About yacht accidents, and how to avoid them. There are many, most go unreported and the causes and actual injuries may surprise you. Safety should be your number one priority when out sailing.
By way of disclaimer, the information on this website is readily available and I accept no responsibility for any of the information, advice or opinions expressed. Always consult your health care professional or get advice as to your local requirements for the use of safety equipment or for carrying on board. I will say this frequently, ENROLL IN A FIRST AID COURSE!
What are the most common injuries experienced by sailors? Much research and some surveys have been done and they make really interesting reading. The greatest risk for sailors are acute injuries, sailing related injuries, environmental factor injuries, and within racing circles also overuse injuries.
Injuries are as follows and not in any particular ranking or order, contusions (bruising), lacerations (have had way too many), primarily to the upper and lower extremities, lower back and spinal injuries, crush injuries, fractures of limbs, hands and collar bone, ankle and knee injuries including patellofemoral pain syndrome, rotator cuff impingement (a surgeon friend told me that this was very common), head injuries and concussion and in some cases traumatic brain injuries.
Many injuries are fall related impacts and I can willingly attest to this. Also injuries or loss of fingers and toes when they get caught up in various equipment, windlasses are a common cause. If it turns keep your fingers clear.
Injury risk sources are varied. First let’s start with environmental risks, which include over exposure to the sun, hypothermia, immersion injuries and our old favorite, motion sickness. Acute injuries are very common and I am proof of that, it is so easy to have accidents. Falls are really common, often trip related, you know that old adage about one hand for the ship and one hand for yourself. Direct impacts from equipment, think booms, mainsheet travellers and so on. Then we have lines and sheets under tension. Winch grinding has its risks with repetition injuries, in particular those who race.
Challenges are plenty. If you are a day sailor then medical help is not far away. I recall once I was asked to help fix a problem on a friend’s yacht, and an exposed stainless hose clamp on a water line to the engine sliced me open on the thigh better than any surgeon could, and best thing was I drove to the nearest emergency room and was stitched up within the hour. However, venture offshore and everything changes and everything becomes more challenging. No emergency assistance available, days or week away from help. We have limited medical skills, usually something happens in rough conditions, severe motion, cramped conditions and so it goes on. Simple injuries very quickly turn into life threatening ones.
Several years ago, I was single handing offshore France in the Bay of Biscay, it was really tough going alone in a very big beam sea. A big wave got me and I went over on to my beam ends and fortunately I was tethered in the cockpit but the force of the roll flung me across the cockpit well. I landed against a winch and cracked some ribs. No time to stop and get help as conditions demanded progress to safety and a lee shore. The next 5 hours I edged into the lee of Ile de Groix off Lorient, every movement was agonizing and excruciating. On arrival a doctor said there was nothing that could be done and had I been well offshore on an ocean passage the next few days would have been very challenging. The fact is that the majority of serious injuries occur in rough weather, and factors such as fatigue, motion sickness all contribute to risk. Safety on boats is the priority and yachting accidents avoidance is in your hands.