Sailing is about speed and exploration and adventure and camaraderie and skills and seamanship and the joys of the ocean. Underlying all these is safety. Below are a few tips that came to mind whilst I was the medical officer for the ORCV 2022 Melbourne-Hobart Westcoaster. Many are just as relevant for any sailing trip into Bass Strait and beyond.
i) Proactively manage sea-sickness. Start medication 12 – 24 hours beforehand, and continue for several days.
A supply of plastic vomit bags with twist-off tops is less messy than a bucket or leaning between the lifelines.
ii) Avoid withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, caffeine, and any other drugs.
iii) Continue to take usual medications such as blood pressure tablets on a regular basis. (However some medications, such as vitamins or cholesterol tablets, can be safely skipped for several days).
iv) Put sunscreen on. Reapply at the start of a new watch during daytime.
v) Watch your fingers! We are usually cognisant of the dangers of winches, but nasty fractures can occur from being whipped by flying sheets.
vi) Wash your hands. Explosive diarrhoea on a boat is unthinkably awful.
vii) Covid! .Obviously, people should not sail if they have any symptoms.
Perhaps do a Covid RAT 24 hours beforehand. This will not prevent all transmission amongst the crew, but would give useful information regarding whether a boat should withdraw or continue sailing.
Have N95 masks onboard to be worn when below if someone develops symptoms.
viii) Have the medical kit stowed somewhere that is accessible, even in rough conditions.
ix) Tell someone if you feel unwell or hurt yourself – it helps to have a crewmate keep an eye on you.
x) Keep sailing – it’s great medicine.