Monday, August 20, 2012

First aid and boat repair kits: what we used

It's a basic tenet of safe paddling: Bring what you need to fix whatever goes wrong with your boat or your body, and know how to use it. Boat repair and first aid kits are permanent fixtures in our day hatches--essentials we're happy to have and hope not to use.

Our compact boat repair ( in waterproof Pelican box) and first aid kits.
Before a longer trip, it's especially important to reassess the contents of both kits. In preparation for our recent wilderness trip, we considered the things we were most likely to need and added several items to our standard kit:
  • epipens (in case of anaphylaxis)
  • prednisone (in case of severe allergic reactions)
  • antibiotics (in case of infection)
  • inhalers (in case of asthma). 
Our first aid kit with additions; we stored it in a dry bag.
Wilderness Medical Associates offers a helpful guide to assembling a wilderness first aid kit. We suggesting buying a basic first aid kit and modifying it for your needs. In the end, you have to make choices about what and how much to bring.

We also restocked our repair kits with additional materials for fixing leaks, holes, lost hatch covers and jammed skegs. Here, too, we made choices and left a spare skeg cable at home.

We used the first aid kit twice (not including regular provision of ibuprofen--or "vitamin i," as it's commonly known). Both incidents happened on land, which isn't surprising when you compare the risks during paddling (mostly repetitive stress injuries, which are unlikely if you have good technique, but possibly injuries caused by impact during a rescue) with the risks while carrying heavy boats, climbing on rocks, using knives and fire to prepare meals, and walking around in the dark.

Sharon sustained the first injury during lunch about a week into the trip. Perched on a rock, holding her rescue knife (with which she had just sliced cheese--one of its main uses), she reached for a falling water bottle and cut deeply into one of her fingers. It bled profusely, which was great for ensuring it was clean, but it required bandaging to stay closed and heal without infection. We were happy to have antibiotic cream, waterproof bandages and nitrile gloves to protect it (not to mention Alec, who has both Wilderness First Responder and EMT certifications). For several days afterwards, Sharon was our "super villain," complete with lavender glove.

Sharon protecting her bandageded finger from infection (and pretending she lost half  of it). Photo courtesy of John Fleming.
Keith sustained the second injury on the final night of the trip. Walking in the dark on the beach, he kicked a log and split open one of his toes. Alec used a syringe to thoroughly clean the wound, and then antibiotic cream, gauze and vet tape to protect it. For these two injuries, we had everything we needed, but we realized we should also have had an anti-fungal cream because of the potential for fungal infections from all the time we spent in wet neoprene gear.

Our boat repair kit partially unpacked.
We had only one boat repair, when Sharon's back hatch filled with water and we discovered a chunk of fiberglass missing from the skeg box. We repaired it with vinyl seam repair tape--a remarkable sealant that sticks to wet and dry surfaces, is stable and nontoxic, and comes off with acetone when you're ready to do a permanent boat repair. (We bought it in bulk and are happy to sell the excess length for $4 a foot; contact us if you're interested.)

Removing the repair tape after returning home. It successfully kept water from entering a chipped skeg box.

We also had one boat modification; we used the tape to attach two pieces of foam to Sharon's seat to relieve pressure on her tailbone. (Sharon was paddling a NDK Pilgrim, since her Avocet LV doesn't have sufficient storage capacity for longer trips.) We didn't actually have foam in our boat repair kit, but we had some in a camera bag. Materials that can serve two purposes are especially handy when you're trying to minimize weight and volume.

These incidents reinforce the importance of checking and reassessing your boat repair and first aid kits. They should include everything you might need, and you should know when and how to use everything they contain. They should also be kept in an accessible location -- we keep them in our day hatches -- and be in waterproof containers.

The seat issue was also a reminder that it's not a great idea to change anything significant before a long trip. Sharon had not paddled the Pilgrim for several long days in a row, so the seat issue didn't arise before the trip. Fortunately, we had foam and were able to successfully modify it.

Finally, the medical incidents highlight the importance of caution on land, not just on the water, especially when you're in a remote place where help is not available, because ultimately, prevention is better than a cure.
A typical beautiful and slippery cobble beach in Pukaskwa National Park.

1 comment:

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