decent First Aid manual. We recommend and supply all of our clients with the Emergency First Aid Step by Step Guide. It is a great decision-support tool, waterproof, tear resistant and is readily available via Amazon.
- Subscribe to a telemedicine service. Of course, as the medical director of a company I will always recommend this, but you don’t have to use PRAXES. There are sovereign services available, but only for emergencies and they will almost always have to medevac or divert you. We encourage our clients to call early and often, before it becomes serious. We know what medications and supplies are on board, the health histories of your crew and can help prevent or manage those emergencies. For information on our ARC packages contact us.
- Ensure your crew have the right vaccinations for your travel plans. We recommend NaTHNac an easy to use website that helps you plan all your travel health requirements. Yellow Fever is a hot topic at the moment, so be aware of the high-risk areas. Keep evidence of when and where you had vaccinations as well, otherwise some countries may refuse entry or make you have another one.
- Come visit us in Las Palmas. We will be speaking as part of the pre-departure seminar programme and hosting drop-in sessions to discuss your crew's health and medical needs one-on-one. For more information see your programme and Welcome Newsletter when you check-in in Las Palmas. We’d love to see you there!
Liz Baugh of Red Square Medical is a specialist Maritime Medic with 19 years of experience of all things medical and sea-related.
Dr. John Ross, medical director of PRAXES Medical Group, is a Canadian-based emergency physician with more than 30 years of experience, 21 of which include providing telemedicine to those at sea and in some of the remote and dangerous places around the world.