First aid when attacked by a boat hook

“Breathe through your mouth,” I said as I tilted Captain Hunk’s head forward and pinched the soft part of his nose. I kicked the scallop bucket under his dripping blood. Three of the seven scallops we had caught snapped shut. The other four lay forlorn in the bottom of the bucket.

He did not look pale or clammy so he was not going into shock. “Shall I make your favourite?” I asked.

“Sauté them in butter with chillies, garlic and a squeeze of lemon?”

He raised his head, and said, “$3 each.”


“I reckon those scallops work out, oh, about $3 each if we take diesel into account.”

“They’re $2 each in Woolworths.”

“And bigger.” He gave a throaty chuckle.

I shoved his head back down. His nosebleed began to slow. I appreciated the effort it had taken him to crack a joke, half-hearted as it was but I felt the friction between us ease to less than the frayed mooring rope he still held in his fist. I had not meant to bonk him on the nose with the boat hook. It had all happened so fast.

He had approached the buoy from up-current and upwind. I had the boat hook ready and, at the appropriate moment, reached down and hooked the buoy. Except it was not the appropriate moment; the current had caught Sea Guide, flung us swiftly askew, wrenching me against a guardrail.

I rubbed the bruise on my shoulder and wondered, not for the first time, what we were doing out here on the briny, far from an ambulance. I glanced up and saw a sportsfishing boat idling towards us. The boat was called Hookawopa, which I must say is a cracker name for a sportsfishing boat.

As the boat came closer, I saw a family group dressed in wetsuits and friendly smiles.

“Hello,” I said and gave a friendly wave.

A fatherly figure greeted me with, “hey, you guys want some scallops?”

In the cluttered cockpit I glimpsed a fish crate bursting with scallops. Would we like some? Sure. You beauty!

I handed over a bucket and willing hands tossed the smaller pile into it and handed it back.

“Thank you,” I said. “Is it random act of kindness day?”

Grins spread across the divers’ fit tanned faces. It transpired that their catch, measured and counted twice, exceeded the daily legal limit. We chatted about this and that and then they puttered away and zoomed into my memory. A moment of joy. A testimony to the value of life’s simple pleasures out on the briny.

I retrieved the yacht’s first aid manual from the bookshelf, sat in the shade and skimmed through its pages: pyjamas on fire: roll in a rug; poison swallowed: drink lots of water; insect in ear: float it out, etc.

It helped me to know we had the ability to look after ourselves and this reassurance put me in the right frame of mind to tackle opening the scallop gift without hurting myself. I thought about how to go about it and laid out everything I needed.

I had just finished the job and wiped down the bench, when I heard my cellphone chirp. 'Blother', my big landlubber brother. He had burnt himself while frying chips. Blother does unhappy really well.

“Cool, clear, cover and R.I.C.E.” I parroted, thrilled that some of my reading had already stuck in my grey matter. “Rice?” he barked.

“Yes. rest, ice, compress and elevation. It reduces swelling and stops bleeding.”

I raved about the scallops but he snapped back, “it’s still illegal to take more than your quota. They should’ve put them back.”

I did not say anything. It seemed the safest thing to do.

The afternoon sweltered on. Capt. Hunk stripped off and dove naked over the side, from heatstroke to hypothermia in seconds. His white buttocks disappeared from view as his well-muscled arms propelled him swiftly around the bow.

I read on, part amputated: put in plastic bag to prevent drying out, pack in ice. Uuurrrkkk.

He reappeared around the stern and flipped over to backstroke for the next lap. Tooth dislodged: put back in socket. Eeeek.

Capt. Hunk switched to butterfly. It gave me butterflies in my stomach to think I might not remember what to do in the heat of an emergenc…..

“S***! Jellyfish.”

He floundered towards the boarding ladder, swimming one-handed. The other hand protecting, well, you can guess.

He was bellowing so loud I could not hear myself swear, so I flung him his underdaks and rushed to get the first aid kit, wondering what on earth one used for jellyfish stings. I skidded to a halt and altered course towards the liquor cabinet. I remembered! To combat poison: slosh on alcoholic spirits.

“It’s OK,” I heard him gurgle. “They’re harmless. Spooky, though.”

The evening sun played on the headland. Cabbage trees ruffled as the wind passed through them. At that moment, I knew we would be fine and went below to make scallops mornay.

Half an hour later, I jiggled scallop shells out from under the grill and carried them steaming to the table set in the saloon, “ta-da!”

“Yum,” said Capt. Hunk. He slid onto the seat behind the table and sniffed in the delicious aroma of melted cheese and seafood.

“Shut the hatch, will you sweetie pie? Otherwise the wind will cool them down.”

The headroom in Sea Guide’s saloon is 6’3”, which is ideal for a tall man. I like the airiness it gives; however, it does mean that I cannot actually reach the hatch.

I stretched up my left hand, but could not reach the little knobby thing you twiddle to lower the hatch. I tried again, stretching on my tippy tippy toes and had barely managed to loosen it, when bang!

Quicker than a scallop, the heavy hatch snapped shut. “Ouch, my middle finger!” I said a very rude word, cradled my left hand in my right and collapsed against the galley sink, breathing heavily.

Capt. Hunk leapt to his feet, apologising profusely.

I swayed and shut my eyes. A long minute passed. I opened one eye and uncurled my hand. Painful, already swelling, I saw a purple cut right across the nail. On the underside, my fingertip was bleeding out of broken skin but the angle of my finger looked natural and there was no grating sound when I bent it.

“It’s not broken,” I whimpered.

He kept apologising, made me an ice pack and gently told me to go and lie down.

My finger throbbed. I propped it up on a pile of pillows. Forget RICE. Put a ‘P’ in front: PRICE. Give me painkillers. Now!

I bit my lip and refused to faint or snivel or give up. But damn it did hurt.

More long minutes passed. Then a cry of “get up here, quick!” crashed through my fatigue. My eyes blurted open. Capt. Hunk rushed in, grabbed the camera and rushed out again.

Resisting the urge to give him the finger, I followed him topsides. My reward was a pod of dolphins swimming right across the bow. There were about 20 of them, adults and calves, a-porpoise-ing in unison, a-hunting, a sight to lift the heart and spirits.

I managed a feeble smile. Yeah, we can cope. We can do this. Lets face it, boating is hazardous. I do not want to come over all morbid, but we might die.

Enough of that. “What’s the biggest hazard at sea?” I asked.

Capt. Hunk looked into his glass of after-dinner rum, as if the answer lay in its dark depth, “cirrhosis of the liver,” he hiccupped.

My hard learnt first aid tips

  • do a first aid course. If you have already done one, take a refresher course

  • stock the boat’s first aid kit up to your personal hypochondriac level

  • invest in a sterile traveller’s pack that includes sutures, needles, swabs and dressings

  • talk to your friendly GP about prescribing you antibiotics and painkillers even though you are not sick. Try not to look and act like
    a meth. cook

  • keep your tetanus and other vaccinations

  • memorise the PAN PAN procedure for seeking medical help over the VHF

  • add useful contact phone numbers to your mobile in case you are within cellphone range, such as your GP and the poisons information centre.

Useful memory joggers

  • for bleeding, think RED: rest and reassure, elevate and expose, apply dressing and direct pressure

  • to relieve pain and reduce swelling, think PRICE: painkillers, rest, ice, compress and elevation

  • if patient is pale raise the tail; if patient is red raise the head

  • early signs of hypothermia: patient mumbles, fumbles, stumbles, grumbles and tumbles

  • for burns: cool, clear, cover. It’s like firefighting: remove the heat, fuel source and oxygen

  • for shock, think WARR: warmth, air, rest and rum … no, no, I mean reassurance

Suzy, this all sounds like a lot to remember. Is there a free app that can do it all for me? Silly question,
of course there is: http:// and

Use common sense. Many items in the galley: olive oil, lemon, garlic, baking soda, to name but a few, have medicinal uses.

Most of all: don’t panic! The downside in thinking too hard about medical mishaps is that you can easily cross the line into obsession.

This is the point at which you should seek medical help.


Scallops Mornay

Serves two

  • scallops: 6 to 12 each, depending on how many you’re lucky enough to have scored
  • a good glug of cider vinegar
  • ½ a small onion, finely chopped
  • 50 grams of butter
  • 1½ tablespoon of flour
  • ½ cup of milk. Milk powder mixed with water works fine for this recipe
  • a little chopped fresh parsley, if you have it
  • grated cheese and/or breadcrumbs


To open the scallops raw, select two knifes: one flat and the other sharp. Pick up the flat knife and a scallop and insert the knife near the hinge. Slightly prise apart the two shells. Turn the scallop flat side down and run the sharp knife between the flat shell and the muscle holding it shut. The shells will spring open.
To release the scallop, hold the rounded shell in one hand and gently pull it off the flat shell with the other hand. Detach the frilly bit and the black stomach sack. The frill is chewy, and you do not want to eat the sack unless you like puking.
You will be left with the white fleshy meat and attached pink roe. Rinse the scallops, if necessary, in clean seawater. If raw is your thing then slurp one or two in lusty gulps. Set aside six of the largest round shells and put the other shells and guts back in the collection bucket to discard later. Chill the goodies until you are ready to cook.
To prepare, simmer the scallops gently in cider vinegar for about six minutes, or until tender.
Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, sweat the onions in butter, stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for about two minutes. Add the milk and some of the liquid from the scallop pan. Thicken the white sauce for a few minutes, season with salt and white pepper to taste and then fold in the scallops and parsley.
Spoon the mixture into scallop shells, three or four per shell. Sprinkle with grated cheese and/or breadcrumbs and brown under the grill.
Good served with mashed spuds. 

Suzy Cook
Jeanneau JY55
JPK August 2023