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12/13/18 offshore, medical emergency

Headed out with a group of 6 for an offshore trip. Looked at forecast and it called for 2-3s. Headed out around 40 miles looking for some meat for the box.  Dropped down a combination of squid and frozen sardines. Had a couple big hits that broke us off, followed by 2 keepers going on ice. A mix of lanes and vermilion snapper also joined the party.  A few more big hits that got the best of my anglers.  

Forecast was way off, with solid 3-4s most of the day, increasing as the winds picked up blowing 20-25 out of the SE. Conditions made the fishing tough.. 
Planned to drop on one last spot when one of my anglers had a medical emergency. Gentleman went to use the restroom, and while doing so discovered he was bleeding pretty heavily..  Immediately ran back in and got in touch with the US Coast Guard over the vhf.  Seas continued to grow, and we were looking at a solid 6-7 ft steep ground swell with some chop on top. Had to keep speeds at 18-20 mph due to sea state. Made our way in and were met by the 45 ft cutter around 15 miles out. EMS looked him over and determined he likely had an internal arterial bleed with elevated pulse and BP... gave him an iv and pushed some meds...They request to get a Helo, but it was going to be faster for us to run him in. Seas laid down to 3-4 at this point and i was able to run mid 30s back into south seas where he was airlifted.  Checked in with him and he is still in the hospital, but out of icu and doing better.

Reflecting on the situation, I walked away with a few small points that may help others and I would like to share/educate. They are below, in no particular order as they all bare equal importance.

Aside from checking weather forecasts  Make sure if you decide to venture out on your own boats well offshore, your boat can handle an increase in seas or an incorrect forecast. I was happy to be in my 33 World Cat as we were still SAFELY able to make way at a reasonably fast cruise speed. It was definitely sporty, but at no point did i feel unsafe. 
point 2: Make sure you have a solid means of communication. Cell phones generally loose signal outside of about 7-9 miles depending on your carrier. A good working VHF with a tall antenna is must. Channel 16 is the international station for Hailing and Distress. I used it as my primary means of communication. I also carry a satellite text messenger, as well as an EPIRB.  In the event of an emergency, you want to contact the coast guard as quickly as possible. They were able to get the cutter dispatched from Fort Myers Beach almost immediately, headed my way. By giving them my current position, coarse and speed, they were able to figure out an intersect point to get EMS to us as quickly as possible.
point 3: Have a plan in place for the what ifs. Know what to do if something were to happen. Whether going with your friends, family or strangers, as the captain, find out if anyone has any medical issues. Know if they are on any medications, are diabetic, or anything of that nature. Make sure someone other than yourself knows what to do in the event something were to happen to you. 
point 4: Make sure you have all your proper safety equipment on board and up to date. Worse thing that can happen is being unprepared. 
point 5. Stay calm. assess the situation. give definitive instruction to others on board. Because of the sea state, I had to stay with 2 hands on the wheel. I had another person monitor and continue to talk to the patient while i drove and communicated with coast guard via VHF.

Overall, I am very happy and thankful for the outcome. The coast guard responded as quickly as they could and were very professional throughout the event.

May everyone stay safe and have a Merry Christmas!  Tight Lines to all! Looking forward to getting back out on the water this upcoming week if weather allows!


 33 Ft World Cat Tournament Edition Catamaran
Offshore Fishing Charters FT Myers, Sanibel, Captiva, Cape Coral


  • SerotoninSerotonin Posts: 208 Deckhand
    Glad the fishing was good, but extremely happy to hear your angler will be ok. 

    Your knowledge and willingness to teach on all points fishing, boating and safety is very much appreciated by myself and I'm sure many others out there will agree.
  • teamfiveteamfive Posts: 93 Greenhorn
    Glad your angler is ok ! Nice work on getting him help in a speedy manner ! I use the garmin inreach while offshore ! Had to use it out of Venice a couple years ago ! Had a bulge pump malfunction! Coast guard cutter and helo came to my service in a speedy manner 20 miles out ! Me being mechanical inclined was able to hot wire the pump in a fast manner and make it back on my own escorted by the coast guard , they had never seen the garmin inreach until that day and was impressed by it . I’m thankful for these men and women that serve us every day . 
  • limitlesslimitless Posts: 707 Officer
    Thanks for the report and the advice on safety and preparation for possible med issues.  I always do a little "training" about my boat, safety equipment, the radio, etc, while heading out to the pass to be sure everyone aboard knows where jackets, fire extinguisher, med kit, etc. are.  But your point on making sure the folks on board know what to do if I am injured or have a med issue is critical.  I'm going to start doing a bit more on how to use the radio, the GPS and how to run the boat.  Thanks, and glad your angler is OK.

    The Snook & Gamefish Foundation is now the Angler Action Program:  Dedicated to Conservation and Education.  Please check us out.

    Angler Action Program: IAngler app trip log on your phone

  • larrywittlarrywitt Posts: 2,924 Moderator
    Great information you shared. Every point you made is important. I would say a high number of new boat owners never had any formal operator training or emergency fist aid training. This is a dangerous situation.
  • andrewthe1andrewthe1 Posts: 801 Officer
    wow could have been a lot worse, thanks for sharing and great job!
    we need more internet money
  • sixstring09sixstring09 Posts: 71 Deckhand
    edited December 2018 #7
    Good job on handling the situation.

  • Gypsies CallGypsies Call Posts: 265 Deckhand
    Thank you Dan for the very professional review of the circumstances, evaluating yourself  and your boat both personally and professionally.  It takes a lot to ask - "what could we have done better", even though in the end, the outcome was favorable, which was very fortunate.  Having spent years at sea, I know that being on the water can quickly turn ugly.  It sounds like you are top notch when it comes to boat and boater safety. Thats a strong vote in my book!   Well done Captain!

    Gypsies Call
    SWO LCDR, USN-Retired
    Sea Chaser 200 Flats Series
    Old Town Predator Kayak
  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 2,736 Captain
    Great stuff Captain Dan.  We had a similar experience a few years ago.  Wasn't related to a bad weather forecast.  We were in one to twos, just a normal day in a 27' contender and a guy somehow slipped and fell on the boat and messed up his shoulder really bad (ended up being dislocated).  He also hit his elbow on his way down and had a decent gash that was bleeding a bit.

    Fortunately one of the guys on the boat was a doctor of PT so we were lucky in that he was able to initially diagnose him.  He was more worried about the bleeding but fortunately that was nothing major but we did the same show as you.  Called the coast guard immediately and kept them abreast of our situation.  We were 31 miles offshore.  After the injury we wanted to try and keep the ride in as non impactful as possible but it would have taken 5+ hours to get in at low speed so we got up on plane and the ride was acceptable to our patient.

    We had all the things we needed on board as far as the epirb, vhf, first aid kit etc, what we didn't have was a sling.  Some sort of a sling would have been very helpful.  We ended up using a dock line to fabricate a sling to keep his arm from moving and it was doable but I have since added an ace bandage to my ditch bag for this kind of thing or a sprain etc...

    We got in and I ran my buddy to the doctor and they diagnosed the dislocated shoulder in the ER.  BUT...they couldn't get it to pop back in so they ended up putting him under.  The surgeon said this will go one of two ways, either once he is put under it will just pop back in or we will have to actually do surgery.

    Fortunately the doctor was back out in 5 minutes, once he went under it popped right back in.  Took him home that night.  But it was a wild day and I was happy that we had everything on board from medical skills, to supplies to necessary electronics to handle the situation.

    Funny side note when we were talking to the surgeon my buddy said he was most worried about his golf game.  The surgeon said not to worry, you will still be a good golfer.  I said, wait a minute, he was never a GOOD golfer....

    But one thing I have found in all the times we have had issues at sea be it minor or something major like this...keep your head about you and diagnose what is going on and 99% of the time, you can find a safe and proper solution for the situation.  

    Tight and SAFE lines to everyone out there and hope everyone has a happy and safe Holidaze....
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
  • Capt Dan MedinaCapt Dan Medina Posts: 825 Officer
    Gypsies, my only hope is that by reflecting upon the event, it may help someone else if they are ever in the same situation/predicament.  When things go south, they usually go south fast. Keeping a level head and assessing the situation will usually help in making best decision under any given circumstance. 

    CaptainBly, a sling would be an excellent addition to an emergency kit. I usually have a couple beach towels on board that we could make into one pretty quickly. Glad everything worked out for your guy as well.
 33 Ft World Cat Tournament Edition Catamaran
    Offshore Fishing Charters FT Myers, Sanibel, Captiva, Cape Coral
  • chicochico Posts: 567 Officer
    So glad things worked out for your angler, I am sure it was stressful. Thanks for the advice, I usually don't even bother to activate my InReach on those day trips, guess I will from now on!!
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