We experienced a big dose of reality this evening about the unseen risks and challenges associated with traveling by sea. About 5 pm, an all ship announcement was made for the medical team to respond to a cabin very near us. We surmised it must be a serious situation for an announcement like that to be made. Around 7 pm the Captain announced that the ship was going to deviate from its course and head for the east of coast of Quebec to meet a Canadian Coast Guard cutter so that a passenger could be evacuated to the hospital. He said that the passenger could not be evacuated by helicopter due to their medical condition.
The Captain told us that about 8 pm, the ship would come to a stop and turn in an effort to create a smooth sea on the leeward side of the ship. The Canadian Coast Guard cutter was anticipated to be in the area when we arrived and would then come along side. As it turned out, the cutter was not on scene when we stopped and a waiting game began. Upon their arrival, some 20 to 30 minutes later, the first attempt to bring the two ships along side of each other ended in failure. The opening in the ship was far too high to meet up with the deck of the cutter and there were no good locations for securing cutter deck lines to the ship. Despite being on the leeward side of the ship, the seas were lumpy adding to the difficulty of the situation.
The ship’s crew immediately went to plan B and opened one large door on the side of the ship that they use for tender operations. That didn’t work either. They could not secure the cutter safely to the ship. The crew then opened a second tender door. This finally allowed the cutter to come along side and get a bow line securely attached. Despite the somewhat rough seas, the ships crew transferred the patient, a family member and the ship’s medial team on to the cutter. All this took well over 30 minutes. The cutter then departed, heading for the nearest port and medical attention for the passenger. We continued to remain dead in the water until the cutter could return the ship’s medical team to the ship later in the evening. Once they were on board, we resumed our course to Halifax.
With all the beauty of the ocean and the hypnotic rocking of the ship, it is easy to forget that help was often never really that close by when we might have needed it. The ship is huge…..How could things go wrong to the point where we would need help? We all are accustomed to and feel secure with the idea that help is just a phone call away. In this case, it wasn’t. In the end, it took the efforts of ship’s medical staff, the crew, the Canadian Coast Guard and the passing of a great deal of precious time to get help for the person in need. A bright spot in all this was the fact it all took place nearly within eyesight of land and a port with a coast guard station.
We wish the passenger and their family well and hope that this story has a happy outcome for all of them. We hold them in our thoughts and wishes for a speedy recovery……