Home' Afloat : AFLOAT April 2016 Contents 58 AFLOAT.com.au April 2016
*John Quirk has been writing about
and illustrating the joys of messing
about in boats for over half a century.
He is the author / illustrator of Foul
Bottoms, published by Adlard Coles
and available from Boat Books in
Crows Nest and from Amazon.
“Just small shark,” I shrugged off with
The first angle grinder attack occurred
because I had removed the removable
handle to get it into a tight location. Don’t
do this at home! The second time, the
blade had become damp which weakens
them. Keep them dry and toss any suspect
But none of the above really hurt. The
hospital staff asked me to grade pain levels
on a scale of one to ten. When you think
what burns victims and people in the
hands of the S.S . and the Japanese went
though during the war, I felt guilty giving
a score of three. And what about Churchill
donating skin grafts to his wounded mates
after the Battle of Omdurman in 1898,
without anaesthetic? Maybe he was into
the regimental medicinal brandy.
Stay with me, the pain will come later.
After the Lake Magadi self-nutting
expedition, I was at a remote fishing
village on the East African coast, watching
the fishermen spear their catches in the
shallow pools left behind as the tide
exposed the coral reef. One of them
suddenly let out a scream, dropped his
spear and tried to hobble up the beach
shrieking with pain as he did. There was a
pot of fish stew simmering on a driftwood
fire and he plunged his foot into it. Then
he passed out.
The language was more Arabic than its
close relative Swahili and it was hard for me
to understand. I caught odd words ‘sakami’
and ‘jiwe’ (‘stone’ and ‘fish’). I offered to
drive the victim to the nearest hospital
(two hours away) but the villagers made
it clear they would treat him themselves.
I realised later that this poor fellow
had stood on a stonefish, an amazingly
disguised and hideous creature which
can inflict heart-stoppingly poisonous
venom through its dorsal spines. I wish I
had stayed around to see how they treated
this ... you never know when this sort of
thing can come in useful ... like on Patonga
Creek 40 years later ...
A group of us has headed down to the
creek mouth in the outboard tinny for a
swim. As we shuffled into the shallows, I
felt something wriggle under my foot which
was the same size as it. I had trodden on
a size 91⁄2 fish.
Then it felt as if a red hot serrated
galvanised nail was being hammered
into the side of my foot. The pain was so
excruciating I felt on the verge of passing
out, but I was the only one who could
operate the recalcitrant outboard. We
keep a supply of frozen peas in the freezer
for the odd sprain or bruise, so with two
propped up looking like it caught a dose
of elephantiasis, but it is only a touch of
Baker’s cyst from trying to run like Djokovic
on the tennis court when something
occupational hazard among the bread
trade but like Bell’s Palsy, named after the
Dr who invented it.
But it has given me a chance to catch up
on my reading. You may have heard medical
concerns of new ailments becoming
resistant to antibiotics. Nottingham
University in the UK was frustrated that
the superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus) was one of these
infecting their patients.
In desperation, they tried the recipe
for an eye salve found in a ninth century
leather bound volume in Old English,
‘ Bald’s Leechbook’. A balanced mix of
garlic, onions, wine and bile from a cows
stomach wiped out an astonishing 90% of
the antibiotic resisting bacteria.
I wonder if it works with stingray
packets of baby peas on my foot, I was laid
in the back of the car and my wife and her
friend rushed me off to Gosford hospital.
Now I could relax and spent the journey
whimpering and occasionally passing
out of consciousness. The pain levels
must have been nudging about Force 6.
I have mentioned before that I seem to
get preferential service when brought
into casualty by an attractive woman in
a bathing costume. This time there were
two of them.
I was whisked into see the doctor just
as the pain ebbed out of my foot. After
some antiseptic treatment I was free to
go, but with the advice that for marine
stings and bites it is HOT water you need.
“It helps to dissipate the poison,” he
Which may explain why my Swahili
fisherman plunged his foot into the village
dinner. It was not to take the pain away but
the hot fluid helped dissolve the poison.
I wonder how they treated him all those
years ago? (Not with frozen peas). I should
have stayed around and paid attention.
Some of these ancient recipes are
astonishingly valid today. So now, when
easing into the creek for a swim, I shuffle
and thump the sand creating enough fuss
to alert any slumbering sting rays, just
like any dutiful wife leading her husband
through an Afghani minefield.
I am drafting this with my right leg
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