Learning to stay safe at sea
The always gregarious Dr. Michael Jacobs entertained and informed a group of close to 50 at the Black Dog Tavern last Wednesday with an illustrated lecture on medical safety at sea. The program was sponsored by Sail Martha's Vineyard as part of its winter dinner/lecture series.
Dr. Jacobs, a lifelong sailor, is director of Vineyard Medical Service and co-author with Dr. Eric Weiss of "Comprehensive Guide To Marine Medicine." He elaborated on the dangers of dehydration, hypothermia, sleep deprivation, and injuries, detailing symptoms and recommending remedies.
Photos by Susan Safford
"Mariners never drink as much water as they lose," said Dr. Jacobs, adding that a sure symptom of this malady is darkly colored urine. For heat exhaustion, hydrating and spraying fresh water on the person are beneficial.
On seasickness, he explained that there are a number of very effective drugs on the market that can be taken a day before going out on the ocean or when rough seas are expected.
To treat someone with hypothermia, he advises the person get out of the cold, dry the skin, dress in layers, wrap in insulation, and get calories. A warm drink is only good psychologically, and a hot shower is a definite mistake as the victim may suffer sudden cardiovascular collapse.
He warned against the danger of sleep deprivation, which results in poor decision-making. "Four and a half hours is the minimum required along with frequent power naps," said Dr. Jacobs. Power naps only need to be 20 to 30 minutes and provide deep, restorative sleep.
"Trips and falls account for more than half of all accidents" afloat, said Dr. Jacobs. He cautioned about the "treacherous triangle'" - the confluence of lines on deck that may suddenly shift and catch you off guard. The crowd laughed when Dr. Jacobs illustrated that point by saying most men that drown are found with their flies open.
The most common body part to suffer injury is the hand, often when working a winch under pressure. "Keep the thumbs in," said Dr. Jacobs. Head injuries are not as common, but more than half of them prove fatal. They are usually caused by the boom when it suddenly sweeps across the deck during a jibe.
Sail Martha's Vineyard may schedule more lectures during the summer, but the popular monthly dinner/lecture series will not resume until next winter.