Injuries – First Aid

Sailing is dangerous and people will get hurt.

This section deals with the basic things you should do, as necessary while calling for help.

The first thing to do is get them out of danger. No sense in reviving someone if they could still be killed by whatever has hurt them.


Can they feel their arms or legs when you pinch them? If not, as soon as the danger is removed, immobilise the back or neck. Do not move them. Call PAN PAN MEDICO on VHF immediately.


Have someone call PAN PAN MEDICO on VHF.


Check their airway and clear it.


Check their pulse on their neck with your index finger, below their jaw by their ear.

If there is no pulse, lay them on their back and place the heel of your palm their breastbone. Place the other hand over the bottom hand and interlock your fingers. Put your shoulders directly over your straightened arms.

Using your bodyweight  press hard on their breast bone repeatedly 5-6cm per compression, and release the chest to its natural position, 100 times a minute. Don’t be afraid to pump hard enough to hurt them. If you become exhausted give the job to someone else.

If they have stopped breathing as well, straighten their neck so they have a clear airway, seal your mouth over theirs and breathe into their lungs so they inflate. Breathe five times a minute while doing the chest compressions.


Check their wind passage and clear it.

Lie them on their back with their arm furthest away from you bent parallel with their head on the deck.

Grab their other arm and place the back of their hand underneath their cheek on the same side as the other arm.

Lift the knee that is on the far side from them so their foot is flat on the floor. Pull that knee towards you so they roll on top of their arms.  Keep the knee bent on the deck so it supports them on their side.


Are they choking? Clear their mouth. If there is an obstruction in their wind passage, stand behind them, put your fists below their bottom rib at their front, and pull violently inward and upward.


If someone has been cut, apply pressure to the wound and use a gauze bandage to stop the blood flow. If the bandage becomes sodden do not remove but get another on top as removing it could break any clot. If it does not stop the blood flow and you suspect they have cut an artery call PAN PAN MEDICO on VHF and get help.

Sprain, twist or broken bone on a limb

There will be swelling at the joint and they may feel unable to move it. Use a splint to immobilise the limb. Strap it up and get to port as quickly as possible. If you are several hours from a port with a medical centre, consider calling PAN PAN MEDICO on VHF.


Get cold water to the injury immediately. Keep cold water flowing over it constantly. If it has burned through the skin and it is bleeding, or is a large burn call PAN PAN MEDICO on VHF for help and divert to a medical centre as soon as possible. Do not cover the wound until told to by the Coast Guard – keep cooling it.


If they have been hit over the head by the boom, get to a medical centre immediately regardless of whether they are unconscious as they could have suffered brain or skull damage you do not know about. If they are unconscious call PAN PAN MEDICO on the VHF immediately.


Keep them on deck but out of the way during daylight hours and after dark, below decks.

Feed them salt chips (crisps) or cheese crackers if possible. It gives them something to throw up, which is more comfortable than retching on an empty stomach. If they refuse food, make sure they drink fluids as the body can suffer dehydration.