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Physical Well-Being – Sun and Heat-Related Factors

Source: Mariners Learning System, by Captain Bob Figular

Boat operators must be aware of the dangers of too much exposure to the sun and take preventive measures to guard against the effects of the sun. Intense sunlight and extreme heat can increase fatigue and reduce your ability to operate your boat safely.

Continuous exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and other complications such as heat stroke, dehydration, etc. Unprotected exposed skin will suffer from premature aging and an increased chance of skin cancer. Sunburn appears as redness, swelling, or blistering of the skin. Other effects of overexposure to the sun are fever, gastrointestinal symptoms, malaise, and pigment changes in the skin.

If exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time you must be prepared to take proper precautions. Staying in the shade when possible is a start. However, just getting out of direct sunlight is not always enough since sun can be just as harmful when reflected off a bright surface, such as sand or water. Sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher should be used. Protective clothing such as a hat with a brim and sunglasses with UV protection for eyes should be worn.

Proper fluid intake is essential to remain hydrated while underway. Fluids are lost from the body in several ways. The most obvious loss is through urination or seasickness. The less obvious loss of body fluid occurs through perspiration from the skin. As a result, an average, healthy adult requires two or three litres of fluid a day to replace these losses. Extremely warm weather significantly increases the loss of fluids. Staying away from liquids such as tea, alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks is advisable as these liquids speed up fluid loss.

About three years ago I had three young men 15-17 years old onboard my boat heading on a four-day trip south. We were in 6’-8’ seas with 35 knot head winds off the coast of NJ heading to Annapolis, MD where we were to meet their families to make the return trip. After just 15 minutes outside the Barnegat inlet one of these guys became seasick. This client Jim has the distinction of being the most violently seasick client I have ever had to deal with on a charter trip. His two friends John and Bill were very concerned for his safety as was I. Everything I put in him immediately came back up as fast as it went down. After a couple of hours Jim began staring at the ocean with a look that told me he was contemplating his options. It was apparent that he had decided that death by drowning was a better option than what he was currently experiencing. I soon moved him to a more secure position away from the side rail. I had plotted a new course that would have us in port in about two hours.

To relieve the tension and try to distract his buddies who were both suffering various stages of seasickness I decided to find out just how good friends he had. I pulled out the first-aid kit and took out one of the last two seasick pills left onboard. I gave John and Bill a thorough education on the effects and dangers of dehydration. I explained that we needed Jim to take some seasick pills to counter the effects. I made them aware that if he vomited the next pill back up we were going to have to take extreme measures to ensure his safety.

As expected the pill came back as a projectile just as fast as it went down. His two buddies freaked and wanted to know what the next step was… I reached back into the first-aid kit and pulled out the last pill, a pair of surgical gloves and some lubricant. Both guys looked at me completely confused. I asked who the sick guy’s best friend was, they looked at each other and explained that it was about equal and wanted to know why I asked.

While holding the gloves and lubricant in the air I explained that the only way we could be sure that the pill will stay in was to go in through his anus. I told them that I was the Captain and was surely not going to take the next step and that it would only be right for one of them to step up to the plate. The sound they made and look of total disgust that was on their face was priceless. They stood there looking at each other just shaking their heads no. I told them we needed to decide now because after all their friend was in great danger. I pushed them to the brink of tears. It was only then I let them in on the fact that their friend was going to live and that I was just having a little fun at their expense.

Soon after arriving in port all crewmembers were feeling fine telling war stories of the 20’ foot seas and the “Perfect Storm” they just survived to their families. That night I pulled Jim aside and explained that he needed to examine what type of friends he actually had. After telling him my plan he made the exact same noise and facial expressions his buddies had displayed earlier in the day. Just another day as a charter boat Captain… Did I mention I really enjoy what I do for a living?

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