Saturday, March 07, 2009

March 6, 2009 - Koh Tachai, Phang Nga Province, Thailand

Between running around to close all of the hatches to keep out a sudden shower around midnight, being woken by the mooring ball banging against the hull a few hours later, and then again by a slight swell setting into the anchorage, we were suffering from a serious case of sleepusinterruptus early this morning. So while it was still dark, we got up to slip the mooring line and head north to another of the Thai islands. When we arrived on deck we were greeted by a sunrise that was almost as gorgeous as the sunset the prior night. The dawn sky was shot through with shades of coral, pink and red that are usually only found at a MAC counter.

When Sten went to make breakfast, he discovered that our bug invasion wasn't limited to open dry goods. These nasty little buggers had managed to chew their way into unopened bags of flour and pasta. Since we have more food onboard than ever before, and we've technically left Thailand, tossing it out and restocking isn't really an option. So first we nuked the sealed bags of pasta to kill the bugs. Then I sat down and commenced separating the salvageable stuff from the steamed carcasses.

Our day improved when Sten caught a rainbow runner a couple miles outside the boundaries of the national park. But then, while cleaning the fish, he tried to cut the tip of his thumb off. He was bleeding profusely. Luckily, he was using a new stainless steel knife, a gift from our friend Sig, which has a razor sharp blade with no rust on it. It was a clean cut. Even more luckily, we have an incredibly complete medical kit onboard (admired by many a customs and quarantine officer), compiled for us by Sten's dad and his fiancee. So far, we haven't had to raid it too often. The antibiotics and bandages typically see the most action. But today I was especially glad to have the supplies to stock a basic surgery on board, and a book to tell me how to use the stuff.

We were only a few miles from Koh Tachai, so we rinsed the wound with tap water and Sten applied pressure to stem the bleeding. While we steamed towards a mooring ball, I alternated between reading up on wound treatment, gathering the necessary supplies from the med kit, and continuing to pick black bugs out of a four month supply of pasta.

Once we were tied to the mooring, I asked Sten to come down to the galley so that we could clean his wound properly. He tried to beg off, protesting that the wound was clean because "the knife had just been rinsed with salt water." I gave him the I-know-you're-not-that-stupid look, waved Dr. Weiss's Comprehensive Guide to Marine Medicine at him, and told him to get his butt down to the galley.

The water that comes out of our watermaker is about as clean as it gets, but we have filled our tanks with shore water a few times recently. Just to be safe, I treated the 500ml of tap water that I used to irrigate the wound with 10ml of betadine. While Sten held his hand over the sink, I pried open the wound with gloved fingers and used a large syringe to flush the wound.

Despite all the sail and canvas repair that I've been doing lately, my stitches aren't that neat. And although the med kit includes a suture kit, I'm not too comfortable with the idea of driving a needle through my husband's skin. And having seen me struggle with the canvas, he'd prefer I keep my needles away from him too. Luckily for Sten, Dr. Weiss says that a deep hand wound shouldn't be closed - the chance of infection is too great. It is better to keep the wound open and moist so that it can heal. So, I dressed his finger with neosporin, a nonadhesive bandage, a gauze pad to absorb any excess goo, and taped the whole thing up. Then we stuffed his injured hand into a latex glove so that the gloved one could make us lunch while I went swimming. As an added bonus, the glove acted as a pressure bandage and stopped the bleeding.

The mooring that we picked up at Koh Tachai was in the midst of a healthy coral garden. It was dead low tide when we moored, so I dove down to make sure that we wouldn't hit any of the nearby coral heads if we swung on the mooring. As soon as I dove down, I attracted the attention of a small remora - only at the time I had no idea what kind of creature was trying to attach itself to my thigh. I surfaced, gasping and screaming as I thrashed towards the swim ladder. My cries drew Sten out onto the side deck. He could tell that I wasn't in pain, and was just frightened. Nonetheless, he thought it was one of the funniest things he'd ever seen. He claims that I hit planing speed as I swam back to the boat. I was momentarily affronted that he would laugh at my predicament, but quickly recognized that we both needed some comic relief to cut through the tension of the morning's events.

Then, while I was hanging off the swim ladder, catching my breath, a white and black banded sea snake swam up towards me. Just yesterday I was saying how happy I'd be to sail around the world without ever seeing a sea snake. I totally jinxed myself. Luckily, the snake was more frightened of me than I was of it, and it quickly went to hide under a rock. While Sten grilled the fish, he asked how the diving was. Like any good wife, I looked him directly in the eye and lied. "Coral's dead, no fish, visibility sucks, no giant grouper hanging out under the boat, lots of jellyfish . . . " I didn't want him to feel bad about missing out on some of the best snorkeling conditions we've seen since Rinca - and I wanted to discourage him from swimming until his thumb heals.


srupp said...

Truly amazing. If you had done the sutruring a nobel prize might have been in order. Forcing open and flushing the wound was gripping enuff. Be careful and keep him out of the water, my son had a hell of a time with coral growth in a wound.

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