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Marine First Aid

Bosun School Marine First Aid, 15-17 November 2019

People who sail in Picton Castle come from all walks of life and, quite frequently, after settling back into their “normal” lives ashore, they stay in touch and do return for more.

World Voyage 7 Medical Officer Jen White did that very thing. After months of planning, Jen came to Lunenburg for the weekend of November 15-17 to run a fully accredited Marine First Aid course as part of Bosun School, our land-based skills enrichment program for mariners. Three exciting days of full-on, hands-on, get-down-and-dirty, real-life First Aid scenarios, complemented by the necessary theoretical aspects to tie it all together.

When Jen set up for the course on Friday morning, large bags of gear and props came through the door of the second building at the Dory Shop, our base for the weekend. And kept coming. And coming. Now Jen’s car is tiny. How on earth did all that fit in there? Thoughts of Doctor Who’s TARDIS crept into my mind…

Over the next three days, we learned and practiced, sometimes in an orchestrated scenario, sometimes in a surprise scene strewn with all manner of casualties. In daylight and in the dark. Indoors and out. Roles of first aiders and casualties changed among the gang, many of who interpreted their casualty persona with gusto and conviction; noisy or obnoxious at times, but every so often suspiciously quiet.

Jen’s talent of mixing in-your-face flesh wounds (she brought an eerie supply of movie make-up wounds and a bag of goodies containing fake blood, makeup and other paraphernalia) with less obvious traumas or medical conditions made for an extraordinarily real and engaging context: we were fully immersed in the apparent mayhem of an incident that could happen to any of us, large scale or small, in a group or individually.

In between the outdoor events, the gang huddled around the woodstove, following Jen’s discourse on the background and foundations of effective First Aid in the real world, with an emphasis on the marine environment and remote locations (imagine hiking in a small group on a remote Pacific island).

Jen’s course delivery was a match with Picton Castle’s philosophy of planning and prevention, backed up by sound principles of WHY we do (or not do) things, not only HOW.

And at the end of day three, the air was abuzz with communicating our impressions in a feedback session, and I can confidently say that all of us feel much better prepared, and rightly so, when facing the prospect of not only administering and managing First Aid but also preventing a scenario from developing.

Metaphorically speaking, it is good to have a fire extinguisher. And being well trained in using it. But if you have to put out a fire, something has already gone wrong.

Not all First Aid incidents can be avoided. There are factors that are beyond our control, environmental and others. But we can reduce the variables that contribute to, and let a seemingly normal situation deteriorate into, an incident.

Late afternoon on Sunday, everything was packed up and the dying embers in the wood stove failed to radiate sufficient heat to keep the gang around. It was time to call it a day and think about supper.

In addition to getting good at caulking, parceling and serving, wire splicing and sailing small South Seas cutters and old schooners, our Bosun School gang has had a master class in First Aid training, and are all the better mariners for this.

And yes, all those bags and props did make it back into Jen’s car.

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