|CrystalblueoceanSailing and Diving Around the World|
sailing and diving around the world
Ran into a bit of a bother, when we arrived in Jolly Harbor, coming from English Harbor. It was a beautiful day, and a spectacular sail, but I had no idea what lay ahead. I've posted some pics of my damaged toe, for the purposes of showing, clearly, what can happen when one gets distracted and has an anchor locker hatch fall on one's toe. Just a warning to those who are a bit squeamish. The pics are fairly graphic.
We arrived in the anchorage, at Jolly Harbor, early afternoon. I'm usually at the helm, but this time I was at the anchor. Martin usually handled the anchor because the electric anchor switch is a bit finicky, and he's accustomed to using it. But, this time I was up at the bow. We decided on a good spot, and, once in position, I began to lower the anchor. The anchor had hit bottom and I had let out about fifteen meters of chain, when the guy on the boat next to us started to yell at me. It was probably more like talking loud, but the wind was creating noise and he had to raise his voice quite a bit, so, to me, it just sounded like yelling and screaming. Now, I'm quite used to anchoring, and it doesn't matter where in the world you're anchoring, there will always be someone, on another boat, who will get really nervous/stressed, when another boat comes into the anchorage, looking for a spot to drop the hook. So, despite the fact that I couldn't hear what he was saying, I guessed that he was yelling that he thought we were too close. We weren't too close, and I was preparing to let out a lot more chain, to be sure that there would be no conflict.
I should have just ignored him and focused on what I was doing, but, being a typical Canadian (extremely polite), I turned to him to try to hear what he was saying, and to reassure him that all was fine. I had opened the anchor locker hatch, earlier, and it was leaning open against a stanchion, but not secured to anything. In that moment that I turned, to try to calm the other man down, a wave, or a gust of wind, not sure which, was enough to push the hatch off balance, and come down on my toe. I was in bare feet, as I always am on a boat. I've got thousands of sea miles under my belt, and I've been on many yachts, and I've anchored many times, but I just got unlucky. Had I not allowed myself to be distracted, the accident wouldn't have occurred. However, there are a few lessons to be learned here. Always wear deck shoes. If this accident could happen to a safety-conscious, experienced man like me, it can happen to anyone. It was an unusual convergence of circumstances, but it happened. Always have medical insurance. The first six or seven boats I was on, I always made it a point to have medical insurance. But, nothing ever went wrong, so I stopped purchasing the insurance. But..... the one day I didn't have it, was the day that I needed it.
As the hatch came down, I heard the crunch first, and then the excruciating pain. Had I not reacted as quickly as I did, and grabbed the hatch, it would have sliced my toe clean off. I sat down, and was horrified at the injury. Of course, blood was pouring out all over the place. I was immediately really pissed at the guy on the next boat because I knew that this wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been yelling at us. Martin brought me a roll of paper towel, and I wrapped the toe as best I could to stop the bleeding. We let out some more chain, and then dinghied ashore. Dalmatia, who works at Mayday Cafe, and one of the kindest women I've ever had the honor to know, went into action and, without my even asking for her help, came out with bandages, antibiotic spray, and began to clean the wound, and then dressed it. She then called ahead to the hospital, in St. Johns, to let them know that I was coming, and called me a cab. The cab driver showed up and I was on the way to the hospital. By the way, when I returned to the Marina, later that evening, after having received no medical attention, Dalmatia was horrified, and apologized profusely for the doctors. She left the Cafe and took me to the men's washroom and, once again, cleaned the wound, and dressed it as best she could. Thank you Dalmatia :):):) I look forward to seeing you again :) I need to be back in Antigua soon, anyway, to do the Yachtmaster practical, so I'll definitely go to see her and take her to dinner.
Once at the hospital, I was asked to pay a $2500 US deposit. There was no way that I was going to just turn over that kind of money, without even knowing the extent of the damage. I explained to the lady that I was sure all I needed was a couple of stitches. For those of you who can stand looking at the photos, you'll see that the only thing that could have been done would have been to stitch the broken skin down the side of the toe. Clearly, the toe nail was a done deal, so I wasn't worried about that. A couple of stitches, and measures to ensure that it wouldn't get infected, and I would have been right as rain. They didn't even bother to offer to at least look at the toe. I went back out to the parking lot and Trevor, the cab driver, was waiting for me. He offered to take me to another place he knew of, a 'clinic,' but told me that it was a private clinic, but maybe I could come to some agreeable financial arrangement.
Once at the private clinic, the nurse called one of the doctors, and gave me the phone. I explained to the doctor what had happened and he said he was on his way over. When the doctor showed up, I explained that I didn't have thousands of dollars to spend, and that I was certain I only needed a couple of stitches. In fact, that is all I wanted, anyway, no matter what the doctor would have suggested. I knew the toe wasn't broken, I could feel every part of the toe, and I know my own body, and how it heals. I happen to heal very quickly, and I've had other accidents over the years, that would have compelled any other person to see a doctor, but I simply allowed it heal on it's own and it healed quickly and perfectly. This was such a wound. Anyway, the doctor wouldn't even take the bandage off unless I paid a $300 US consultation fee. I refused and told him that all he had to do was look at the toe and see that I only required a couple of stitches.
He got huffy with me, and was clearly annoyed that I didn't understand that I would be expected to pay the consultation fee in a private clinic. I explained that this was an unusual situation, that I was a visitor in the country, and that, naturally, I would be reluctant to sign a piece of paper that stated that I accepted responsibility for any costs that might accrue, due to any work done by the doctor. I don't know of a single person that would sign such a thing. I reminded him that I only needed a couple of stitches, and that I was prepared to pay for that simple procedure. The doctor ended up leaving, in a huff, and I was still standing there, hours after the accident, and not one doctor even looking at the toe.
I walked next door to the pharmacy and got enough supplies to take care of the wound, including hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. The HP and the RA, I purchased because I had heard over the years that they're great for disinfecting. I was told, at the hospital in Toronto, that those two things are the worst things you could put on a wound like that.
The bottom line is this, I had the money to pay for what needed to be done; a cleaning, some stitches, and a dressing. There was no problem there. But there was no way I was going to sign any papers, or simply turn over a few thousand dollars as a deposit. What was to stop them from doing a whole bunch of unnecessary things, so they could say, well, we did all of this stuff, and it amounts to exactly $2500? In my opinion, all the doctor would have had to do was look at the wound. He would have said, "we have do this, this and this," I would have said okay, or, just do this and this. We would have agreed on a price, and my wound would have been taken care of. Instead, it was about money first, for them. There was no consideration for the fact that I was a visitor to the country, that I was able to pay, but did not have travel medical insurance, or that I was simply a person in need. Was I looking for free medical service? Absolutely not. But I was surprised at the lack of humanity, and simple concern for a fellow human being. Ultimately, I was refused care because of the issue of money. I take full responsibility for not having travel medical insurance, but I would certainly never refuse help to another human being in need. As I said, they couldn't even bother to look at the wound, to see for themselves, that it would have been a rather simple thing to fix. As it is, nothing was done to the toe, even when I went to a hospital here in Toronto. Of course, by the time that I arrived at the hospital in Toronto, it was too late to do anything anyway. But the doctors here confirmed my initial assessment, that all that would have been required would have been a few stitches down the side of the toe. They did say that x-rays would have been needed, too, to make sure there were no breaks or fractures, but even if the doctors had taken x-rays, in Antigua, I would have been fine paying the cost for them.
Anyway. Always wear shoes on board, and always arrange to have medical travel insurance. I'm okay now, by the way, and I have my tickets for the BVIs, departing Toronto April 30, to re-join the vessel.
Ok, Bonaire isn't the most beautiful place in the world, I give you that. There are lots of you probably thinking that the most beautiful place in the world to be, on a yacht, is the British Virgin Islands, Bocas Del Toro, or somewhere in French Polynesia. But, still, Bonaire isn't downtown Detroit, either. In fact, one of the most beautiful things about Bonaire is the the fact that you don't have to go diving to see lots of tropical fish. Simply jump over the side of the boat and they'll be swarming around you.
I'm adding this story, as I sit here in Chesapeake Harbor Marina, because I've been meaning to for a while. Unfortunately I only started this website fairly recently, and regret not starting it on the first boat I crewed on. There are lots of funny stories, and a few unpleasant ones. Well, this is one of the unpleasant ones. It came back to me when I was being asked, by some folks here at the marina, about what it's like to take yachts all over the world. I told them it was most fantastic, and sometimes a little dodgy. Well, of course, they want to know about the dodgy stories, too, so here is one of them.
In 2013, I was on a sailboat, out of Grenada, and bound for Bonaire. It took us a few days to get to Bonaire, and when we finally saw a tiny bit of it in the distance, it was a very welcome sight. You can't anchor anywhere in Bonaire, so we motored up and down the mooring field until we found one that was suitable, and tied up to it. I had been to Bonaire before, and it was nice to be back to familiar sights.
After a few days, of being moored in an isolated spot, with no boats close to us, on either side, a big sailboat arrived and moored right beside us. Actually, the morning the other boat arrived, we were ashore. As we dinghied back to the boat, after brunch, the owner and I, simultaneously said, why would someone put such a large boat so close to another boat? Why didn't they pick any one of the other free moorings. Anyway, I kept a close watch throughout the day, to make sure there wasn't any potential for collision. Well, sure enough, part way through the day, I noticed that the other boat was a lot closer, and collision was imminent. I called out to the other boat and when the owner came up on deck he noticed how close we were and went up to his bow, adjusted the lines, and we now had sufficient space between us. This happened 3 times that day, each time the owner going forward to adjust his lines. So, clearly, the problem was with the other boat. Not sure why this was happening. The mooring lines are attached to concrete blocks that are sitting on the ocean floor and they usually weigh a ton, or so.
That night, the owner's wife wanted to go dancing, but he didn't feel like going, so I went with her. By the time we got back to the boat, it was around 1;30 am. We hit the sack, and I fell into a nice deep sleep. Sleep didn't last long, because I was abruptly woken when the other boat's lines loosened again, and made a huge noise when it collided with us. I rushed up on deck to see the other boat's stern crashing into our bow. Just as I was rushing up to our bow, I saw the female owner of the other boat go rushing up to their bow, By the time I reached our bow, the male owner appeared. By the way, they were both stark naked. The man immediately said, "we hit you guys, yeah?" I said, "yes sir, it looks like you did." He said, "yeah? well go f%@K yourself!" That's when the fun started.
Now, picture this.... the other boat is bigger and it's crashing into us, its got davits that are sticking way out, long enough to reach out and over onto our bow, the seas are rocky, the other boat owners are totally naked and ready for a fight, I'm still a little foggy, from partying, earlier, and now comes the female owner of my boat, also ready to fight back. Also, the other boat is from France, and the boat I'm on has a German flag. That's like throwing gasoline onto a burning building. The female owner of my boat, Sue, starts throwing back the insults and the fight is on. Now let me tell you, that Sue is a master verbal fighter. She knows exactly what to say in order to make you lose your mind. I mean, she could make the father of the The Brady Bunch foam at the mouth. Well, the other guy was yelling, "I'm going to kill you! You're just upset that you lost the war! Heil Hitler! On and on. By the way, Sue isn't a nazi, and she made no reference at all to the war, ethnicity, nationality, etc. The other people simply didn't like Germans, I guess. And they were, seemingly, deranged. Just a reminder, the boats are rocking up and down, and still crashing into each other, at 2:30am, and I'm trying to keep Sue from getting impaled by the other boat's davits. All the while, I'm calling out to the other boat's owners to stay calm and "let's try to find a solution!" I'm in the middle of this crazy situation, desperately trying to think of a way to bring everybody to sanity again.
As I mentioned, the other couple was stark naked. So Sue switched her focus to the guy's penis. He had been screaming, moments ago, about what he was going to do to her with it, so now sue wanted more info. "Really, what are you going to do with a tiny thing like that!!" Well, that was all it took. The other guy turned into a raving madman and ran back into his boat. First of all, Sue had a point. I mean, I'm not going to stare at another man's junk, but it was hard to notice that it was the size on an acorn. Anyway, I'm thinking, "oh god, he's going to get a gun!" I braced myself for whatever was about to happen, all the while still trying to keep Sue from getting run through by the davits. I yelled at her to please go below. All I got from her was a blurry-eyed stare.
The other guy returned from inside his boat and, thankfully, he wasn't carrying a gun. But he did have one of those retractable, metal police batons in his hand. The boats were so close that all he had to do was step with one foot into his dingy, which was tied up to his stern, and grab our bowsprit, and, if he wanted to, pull himself up onto our boat with the other leg. I yelled out, "sir! they're just words!!" That made him pause for a moment, long enough for his idea to attack to wear off a bit. However, Sue was still hammering with insults, but now in German, which he couldn't understand. Thank God for small mercies because there is no doubt in my mind that she was still going on about his penis.
Next thing I hear, is our dingy fire up. I'm thinking, now what?! Just as I get halfway back towards our stern, I see the male owner, Bob, go flying past in the dinghy, on his way to the offending boat. I called out to him, "Bob! that's not a good idea!" He had it in mind to go over and try to talk to the lunatic, to try to resolve the problem. Well, sure enough, when I got back up to the bow, Bob was standing in the dinghy, looking way up at the other guy, both of them going up and down with the waves. Then the guy took a step back and came in with a giant kick right to Bob's chest and ribs, which knocked Bob back into the bottom of the dinghy. Bob drove back to the stern of our boat and I walked back to meet him to see if he was ok. When I was satisfied he was still in one piece, I quickly went back up to the bow, just in time to the woman from the other boat smashing Sue across the forearm, with a giant mag-lite flashlight, growling the words, "don't...touch...my...boat," with each strike. The other boat was right on top of us, so it was easier for Sue to hang on to parts of the other boat, to keep her balance, and she had also been hanging on to the other boat in a feeble attempt to keep the other boat from crashing into us. That would be like trying to step in front of a car, that's in neutral, and pushing against it, to try and stop it from rolling down a hill. I finally got Sue to come back with me to the stern, where we found Bob talking to the Coast Guard, on the VHF radio.
Apparently, there is one Coast Guard station for both, Bonaire, and Curacao. They happened to be in Curacao at the time. They asked if there was imminent danger and Bob said no. In the meantime, the other boat had shaken off their mooring lines and had left, but not before cruising past us, shouting a bunch of threats, in some pretty creative language. So, the next day, we spent 8 hours waiting, between the hospital and police station waiting rooms. We all gave testimony.
Turns out the other boat left Bonaire without officially clearing out. I guess they realized the seriousness when they crossed the line from yelling insults, to actual physical assault.
Yet another example of how things can go from a deep and blissful sleep, to total chaos.