Skip to main content

Ask an Expert

George Sass Jr.

George Sass Jr.
Editor-in-Chief. Former liveaboard cruiser, licensed captain with more than 35,000 miles of ocean under his flip-flops.

When you prepare for a long ocean passage, are there specific steps you take?
In order to prep properly for medical emergencies, you need to know your crew. It’s rather personal, but as the captain I ask my crew what if any prescriptions they are currently taking and if they have any preexisting medical conditions? During an emergency, this is one of the first questions you’ll be asked by a professional. Also, as a licensed captain, I’m required to have Basic Safety Training, which covers minimal medical training such as CPR. Yet, if I’m on a long, multiweek ocean passage I also ensure that at least one other crew member is properly trained. Finally, for long cruises, I like having a satphone so communciations to shoreside assistance is at the ready.

Michael Dunleavy

Michael Dunleavy
President and CEO of DigiGone. Digital communications and satellite video specialist with experience with intelligence and crisis management throughout military career.

How can technology take the sting out of onboard emergencies?
For cruisers who take their boats to remote locations, we recommend subscribing to an established telemedicine service like George Washington University’s maritime medical access, which provides 24/7 availability to qualified medical personnel to provide remote care in case something occurs. A significant enhancement of that service is adding video and or a diagnostic-assessment kit that can provide the doctor with additional information about the patient and potentially their condition. Video means that, instead of trying to describe how the patient looks or is feeling, the doctor and the patient can look at each other directly. Encrypted video means that information in the medical conversations are kept private. The guesswork and improper descriptions of the color of the skin or how the patient is actually behaving are eliminated. And while the doctor gets information from other crew members, he also gets first-hand information from the patient and, combined with basic assessment tools like a pulse oximeter, blood-pressure monitor, thermometer, blood-glucose meter, and an EKG, achieves a more accurate assessment of the emergency.

Daniel Harding Jr.

Daniel Harding Jr.
Senior Managing Editor; addicted explorer of boatyards, and purchaser of seasoned craft. Keeps current boat in Essex, Connecticut.

Have any advice for a skipper looking to keep his crew safe?
Lead by example. One picturesque Sunday evening, I was rushing home after a day on the water. Stepping from my dinghy to the dock with an outboard in one hand and a laundry bag in the other, I must have misjudged the distance because the next thing I know I’m half submerged. I managed to save the outboard and laundry but my knee bounced off the corner of the dock leaving a few small, but deep, gashes and blood running down my leg. My girlfriend suggested getting stitches, but wrapping up a beautiful weekend in the hospital sounded as appealing as strawberry-flavored beer (nasty stuff), so I decided to “walk it off.” (Roles reversed, she would have been in the ER!) Two days later I’d be sitting in a 24-hour clinic being prescribed horse-sized antibiotic pills. Moral of the story, go to the hospital and let the doctors decide if you need stitches. Because chicks may dig scars, but trust me: They definitely don’t dig a guy hobbling around with a pus-filled knee.

◀ Previous