It has been a long last few days made easier by friends and family. If you haven’t already seen the instagram @camkirkconnell photo of my finger or heard the rumors of what happened here it goes.
I’m ok, it could have been a lot worse and I’m just glad it was not one of the kids on the boat or any worse. It was 100% avoidable as are most accidents and happened in the blink of an eye.
I’ve spent my life on the water and around boats and am an unlimited tonnage ship captain and never in my career have I or one of my crew had this same injury. It is infuriating, embarrassing, and painful to be scarred for life, out of work, and have to deal with something that was avoidable.
We were on a 27′ center console pulling alongside for the first time to a 100′ mother ship. There was a 3′ sea and as we came alongside a crew member threw me a bow line with an eye in it. The single cleat on the bow was the pop up type and you had to manually hold it up to get the line through. Normally you can push the eye through with one hand and grab it with the other easily with two fingers on the outside of the line keeping your hands clear but this one was broken or of ill design and had to be held up.
As soon as I passed the eye (loop) through the cleat I barely touch it with my middle finger to pull it through when the boat dropped down on a wave and the mate on the big boat tied the line off.
It came tight and with the efficiency of a cigar cutter sheared my finger tip off at the last joint instantly as the cleat dropped down and the line was snatched through it resulting in this.
It was our first day, first ten minutes, first ride on either boat and first encounter with the crew and boats. As soon as it happened I gave a shrug to the mate, as if to say “WTF?”, and clamped down on the tip to compress and stop the bleeding asap.
I was able to stop it quickly, get a medical kit and dress the wound keeping it elevated as we headed straight back to shore and then to the airport. We were in a remote area of the Bahamas and luckily it was only one of two days of the week there were flights back to Nassau.
Long story short, got to Nassau and at the hospital there they could not provide a doctor to work on my hand and gave me a poor solution to fixing it and after seeing them fumble through bandaging and putting me in an unbelievable amount of pain and bleeding I told them I was leaving and made arrangements to fly to the USA the next morning.
I had found my finger and immediately put it in a sterile plastic bag and on ice until I reached the doctor who used a small portion of it to do a skin graft.
The X-rays showed the bone sheared off just ahead of the last knuckle. The doctor did a great job and I’m on the way to recovering but it is unfortunate it happened on the first day of a 14 day trip and scarred for life from something completely avoidable. It could have been worse. I am glad it was not one of the kids on the boat or one of my clients who were wonderful in helping me get home and take care of me throughout.
The day before I was blessed to shoot a pending world record King Mackerel with my pole spear stoning it with one of my best friends Brad Thornbrough alongside me which was small consolation to think about amidst the pain.
OF all the dangers of this sport it is boats that scare me the most. Being run over, cut by propellors and line injuries like this are something we need to be very aware of. As a ship captain I’ve taken, taught, and written dozens of HAND SAFETY seminars and safety meetings and been blessed to never have one of my crew or clients every injured in this way. That it happened to me just goes to show you can never be careful enough or aware enough of new places, gear, and people you are working with.
I appreciate the well wishes and the smart ass comments they cheer me up.
I feel robbed of more than just the missed work, finger and pride but am thankful for everything that happened since the accident and those that helped me get through it.
Dive safe and feel free to post some great comments. So far my friends have had some hilarious things to say to distract me from the realization that when I give people the finger it may now only be 75% effective.
Of the many lessons learned, my having medical training and a level head throughout was the most important to stabilizing the situation, stopping the bleeding and giving the best chance of avoiding infection. Get a first aid class and keep gauze and tape on the boat. a tourniquet helps too but you can make one easily from your weightbelt in most cases.