Planning For The Worst Case

By Art Hodax. Photo by Barbara Hodax

There was time when I really felt few physical activities presented an obstacle and when I’d eagerly trade comfort for adventure and excitement. Now that I’m fully grown up, I’m more aware that health and safety deserve more attention.

We boat and fish because it’s fun. But, fun doesn’t usually include an escape plan to the closest hospital in an emergency.

Check the weather forecast, go over the pre-departure checklist on your boat, make sure you have floatation devices, flares, a first-aid kit and communications, pack refreshments and brief your friends on how, when and if they should help. That list gets you off to a pretty good start. But give some thought to where the nearest doctor will be, how you’ll get there and how long the trip will take. I’ve seen enough to know that unexpected things happen.

I recently had a conversation with my friend Ted Sussan. Ted is a successful attorney who has spent a good number of winters in Exuma and the Abaco’s Marsh Harbor on his 46’ Nordhavn yacht. Ted recounted some stories about fellow boaters that made him think it was time to winter closer to 911 service and a world-class hospital.  Here are two of his stories:

“One of our Marsh Harbor friends with a previous heart condition became ill. He thought the symptoms were consistent with those of a heart attack and he wanted an emergency room. His symptoms began at dinner, and the airport in Marsh Harbor provides daylight operations only. He was stuck on his boat until morning, adding acute anxiety to his symptoms when he was finally transported to a Miami hospital. He survived.”

“In an incident in the Exumas, a woman broke her ankle while getting off her boat. The marina staff decided to put her into their 22’ RIB powered by twin Yamahas and transport her to the airport on Staniel Cay, a few miles distant so she could be flown to Nassau and then on to Miami. The staff were as gentle and caring as possible with her. The last thing I remember as the boat pulled away were the anguished screams that were in synch with the pounding boat. It wasn’t her best day.”

Many of us take for granted that medical help will be nearby. A simple fall and fracture or appendicitis can turn into a disaster if medical care is hours or days away even under the best of weather.  When you give thought to your trip plan, think about access to help. Be it a towing service, Coast Guard or a hospital, when you need someone, you’ll want them within easy reach. You should also be thinking of yourself as a “first responder.”  Make sure your first-aid supplies include more than Band-Aids and sunscreen. It might be a deep cut from a fish knife, a broken bone or worse. The better prepared you are, the better the chances of a good outcome.

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