Oct. 7, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 9:05 PM UCT
Maverick II sitting in Great Cay in the Bahamas.
S top one, the Bahamas, provided more adventure than I signed up for. While on shore leave on a small island called Guana Cay, the First Mate Tim - enjoying his first night off in three weeks - was walking back to the tender and he fell down and broke his right ankle.
Of course, the Guana Cay is so small that it has no medical facilities to speak of, and not at 10:30 at night. We didn’t know how bad the break was, only Timmy – a 28 year old former college hockey player from Rochester, NY - telling us that he was no girly man, but boy it hurt.
In the dark moonless night, some local paramedic volunteers strapped him onto a stretcher, carried him to the nearby dive boat/nautical ambulance and ferried him the 30 minute ride across a choppy bay to the Government Clinic on Marsh Harbour.
The Captain and I followed soon after in the tender from the yacht Maverick II. When I walked into the Government Clinic, four black Bahamian men were sitting in folding chairs watching white Republican presidential candidates debate on Fox News.
We found Tim laying on an exam bed, heavily sedated. Medical equipment that was 20 years old and had seen it better days surrounded him. The physician on duty at midnight wrapped Tim’s leg in a splint, but had no x-ray machine to diagnose the problem other than it was a fractured leg.
The Clinic had no overnight beds, and it shut down at 1 a.m., the good Doctor suggested that we get Tim a hotel room, and put him onto a commercial flight in the morning to Nassau.
Doctors’ Hospital, a private hospital, would have the best care, The MD said. At the government hospital in Nassau, he said Tim might wait all day.
I kept asking the doctor if he could give Tim more drugs to ease the pain, but he ignored it. He gave us a pair of crutches at 1 a.m, and sent us away. So we took Tim to a hotel, and left him with another deckhand.
The Captain and I returned to the boat at around 3:45, navigating foreign waters in pitch blackness.
At 5 a.m., the Captain and I jumped back in the tender, with Tim’s passport and enough supplies to last the day, thinking that we would be back on a flight to Marsh Harbour that night after getting Tim’s leg set.
Timmeh! Before his accident on the aft deck.
We collected the hobbled First Mate, lifted him into a taxi, and headed to the airport. Timmy didn’t complain much, but the pain was obviously intense. He never lost his sense of humor.
As we cradled him into the wheelchair at the airport, his instantly assumed the guise of the chair-bound South Park character “Timmeh” and gave the trademark “Timmeh” grunt.
We arrived in time for the the 7 a.m. flight, but like everything in the islands, didn’t leave until 45 minutes after its scheduled time.
A nice woman from the Bahamian Tourism Board happened to be on board the plane and she provided Tim with a pillow to rest his cracked leg, but the two ups and downs in the island hopper were agonizing.
She also made sure an ambulance was waiting at the airport to meet us when we landed. The stewardess from the airline promised to have a wheelchair waiting for us, but when we landed in Nassau, no wheelchair in sight on the tarmac, and the promise of an ambulance 400 yards away in the terminal.
I sprinted to the terminal, and grabbed the first wheelchair I could find – a broken contraption that I could only pull backwards, and the wheels clicked at every rotation.
Once we loaded Tim into and propped his leg upon the Bahamian Tourist Board woman’s pillow and the shoulder pad of his crutch (which we wedged under his butt because the leg rest didn’t raise up).
The only thing keeping the wheelchair from folding was Tim’s body. I pulled him backwards across the rutted tarmac, with the wheel click-click-clicking, and the heat from the morning sun rising off the surface. We hit one pothole that jarred him. Woops.
We cruised into the terminal, and literally ten yards from the ambulance, we both spotted a brand new wheelchair. But the pain was pretty heavy, as he was sweating and he could barely speak.
The ride from the airport to the hospital in downtown Nassau usually takes 45 minutes, especially in rush hour traffic on the cramped two lane roads. We made it in 15, with lights and sirens blaring. The jerky moves to avoid oncoming traffic didn’t help Tim, nor did the paramedic who fell on his knee at one sudden stop.
Doctors’ Hospital proved to have the best of modern technology, and they provided Tim with morphine and X-Rays. The film showed oblique fractures above the ankle joint in both the tibula and fibia. The injury would need surgery.
But the Hospital wouldn’t operate until we paid for the services in advance. The $1,000 cash the Captain gave me was merely a deposit. The surgery would cost $10,000.
When I tried to call the boat to get payment means, the pay phone in the hospital was broken. After trudging a half mile under a scorching humid sun to the nearest pay phone, the satellite phone number of the boat was out of service.
I called a trusted counsel stateside who advised me to max out my credit card. The boy needed medical attention. Then I set about figuring out how to contact the boat to advise the Captain of his First Mate’s status.
So I left my friend in the care of the hospital, and sojourned to the payphones, where I called resorts on Guana Cay, in the hopes that they could use their VHF radios to hail the Captain on channel 16, provided he was in the bridge.
After about two dozen tries throughout the afternoon, the crew aboard Maverick II heard the VHF call.
I ended up staying in Nassau three days being a nurse to the First Mate. I finally left Tim in a hotel room on Paradise Island with sufficient cash and food, because I had to return to the boat to set sail for Bermuda.
Tim caught a plane back to Rochester a few days after that, where he is now, healing at his parents’ house. We expect him to rejoin us in Egypt or Malta.
Next week: Forget beautiful Bermuda, we’ll skip to stop three, the Azores.