A Pain in the Boat

You never know when minor accidents could happen in a boat, only that, in time, you’ll be faced with them.

August 15, 2008

You’re fixing a tangled fishing line for one of your kids when your ear is pierced with a scream. It’s your daughter. Her ear’s been pierced with a treble hook, compliments of her friend who is just learning to cast. The drops of blood don’t look serious, but that hook has been inside a few bacteria-laden fish lips. The earlobe needs to be cleaned, and home is a 30-mile truck ride from this spot. The question is, how far away is the peroxide and antibiotic ointment?

You never know when minor accidents could happen in a boat, only that, in time, you’ll be faced with them. We asked Scott Larson from LifeSavers Inc., which provides emergency instruction and first-aid products, to help us compile a list of boating’s most common physical pains. In addition to being a lifelong boater, Larson has spent the past 35 years working as an EMT.

Getting hooked
If you’re an angler, you know what we’re talking about. “It’s pretty common, especially with kids,” Larson says. What you need: Be careful that the hook isn’t lodged near an artery or tendon, in which case you’ll need a trip to the emergency room. If the hook is just below the skin and can be safely removed, then clean the wound with an antiseptic and apply an adhesive bandage or gauze.


Stubbed toe
Bare feet and boating go together. But a toe and a stainless-steel cleat do not — and could mean you’re sitting the day out. What you need: an instant cold pack. Squish the package, and its temperature plummets to freezing. Apply to the throb. You can also tape two toes together for a makeshift splint.

Jellyfish sting
You’re cooling off near the boat’s stern when a slow burn wraps its way around your limbs. What you need: gloves or a towel to remove straggler tentacles. Contrary to folklore, urinating on the irritated skin won’t make it better. Vinegar is better. You also might try an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as ibuprofen or aspirin.

Tube or handle abrasion
You’ve been towing the kids in their new tube. The last sharp turn yanked a hand from a vinyl handle, taking a layer of skin with it. What you need: a bandage or gauze, applied with an antibiotic ointment. Avoid rubbing alcohol — the rope burn stings enough already.


Though sunscreen can be as inconvenient as dental floss, a few scorching burns should be lesson enough to protect yourself. If not, think of the long-term damage. What you need: an aloe vera ointment; an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen or aspirin; a water-resistant sunscreen no less than 15 SPF as a follow-up protection so you don’t burn further.

Your best bet is always to carry an up-to-date U.S. Coast Guard-approved first-aid kit, which means replacing it every year. One that’s filled with water from last summer won’t do much good when the alarm (i.e., scream) sounds.


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