Sue LaNeve look's back on her accident as a learning moment.

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Universal Maritime TRUTH #3: KNOWLEDGE AND PREPARATION HELP REDUCE RECKLESS CHOICES.

Though this accident fortunately did not result in loss of life, some of our pre- and post-accident decisions might have proven fatal in other circumstances. I humbly offer the following lessons learned.

Secure Scene safety.

The last thing that occurred to Don after the accident was ensuring his own safety. In his role as caretaker, had something also happened to him, it could have resulted in two deaths.

Communicate and get help. 

Besides improving scene safety, keep in mind that the situation may be more serious than your knowledge or experience can ascertain. Although we thought about calling the Coast Guard, we were in denial that anything serious had occurred. At a marina, call 911. At anchor or mooring, call the Coast Guard. If it’s really serious, issue a mayday and blast your horn five times to alert nearby boaters of your emergency. Loss of use of a limb is a serious situation. With my upper arm injury, a bad twist or wrong move could have caused one of the broken, razor sharp bone pieces to cut my brachial artery, causing bleeding that I wouldn’t have survived. Showering, dinghying ashore, and driving to the hospital all could have killed me.

Remember your first aid training. 

Attend to the ABCs: airway, breathing, and circulation. In my situation, dislocated or broken bones wouldn’t have killed me. The circulation issues of internal bleeding and shock (the inability to move oxygen into vital organs, particularly the brain) could have. The signs and symptoms of shock are pale skin color, chilled extremities, and a patient who isn’t thinking clearly.

Since I had fallen in water, we may have ignored cold hands and feet. However, seeking a shower when I was in so much pain should have alerted Don that I was off my rocker. He should have taken the decision making away from me, forced me to rest with my legs elevated, and kept me warm to prevent internal blood loss. My inability to move my arm indicated a serious injury. A waiting ambulance could have supplied IVs and oxygen, as well as ensuring quick attention at the hospital.

PREVENTION is key.

Obviously preventing this type of accident in the first place is the primary goal:

• Impatience and inattention are incompatible with safety. When I transferred to our tender carrying items on both arms, I altered my equilibrium. So never place “weights” on either arm when you are boarding a dinghy, a mothership, or stepping on or off a dock. Pass them to a person or platform first.

• Lower your center of gravity. Even with weighted arms, I might have improved my equilibrium had I sat on the swim platform before boarding. A friend in the Coast Guard Auxiliary offered these mantras: “Maintain three points of contact. Two feet and a hand, two feet and your butt (sitting), or two feet and leaning against something fixed.” He acknowledged that these are tough to do when boarding a dinghy, so he referred to the old adage: “One hand for the ship. One hand for you.”

• Do not worry about replaceable personal items!

Report your accident to the Coast Guard.

The USCG annual report on boating accidents should be required reading for all boat owners to remind us that reckless choices rock boats, sink them, or result in far worse consequences. (Find the report at: www.goo.gl/QUjmAF)

Additionally, it is imperative that we report our accidents to the USCG. Their funding is partly based on these statistics.

Curiosity and my work as a writer and researcher led me to review boating accidents. In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 309 vessels had been involved in 284 accidents where victims fell overboard. This might imply at least some had been accidents like mine, going from one boat to another. Those overboard accidents resulted in 161 deaths. Of those 161 deaths, 126 were due to drowning.

It took me months to report my accident, so I would suggest the published numbers might be a bit sketchy. Interestingly, most accidents do not result from nature’s fury, but tend to occur in relatively calm waters when you are least expecting the possibility of a traumatic outcome. Bingo. 

Do you enjoy articles about boating safety? To learn more about boating safety and safety preparation check out Mario Vittone's course Survival and Rescue at Sea at Boaters University. Use the promotional code PASSAGEMAKERfor 20% off.

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