World Cruising Yacht
Taking responsibility for your family's health instead of rushing off to the doctor at the first sign of trouble is a new idea for most of us as well. Preparation and help are both essential.
As a minimum one of you needs to do a full five-day Ship's Captain's Medical Course ( in the UK ) or the equivalent elsewhere in the world. You need a supportive family doctor who can help you with a comprehensive vaccination programme, prescriptions to obtain an appropriate ship's medical store for Ocean passage making and can recommend reference books to cover both diagnosis and the appropriate use of drugs. You need a satellite phone and one or preferably more doctors who you know whom you can call in an emergency to ask for advice. You may also need some specialist medical equipment on board to reflect any particular risks apparent in your family's medical history. For example, we carried a nebuliser as two of the family had a history of mild asthma.
Moving from the general to the particular, our own experience and that of our friends throws up a few observations. Heatstroke, major allergic reactions and head wounds that bled like fury were fairly common problems around the fleet. The first is best prevented by treating the tropical sun with the respect it deserves. A drug called Phenergen was consistently the most successful treatment for a serious allergic reaction. As for the last, get used to the sight of blood and carry lots of steri-strips on board -- they are usually an easier solution than stitching someone up.
In the final analysis it is clear that the cruising lifestyle exposes you and your family to some risks that he would not otherwise be exposed to. You are more likely to go down with a serious condition, for example appendicitis, beyond medical help, to be injured by a dangerous marine organism, or to drown, than if you lived in London or New York. On the other hand your children are less likely to be killed by a car, abducted by a paedophile, or blown up by terrorists. In reality we all have to get on with our chosen lives, so we teach our children how to cross the road, how to swim and how to minimise hazards in the ocean as appropriate.
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© 2003-2007 M Boyd Maunsell