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September 2004

Ships Medical Library

I am often asked what books I carry for medical problems afloat. One of my favorites, Being Your Own Wilderness Doctor, from Stackpole Books, is no longer in print. But Your Offshore Doctor, a manual of medical self-sufficiency by Dr. Micheal H. Bielan is a close second.

Another book I find useful on board is the Merk Manual of Medical Information, Home Edition. It is written in every day language and has answered most of the questions I have had regarding health issues. The section on dehydration is well worth reading.

Warning About Spectra Line

At Pender Harbour, we had met Robert who spent a lot of years working as a rigger in the logging industry, going up huge trees to rig blocks and tackles, doing splicing and of course trusting his life to the knots he tied. He also has done a lot of sailing in these island filled waters. About three years ago he treated himself to all new line for his 33 foot Garden designed ketch and chose Spectra for its low stretch. Unfortunately he assumed all lines are much alike when he decided to go aloft to inspect his rigging. He tied his four-part gantline (block and tackle) to his new main halyard using a bowline with a five-inch tail, and then attached his bosun's chair per normal. After pulling himself aloft and working at the masthead for a while, he unhooked his safety line and began lowering himself when the bowline slipped and untied and let Robert, gantline and chair fall free. Fortunately he was able to slow his fall a bit by gripping the mast, but he hit the deck with one foot extended and shattered his ankle so badly that after two years the doctors found they had to amputate just above the ankle. Friends in the rigging business doubted his story of the king of knots letting go under load. But during his recover, Robert did some testing and found the slippery, cored design of Spectra did let this knot work loose, especially in a gantline situation where the load is alternately eased and tightened. Moral of the story, even with normal lines, it pays to tape the tail of a bowline if you are going aloft on a rope halyard. With slippery Spectra line I think his story would make me consider using a bowline backed by two hitches and then taped.

(One of the reasons we choose to stick with three strand Dacron for halyards is that whenever we want extra security we stick the end of the line through one of the lays of the standing part. This jams the tail in place. We use line from New England Ropes or Marlow pre-stretched Dacron on the main halyard of our boats since 1977 when we switched from wire halyards and found the stretch was not a significant problem.)

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