Boater Beware

Ambler Isle
V and S
Wed 23 Mar 2011 16:25
We heard the story from a fellow cruiser of how he nearly lost his fingers in the anchor winch last year.  Pulling anchor, he bend over to straighten the chain and accidently knelt on the electric winch button on the deck, causing it to draw in his left hand along with the anchor chain.  His wife turned the boat around and they dropped the anchor back down.  She hailed on the VHF radio the water taxi driver, Elvis, who had just passed by their boat moments before. He came immediately.  Looking back at the anchorage across the bay, she was surprised to see "fleas" crossing the harbour.  It was a regiment of dozens of dinghies who had heard the call and were coming to help.  Some brought cell phones, computers for internet access, satellite phones.   One, an EMT arrived snapping on his rubber gloves:  he'd come to clean the blood off the boat. Some would move the boat back to its usual mooring ball.  Still others would check on it daily and run the generator.  Others came simply to be there for them.  Soon they were at the local government clinic.  The doctor came, looked at the hand and announced he should go to Nassau to have the fingers amputated!  From there they were on their own.  The clinic refused to even let them use the phone.  When they left the clinic, they found a car waiting for them.  Strangers who lived on the island had also heard the call and came to take them wherever they needed to go. They helped them arrange flights to the USA.  After a quick trip to the boat for their passports and documents, the good Samaritans drove them to the airport and soon they were on their way to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  The victim said it was the longest flight of his life.  Watching the skyline of Lauderdale slowly come into view was torture.   There another cruiser couple, Keith and Rose from Co picked them up.  They'd met in Georgetown years before, and had not yet left for their Bahamas trip.  Keith and Rose drove them to their homeport of Vero Beach where a specialist was waiting for them at the local hospital.  He was able to save all four of the mangled fingers.  The fingers look normal, and he retained full use of the hand.  Later he tried to recoup some of the emergency costs from his insurer, Diver's Alert Network, aka D.A.N.  D.A.N. provides emergency medevac services to members.  First they denied the claim: they'd failed to call D.A.N. and let them make the travel arrangements.   But in the end, they paid the $1000 airfare.   The trip would have cost them much more had they sent a helicopter to the rescue.   And the nature of an emergency  here is: no phone, no doctor, can't find the insurance card.  I am sure most remote emergencies do not follow the set procedure.  Who has time for procedure? 
But the story hit home.  The equipment on a boat can be very dangerous. Especially  handling the anchor.  I always wear shoes.  I think I may add lose fitting gloves.  And an extra large scoop of respect for the thing.