4AM Medical Emergency
23 June 2012 | Splash Dingy and off we go to help
On a boat at anchor 24 hours per day, simple statistics would have you believing that if something is going to go wrong causing all Hades to break loose, that you would have about the same odds as it happening during the light of day as opposed to the dark of night. During the summer with the longer days you would think that the odds would be even more in your favor of being able to see the disaster without the help of a flashlight, you would of course be wrong. The dark of night is when bad things seem to always happen, which is why we NEVER turn our VHF radio off at night. We do turn the volume down, but we always leave it on. I know some cruisers turn their VHF radios off when they turn off their lights for the night, but what would happen if your neighbor was dragging anchor towards you frantically trying to warn you over the VHF. What if another cruiser spotted a thief in the anchorage trying to steal your dingy? [Note from the last post: they are welcome to seal my Walker Bay Genesis] Numerous safety reasons for both us and for our fellow cruisers at anchor make the occasional annoyance of a rogue VHF broadcasts, typically timed with the closing of the cruiser bars, just part of life when living aboard a boat at anchor.
99% of the time you will be woken up to someone broadcasting their favorite Iron Maiden or Air Supply song to the fleet or a Shakespeare type soliloquy from a single hander just looking for someone listen to their deep thoughts on life and love. However, that 1% could literally mean the difference between saving and losing your boat or even life and death, so we figure we can deal with the occasional 2AM wake-up call, given the alternative of waking up to the sound of our bow sprit crashing into someone hull.
While at anchor here in La Paz last night, the reason we always leave our VHF radio on happened at 4AM. Our VHF radio blasted out the words:
"Attention to the fleet, this is Bob on Pantera, I have a medical emergency is there anyone who can give me a dingy ride from the anchorage to shore?"
Lori was up first and I heard her walking fast towards the now silent VHF radio. She ordered me to wake-up and then ordered Jason to get the dingy down. I say "ordered" and not "asked" because Lori had entered full take charge mode when she didn't hear anyone respond to Bob's VHF call for help. I heard the initial call myself, but was hesitating just long enough before I fully committed to waking myself up, in the hopes that someone else would pop on the radio and respond that they were on the way, but as the radio silence grew longer we were fully involved. We didn't quite know what we were involved in yet, but just before Lori handed me the VHF radio another friend, Bill on Wandering Puffin, had answered the call and would have his car ready at the beach to transport the patient to the doctor. I said that I would be there ASAP to take him to the beach and by the time I threw some clothes on, Jason already had the dingy down from the Davits and was holding it in place alongside the boat for me to quickly board and zip off through the anchorage towards our friend in need of some help.
When I reached Bob’s boat he already had the patient ready for transport and from what I could hear through the cat carrying box, something sure didn’t sound right to me either. The poor cat sounded like she was in agony. Bob had been away a week for a quick trip back to Canada for a little surgery and had returned the previous evening. A friend was watching Pumpkin, but Bob noticed something sure wasn’t right; perhaps it was a blocked intestine or a server case of constipation. Bob and pumpkin quickly boarded the dingy and we were heading for the beach. Bill on Puffin had called ahead to his local friend and veterinarian and everything was arranged for Bill to take the cat in distress in for a 4:30AM emergency visit. After I dropped Bob and Pumpkin off at the beach, I was hoping all would work out well. With our part in the emergency over, I zipped back through the darkness with solar LED flashlight held in my teeth looking ahead to I could dodge any floating mooring lines on the way back to the boat. The crew was waiting on deck for an update and I argued to just leave the dingy in the water since dawn was only a few hours away, but Jason (protector of the dingy and motor) refused so we raised it back on the davits and 5 minutes later the crew was all back to dreaming of Gina Burgers, Estadio’s shrimp tacos, or another of our favorite food spots here in La Paz.
The La Paz cruiser net starts at 8AM and during the general announcement section Bob came on and after thanking the folks that helped, gave the fleet an update that pumpkin was resting comfortably at the vet and that all was well. Bob announced with a chuckle in his voice that after the examination, the vet had determined that Pumpkin wasn’t displaying signs of a blocked intestine or server constipation but was displaying the signs of a cat in heat and should soon be back to normal after a few hours of observation! So now you have it, another reason to leave you VHF radio on at night, to be in on a great laugh in the morning. You can just imagine all the puns and one liners this morning about a cat in heat on a boat named Pantera with a big black panther cat painted on the hull. We may be a bit tied today, but we certainly started the day with a smile.