Skip to main content

Sailors First Aid Kit

Few sensible sailors would consider setting out without some form of first-aid kit on board. Scraped knees, cuts, bruises, and bumped toes are all part of the sailing experience—everyone suffers them at some time or other. Being able to deal with these appropriately makes them minor annoyances rather than life-threatening emergencies. Of course, don’t be slow to call for help

Few sensible sailors would consider setting out without some form of first-aid kit on board. Scraped knees, cuts, bruises, and bumped toes are all part of the sailing experience—everyone suffers them at some time or other. Being able to deal with these appropriately makes them minor annoyances rather than life-threatening emergencies. Of course, don’t be slow to call for help if the situation demands it or the nature of the emergency is outside of your capabilities. But an on board first-aid kit should be your first line of defense.

What you need:

A. Scissors. Used mostly for cutting bandages and surgical tape to length, they can also cut clothing away from a wound if removing the garment is impossible.

B. Safety pins. Handy for holding errant bandages in place, these are also good fishing hooks—just don’t put them back into the first-aid kit afterward.

C. Syringe. Filled with saline solution, it can be used for flushing dirt from a wound. It can also be used as an emergency eye-wash pump.

D. Tweezers. These are the best tool for pulling splinters or other small foreign objects out of your body.

E. Fabric tape. This comes on a roll and can do all sorts of jobs from holding splints in place to taping pads to a wound.

F. Stretch bandages. These can be used to hold absorbent pads over wounds and to hold a temporary splint in position.

G. Triangular bandage. This will support and immobilize a damaged arm.

H. Large adhesive pad. Used with a gauze pad, this makes a huge band-aid—even if it does rip out half your body hair when you pull it off.

I. Cold pack. For temporary relief of minor burns and sprains, the pack contains two chemicals that are inert in their normal state but become an instant ice pack (without water) when squeezed and mixed.

J. Foil space blanket. Retaining 90 percent of body heat, it can treat shock by preventing body temperature from dropping to dangerously low levels.

K. Latex gloves. Sterile gloves should be worn during contact with body fluids—yours or anyone else’s. Use them once and throw them away. If you are allergic to latex, try nitrile gloves instead.

L. Absorbent pads. Individually packed in sterile packets, these cover wounds and abrasions.

M. Band-aids. We have all used them. They’re called “sticking plasters” in some parts of the world.

N. After Burn. Use this when you need to treat your sunburn with aloe or have inadvertently touched the hot plate in the galley. Treat a major burn as a medical emergency.

O. Eye patch. This is not for Long John Silver impersonations but for covering an infected eye.

P. Medications. Bring common medications individually wrapped—sting and diarrhea pain relief and aspirin, among others.

Q. Saline solution. Used for flushing wounds, this is preferable to peroxide, which destroys healthy cells at the wound site.

R. Storage bag. This keeps everything organized and easily accessible.

S. Dental kit. You won’t need this on a day trip, but it could be handy when a dentist is more than 24 hours away. Fortunately, it contains instructions.

T. First-aid guide. If you are not sure how to respond to a particular situation, this is an essential reference. You would be wise to read it before you need to use your first-aid kit.

Thanks to West Marine for help with this article.

Related

Background-02

Notice to Mariners: A Blog from the SAIL Editors

As a teenager, I stumbled across a copy of Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea in the back room of a used bookshop. I had never heard of the Vendée Globe and frankly found all the boat-speak in the first 50 pages a little difficult to get through. But Lundy’s storytelling and the draw ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-13-at-9.26.59-AM2048x

VIDEO: Celestial Navigation Episode 2

Celestial navigation is an invaluable tool for all kinds of sailors. In episode two of the celestial navigation series, learn the basic elements of navigation and the sight reduction process using declination and GHA to determine the Geographic Position and navigate using a ...read more

Film-poster

Cruising: Year of the Sea Shanty

Along with other timeless pursuits, like baking sourdough and gardening, singing sea shanties surged back into popularity during the recent lockdown, thanks, in part, to the app TikTok and its “duet” feature, which allows singers from around the world create music together. By ...read more

Book-Cover-9780712353700

Book Review: Sailor Song

Sailor Song is the ultimate guide to the music of working sailors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes lyrics and sheet music for 50 of the most beloved sea songs with fascinating historical background on the adjoining page. Chapter introductions provide ...read more

Screen Shot 2022-01-12 at 10.42.33 AM

Race Update: RORC Transat

With the fleet leaders about halfway to Grenada, the 2022 RORC Transatlantic is shaking out to be a tactically interesting one. The race, now in its 8th edition, began on Saturday with 30 teams ranging from 70-foot catamarans to a 28-foot JPK 1010. Early in the race, light winds ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_1585

Experience: Fire Down Below

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, local racing had resumed with household crews only. My wife, though, while always up for a pleasure sail, was not up for this kind of thing, so, for the fifth time in what was any measure an unusual sailing season, I found myself singlehanding my ...read more

BestBoats2022-logo

Best Boats 2022

In case you hadn’t heard, the fall 2021 boat show season was one for the record books. If there was ever any doubt the sailing public still enjoys making its way to Newport, Rhode Island, or Annapolis, Maryland, to see the latest in boat design, those doubts were put to rest ...read more

01-LEAD-Dominique-David-2048x

Mulithull Show Coming to La Grande-Motte

After a year without boat shows, 2021 proved to be a blockbuster summer and fall for events around the globe, and the International Mulithull Show is looking to continue that trend in 2022. First held in 2010, the show, which takes place in La Grand-Motte, France, on the shores ...read more