Duct Tape 911 – DIY Medical Care for Cruisers, Preppers and other Accident Prone Adventurers

rolls of duct tape on sailboat transomI’m not sure how I first stumbled on The Survival Doctor. It wasn’t via StumbleUpon because I never go there. I’m not a prepper, (the new term for survivalist) searching for how to stop the government from taking away my guns. Though Survival Doc does have a few handy posts about how to treat gunshot wounds, the medical condition I most associate with preppers.

While the Survival Doc has many followers within the prepper community, and he links to some sites that indicate his readers don’t particularly like bureaucracy, I personally appreciate the SD for all he teaches me about how to deal with medical emergencies at sea. From his clear instructions I’m learning what to do when we’re many miles and hours from the help of government supported hospitals, airlift helicopters and ambulances that race along publicly funded streets and highways. His site’s tagline – “What to do when help is NOT on the way” – resonates with me because that’s what you have to be prepared for at sea.

Cruisers are sort of like preppers

There are some similarities between cruisers and preppers: both stock up on food, water and fuel. Both spend much time considering what to do in emergency situations. Both invest in learning how to manage without outside help. Both tend to have some kind of last resort kit at the ready – for sailors it’s called a ditch bag, for preppers, a bug out bag. Some cruisers think guns are necessary for safety, some preppers think boats are the way to survive a societal melt down.* Both lean toward self-reliance to varying degrees.

Tom and I lean toward self-reliance in most things. He likes to do repairs himself if possible. I cook primarily without processed foods. And when it comes to health, we share a strong medical self care streak. We almost never go to the doctor. When our kids were little they had their well baby checkups and immunizations. We stopped by the hospital a few times to have broken bones set. That was pretty much it. I used garlic for strep throat, tied hair together over scalp lacerations, and iced sprains. This combination of natural bent toward first aid and cruising as a lifestyle choice makes me the perfect, though perhaps not typical, audience for all The Survival Doctor has to offer. Including his new book Duct Tape 911.

In his announcement of publication, Dr. Hubbard, AKA Survival Doctor, mentioned that the book is coming out just in time for Father’s Day. Well this mom wishes it had come out in time for Mother’s Day, because women get duct tape too. I’ve used it for sealing a leaky port light during a storm, for sticking my cellphone to the deck so it won’t slide overboard – again, and before we went to sea I was well known for wrapping the stuff around a blown out soccer cleat in order to get one more game (okay, season) out of that expensive pair of Pumas. I’ve even used it for a couple of the tricks SD mentions – for protecting a bandaged finger from water, for removing a wart, and for creating a little handle to make gripping things easier. I’m really looking forward to learning some of the more sophisticated medical uses for duct tape that Dr. Hubbard references in his marketing copy: closing a deep wound to prevent infection, stopping a lung from collapsing and making eyeglasses, since I’m always losing my store-bought ones overboard.

Though we carry few actual books aboard Sunshine due to space constraints, as our little ship’s medical officer, I always make room for a good medical reference. When the shit storm is going down it’s really likely that I won’t have internet access or the time to haul out the laptop and log on to SD’s site. And an ebook won’t cut it either, especially if it’s dark out. I’ll need a hard copy guide that I can flip through while wearing latex gloves and hold down with my knee (or some duct tape) so that I can read what to do while applying pressure to the wound. And should I be the one bleeding out, I’ll feel better knowing that Tom has a handy guide to turn to.

5 tips for using duct tape – medically or otherwise

  1. Buy decent tape. Cut price brands often tear funny or don’t last.
  2. When finished with the tape, always fold the end of the roll back on itself a little to create a tab you can easily grab next time. Getting the end loose can be a bear. Under stressful conditions, like when the captain’s screaming obscenities at some innocent piece of deck hardware that just split his shin open, it’s nigh on impossible.
  3. Unless otherwise instructed by the Survival Doc, don’t put duct tape directly on the skin. This technique may be useful though when you capture the pirate that stole your dinghy and want to inflict the worst kind of Band-aid(tm) ouch on your victim as payback.
  4. Duct tape has a shelf life. If you haven’t used your roll in years, you’ll probably want to invest in a new one before starting on any project that’s intended to keep your boat afloat, your tent from leaking, or your lung from collapsing.
  5. Deep six the wallet. It’s over.

* Interview with our friend Jesse, of s/v Smitty, who provides solid information and helps dispel some of the myths about running away to sea to avoid global chaos.


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  1. Great post! I am of the belief that most things can be fixed with duct tape (and there are so many colors now to choose from!). I look forward to checking out this book.

    1. Yeah, you have to be careful what you tell a writer – your secrets either end up on the blog or in fiction. As for seeing us soon – I recommend the Beaufort area for vacation getaway. The sea islands are beautiful. I’ll be putting up some photos of our trip to Hunting Island soon.

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