A friend of mine recently spent £50 on a first aid box for his workshop. It’s a nice looking thing, the packaging is smart, it’s a bright colour, it fixes to the wall so you can easily find it if you need to, really there’s only one thing that lets it down….  the contents.
For your hard earned greenbacks you get a pack of assorted plasters, a pair of scissors, a few bandages, a couple of sterile pads, a pair of latex gloves,  and not a lot else really. Basically the contents could be bought for less then a tenner, which means the box it came in cost £40+, although he did get a wall sticker as well!!

First Aid Box

It is good practice to carry a first aid box onboard your boat. The usual bits such as waterproof plasters, bandages, antiseptic wipes and the like are obvious, but its also handy to have painkillers and antihistamine tablets as well, its amazing how often wasps land on the boat even when you are miles from land, and you’ll certainly want something to ease the pain and swelling if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a Weever sting or get a hook stuck deeply in your finger.

Last year I heard of three Weever stings and I was present at a fourth – an old boy I know took his Sandeel trawl out and I joined him, we picked up the Sandeels, but in the mix were a number of other species including a dozen or so Weevers.

When we emptied the net ‘Bob’ happily started sorting through the catch with his bare hands, I mentioned Weevers but he didn’t seem too bothered. and yep…..he took a whack on one of his fingers. To be fair he didn’t make a big deal about it and said it felt no worse then a wasp sting. He used to do a bit of commercial netting years back and it may have helped that this wasn’t the first time he’d taken a hit.

Lesser Weever

Another Weever incident had a far worse outcome for the angler involved, a fellow ECA member was stung on the thumb which caused this particular fella intense pain, he was still having problems a month after the incident relating not just to the thumb but to his whole hand – so beware of Weever’s and make sure you know exactly what they look like. Back on the subject of a first aid box and you might want to look at putting one together yourself.

Buy supermarket own gear, it’s the same as brand name stuff but at a fraction of the price.

The box I have was put together for a total cost of £15, and it’s far more comprehensive than the ready made ones I have seen, with anti-seasick tablets, eyewash, a foil blanket and loads of extras included. Have a look at what you can make up yourself, you’ll definitely get a lot more for your money. There are no regulations to carry any form of safety kit aboard a small privately owned boat, an amazing state of affairs really and one which I personally feel needs addressing. Each year there are horror stories involving small, badly maintained craft taking to the water, often with children onboard, and with no sign of a lifejacket, vhf or any safety equipment whatsoever – it really is inexcusable. The plus side is that most skippers are conscientious and do carry the necessary safety gear. It is worth remembering that some stuff will have expiry dates. Flares, fire extinguishers and certain medications will need replacing, expensive yes, but you can’t put a price on safety, especially at sea where it can go very wrong, very quickly.

I’ll end on an example from a couple of seasons back.

Safety at sea

Solent Coastguard were alerted at 1.30 in the morning by a mobile phone call to the plight of 7 passengers, four men and three women including two people under the age of 18, on board a 26 foot speed boat,  which had struck an underwater object in the middle of the Solent and was sinking fast. Initially the call reported that the bow of their vessel was four foot out the water and the people on board the craft needed help immediately. Five were wearing lifejackets but two were not. They did not possess any flares or VHF radio.  Solent Coastguard scrambled Coastguard Helicopter Rescue Whiskey Bravo, Bembridge and Calshot RNLI lifeboats and the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Lifeboat Southampton VTS tasked their patrol boat, and the police launch `Humphrey Gale’ was tasked by the Portsmouth Queens Harbourmaster.
An extensive search of the central Solent took place as the situation deteriorated and the boat sank. A broadcast was also issued into the area calling on other vessels to render assistance if they were in the vicinity and to keep a sharp lookout in the general area. Seven people were now in the water with the only form of communication being a mobile telephone. The information being passed with regard to the casualty location was very confusing but a Royal Marine RHIB operating in the area heard the Coastguards distress broadcast and located the casualties.

Their condition was described on scene as hypothermic and one casualty had a minor head injury.
The cold, wet, and very fortunate people were brought ashore at Camber Docks, Old Portsmouth to be met by an ambulance, Coastguard and the Marine Police Unit before being taken to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth. Solent Coastguard Watch Manager described the incident as one with lessons for all leisure sailors. He said: ‘If the vessel had sunk immediately throwing all of the people into the water rather than giving them time to contact the Coastguard we could easily have been discussing fatalities this morning. To go afloat at night without making sure all your passengers are wearing lifejackets; and that you possess a working radio or flares or even a GPS giving your exact location is taking a risk too far. They are extremely lucky to be just wet and cold. We are checking reports of what they might have struck, but can find no indication on any current chart which has not been helped by the confusion surrounding their location. We suspect it may have been a well documented mooring buoy.’
Safe boating……………….. Wayne Comben