Preventing and being prepared for any illness or injury that may occur while cruising is vitally important.  It can be argured that it is more important than being sure that your engine is ready, that your electronics are working properly and that your electrical system is operational.  Yet, few boaters do daily physical checks on themselvers or take the preventive measures known to insure better health when crusising.  The irony is countless hourse are spent making sure that the boat is ready and each day conscientious boaters do a methodical engine and other check before setting out for the day’s cruise.  Isn’t it time to spend more time preparing the single most important system on the boat, you and your crew’s health and welfare.  This section is a cursory summary, in outline form, of important preventive measures to make before casting off each day or for a prolonged cruise on your boat.

I.  Preparations before setting out on a cruise (for a day or a year)

A.  See your physician for a check up (at least every 6 months and before leaving on extended trip)

1.  All medical history must be written down in a succint document – dates are important of operations and major illnesses and beginning of chronic diseases

2.  All allergies, blood type and past procedures must be documented

3.  Vaccinations must be up to date (dates they were performed should be recorded)

4.  Tell your physician to give you a print out or electronic copy of your latest blood work (your complete blood analysis – so that your baseline status is known)

5.  Have a an electronic copy of your latest electrocardiogram, X-rays, and any scans (these can be put on a compact disc, CD,  for you to keep with your written medical record and information above

B.  See your dentist for a check-up every six months and before leaving on an extended cruise

1.  Get a copy of your latest dental X-rays on a CD (place with the medical records above)

2.  Ask the dentist to give you or tell you where to obtain medicines and materials for dental emergencies such as a patch to put on a crown or filling that falls out (these items are never in medical emergency kits)

C.  Have your physician write new prescriptions for the medicines you take and have copies of the prescriptions put on a pdf for you to place on your computer so that you can print them out when needed

1.  Prescriptions lapse at the end of a year – a call to your physician from a drug store can have them renewed

2.  Have prescritions filled at a national “chain” drugstore or store (the stores will have the prescription on electronic file for easy refill)

C.  Get physically fit before setting foot on the boat

1.  Set up a routine that gets you fit before leaving shore

2.  Consider consultation with a personal trainer or physical therapist to assess strenght and weaknesses and to plan exercises that can be done on a boat

D.  Acquire, read and be familiar with at least one first aid book (e.g. Boy Scout First Aid Manual, Emergency Medicine Manual, or Weiss’ Marine Medicine

1.  Become familiar with the emergency sections of the book for quick reference in time of need

2.  Be sure the book is on board your vessel in an easy place to find – for example with medicine chest

E.  Your on board medicince chest

1.  Buy or build your own medicine chest for your boat

2.  Keep the chest in an easily accessible place and be sure all crew know where it is located

3.  Familiarize yourself with the basic first aid procedures and practice them

4.  Scales for daily weight and a blood pressure cuff for daily blood pressure readings are part of the chest

II.  Diet (see the tab on diet for more details)

A.  A good diet is essential to good health and preventive maintenance of your and the crew’s health

B.  Fresh produce is good, but canned and frozen is just as nutritious and much easier to stow

C.  Avoid the processed “treats and snacks”

D.  3 meals a day is preferred – lunch even underway must be provided

E.  Fish is abundant and should be consumed

F.  Fluids, fluids and more fluids are required – stay hydrated at all time since it is very easy to lose fluids when in the sun and wind (like all boats)

1.  alcohol is only for ports or anchor – never drink alcohol when underway

G.  Take a multi-vitamin pill every day to supplement the normal diet

H.  Eat and drink alcohol in moderation monitoring weitht and gait daily

III.  Exercise (see the tab on diet for more details)

A.  Daily on near daily exercise is absolutely essential for preventive health maintenance)

B.  Develop a routine for days at port and while at anchor and while underway – adhere to the plan

C.  Types of exercise are:

1.  Strenght

2.  Balance (especially important for boating)

3.  Aerobic (walk, “steps”, run, swim etc.) > 20 minutes a day 5 days a week

IV.  Daily Dress

A.  Wear sunscreen every day no matter what the sun is doing

B.  Shirts – always wear a shirt (even when very hot)

1.  shirts should be long sleeved even in the heat to prevent sun exposure

2.  a synthetic material is the best for all clothing on a boat – dries quickly

3.  fleece in the winter – a good material for warmth and quick drying

D.  Pants

1.  Short pants are fine in the summer (synthetic for reasons above)

2.  Long pants for winter and wool is a good fabric – dires and keeps you warm when wet

E.  Shoes (not flip-flops), but real shoes

1.  Proper boat shoes whould be worn at all times when on deck and outside

2.  non-slip shoes are important to wear in wet conditions

F.  Personal Flotation Devices should be worn in bad weather when underway and on deck when in locks and docking or making other maneuvers that may cause loss of balance and falling into the sea

G.  Gloves should be worn when handling lines and in in cold weather

H.  Hats are important sun visors and provide protection from sun

I.  Sunglasses are required when at the helm or outside – invest in a good pair of polarized sunglasses with 100% ultaviolet light (uv) protection – always carry one extra pair since losing sunglasses is common

J.  Googles – wear eye protective googles when working with lead acid batteries, other chemicals and with motorized tools

V.  Health Log (kept daily – like the boat log) – the log should at a minimum contain entries regarding

A.  Body weight

B.  Blood pressure

C.  Medications taken during the 24 hr. period

D.  Temperature if feeling the least bit sick

E.  Type and duration of exercise during the 24 hr. period

F.  Color of urine (an indication of hydration – colorless to very dark yellow)

VI.  Summary

Your health and that of your crew is the most important thing on the boat – it must be given the attention that other mechanical, electronic and electrical systems receive for the cruise to be safe and enjoyable.  Be prepared for any emergency and know how to deal with it until other professionals can assist.