IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT: After discussing Mayday calls with many of my students, I suddenly remembered one of three Mayday calls that I heard over our VHF in our many years of boating. It was frantic, and heartbreaking, as the woman aboard tried to get help for her husband, who had fallen and was seriously injured. She grappled with the VHF and her words were erratic as she pressed the mic on and off indiscriminately, which contributed to a delay in response. The US Coast Guard was able to piece together her whereabouts, send personnel to help, and rescue the couple. An unrelated incident happened to my husband and I quite a number of years ago. We were on our sailboat on the Hudson River for a Sunday afternoon local cruise. Our dog loved sailing, unlike our kids who found it boring and preferred the power boat. A bird flew by, very close to where our dog was relaxing, and Lightening suddenly leapt toward the bird, and fell into the water! All I could see was this terrified little face as she frantically doggy-paddled to keep afloat. I was perched on the bow, ready to jump in after her, when my husband told me not to go into the water. He quickly turned the vessel around, asked me to steer toward the dog, and reached in and scooped her up with one arm.
Both of the aforementioned incidents contributed to the development of my placard and seminar on “Women’s Way of Handling Trouble at Sea”. Very often, when an emergency occurs, the adrenaline that is pumping in response to the circumstances can cause an inappropriate “fight or flight” response. Deciphering this problem led to the creation of my placard, which is meant to be a step-by-step guide, in order of prioritization, of how to handle most of the common dangerous situations that may occur when aboard. Available to the helmsman at a moment’s notice, the laminated guide, which should be placed within immediate reach of the skipper, “whispers” exactly what to do in the most advantageous order, mitigating damages from the emergency.
Following is a copy of the placard, and material outlining the appropriate preparation and practice which will enhance reaction to any of the emergencies addressed. The placard is meant to be laminated to guard against weather elements which will be encountered at sea. The preparation section outlines the necessary background information which will be required to respond in a suitable way, while the practice sessions will familiarize captain and crew with the best methods to follow the guide on your boat. Physically “walking through” the steps to be taken will provide the experience and confidence necessary to handle these emergencies at sea.
(Please review previous blog regarding VHF radios [January 8, 2019], which will broaden your knowledge regarding this most important tool. The inclusion of the DSC {Digital Selective Calling} component on the newest VHF radios improves its functioning, and allows Skippers to just press one button to transmit a Mayday call. However, be aware that other boaters who may be in a position to provide aid, might have an older VHF without DSC component and will not hear your call for help.)