Latest Surfski News

Monday, 22 March 2021 10:35
[Given a recent encounter with bluebottles here in Cape Town, South Africa, this article from 2007 is hereby recycled as being very relevant!] On a 2007 "Miller's Run" on singles in a big South-Easter, from Miller's Point to Fish Hoek, about 20 minutes into the paddle, my paddling partner Gavin Gottschalk and I were stung by bluebottles.
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Monday, 22 March 2021 10:35
[Given a recent encounter with bluebottles here in Cape Town, South Africa, this article from 2007 is hereby recycled as being very relevant!] On a 2007 "Miller's Run" on singles in a big South-Easter, from Miller's Point to Fish Hoek, about 20 minutes into the paddle, my paddling partner Gavin Gottschalk and I were stung by bluebottles.
Read more...
Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:54
It’s not easy to catch a rolling, runaway single ski in 30kt of gusting wind – and as they attempted to grab it, Alex and his doubles partner lost their balance and fell into the water. By the time they’d remounted, the single ski was gone – blown away by the strengthening near-gale. They turned and paddled back upwind to find their buddy.
Read more...
Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:54
It’s not easy to catch a rolling, runaway single ski in 30kt of gusting wind – and as they attempted to grab it, Alex and his doubles partner lost their balance and fell into the water. By the time they’d remounted, the single ski was gone – blown away by the strengthening near-gale. They turned and paddled back upwind to find their buddy.
Read more...
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:08
Accident reports are easy to write when the story ends happily, but this one didn’t and it’s with a very heavy heart that I’m writing this, with a view to learning what we can from it.
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Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:08
Accident reports are easy to write when the story ends happily, but this one didn’t and it’s with a very heavy heart that I’m writing this, with a view to learning what we can from it.
Read more...
Wednesday, 15 July 2020 09:13
When the NSRI found Duncan MacDonald, he was approximately 6km off Smitswinkel Bay, drifting rapidly further offshore. Gale-force squalls whipped sheets of spray off the waves, reducing visibility almost to nothing. What Happened? Given the small size of the surfski community, there’s always intense interest whenever there’s a rescue. What happened? What did they do wrong? What can we learn from it? Clearly there are lessons to be learnt from any mishap – so here’s a description of what happened, shared with the permission and cooperation of the folks involved in the hope that we might all learn from this…
Wednesday, 15 July 2020 09:13
When the NSRI found Duncan MacDonald, he was approximately 6km off Smitswinkel Bay, drifting rapidly further offshore. Gale-force squalls whipped sheets of spray off the waves, reducing visibility almost to nothing. What Happened? Given the small size of the surfski community, there’s always intense interest whenever there’s a rescue. What happened? What did they do wrong? What can we learn from it? Clearly there are lessons to be learnt from any mishap – so here’s a description of what happened, shared with the permission and cooperation of the folks involved in the hope that we might all learn from this…
Friday, 24 April 2020 11:41
Durban – As the continued coronavirus lockdown grips the country, Canoeing South Africa will host a 24 hour Canoeing4COVID-19 event this weekend as a way to raise funds for members of the broader paddling community that have been badly affected by the lockdown.
Read more...
Friday, 24 April 2020 11:41
Durban – As the continued coronavirus lockdown grips the country, Canoeing South Africa will host a 24 hour Canoeing4COVID-19 event this weekend as a way to raise funds for members of the broader paddling community that have been badly affected by the lockdown.
Read more...
Wednesday, 11 March 2020 14:35
“Hey, Rob! Help!” The shouts penetrated the sound of the howling wind and crashing waves – and even through the noise it was obvious from the tone of his voice that something was seriously wrong. I turned and headed back upwind.
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Wednesday, 11 March 2020 14:35
“Hey, Rob! Help!” The shouts penetrated the sound of the howling wind and crashing waves – and even through the noise it was obvious from the tone of his voice that something was seriously wrong. I turned and headed back upwind.
Read more...
Tuesday, 03 March 2020 14:43
Many paddlers use Personal Locator Beacons, or tracker apps like SafeTrx on their mobile phones. But handheld VHF radios are also a great choice to consider – especially when they’re DSC-capable like the Standard Horizon HX870E.
Read more...
Tuesday, 03 March 2020 14:43
Many paddlers use Personal Locator Beacons, or tracker apps like SafeTrx on their mobile phones. But handheld VHF radios are also a great choice to consider – especially when they’re DSC-capable like the Standard Horizon HX870E.
Read more...
Monday, 24 February 2020 12:01
I finally got my hands on a demo Fennix Swordfish S this weekend and did two Miller's Runs in succession to see if I could feel any difference in handling between the 2018 Swordfish S and the new Fennix model.  Conditions were challenging: False Bay was covered in whitecaps, whipped by a combination of a 25-30kt southeaster and small, confused seas.  The result?  I definitely want to spend more time in this boat.
Read more...

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Bluebottles - Unexpected Danger

Monday, 22 March 2021 10:35 | Written by  Gary Kroukamp
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Bluebottles - Unexpected Danger

[Given a recent encounter with bluebottles here in Cape Town, South Africa, this article from 2007 is hereby recycled as being very relevant!]

On a 2007 "Miller's Run" on singles in a big South-Easter, from Miller's Point to Fish Hoek, about 20 minutes into the paddle, my paddling partner Gavin Gottschalk and I were stung by bluebottles.

Severe Stings

He was stung severely with a bluebottle tentacle wrapped around his calf, and, within seconds, apart from the intense pain of the sting itself, he noticed a sensation of swelling at the back of his throat.  Gavin is a dermatologist and I am an ENT specialist, so we both understood the implications of this symptom.  Severe allergic reactions can proceed rapidly to anaphylaxis where the throat and voice box may become so swollen that the airway becomes blocked off and the sufferer literally chokes to death. Gavin had been stung once before as a child which must have sensitized his immune system and this second sting had initiated an allergic reaction.

Explosive Tracheotomy?

At this point we were about 1.5 km off shore doing a downwind run in big swell and we were both naturally quite worried about what might happen to Gavin.  Anywhere else, even without medical equipment, I could probably have helped by performing a tracheotomy should the worst happen, but out here all I could think of using was my hand held flare to blast a hole in his trachea.  Not a method I've seen described and not something I was ever looking forward to trying out.    It sounds dramatic, but this was what was going through my mind...

Fortunately, his throat swelling seemed to stabilize and his breathing remained clear and we decided to press on to Fish Hoek, to my car and cellphone, rather than turning left towards Simonstown with the difficulties of the wind and swell hitting us side-on. 

Fortunately he didn't develop an asthma attack, which can happen in these cases, and fortunately he wasn't stung again.  When we reached the beach I had a look at Gavin's throat with a torch and noted that his uvula (the part of the soft palate which hangs down at the back of the throat) was still quite swollen.  In addition, his lymph nodes in the groin, draining the sting site were significantly swollen, but everything settled down over the next half an hour and we didn't need to get him to hospital. One of the treatments for anaphylaxis is an adrenaline injection, but perhaps the huge amount of natural adrenaline flowing around his body from doing his first Miller's run helped to prevent a more serious reaction.

Bluebottle Research

We were prompted to do a bit of research on bluebottles and found out that allergic reactions are well described. It might be prudent for paddlers known to have an allergy or asthma to avoid paddling when bluebottles are around and to carry an adrenaline syringe in a kit form.  They are available from pharmacies, usually for people with bee sting allergy.

Bluebottles are the common name for the genus Physalia.  They are also called Portuguese Men o' War.  There are 2 common species, the larger Physalia physalis, common in the Atlantic, especially in the Carribean but also world-wide, and the smaller single-tentacled Physalia utriculus, common in the Indian and Pacific. Deaths have been reported after stings from physalis but it is utriculus that is usually responsible for stings of beach-goers in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and South Africa.  Here is a picture of the scary-looking Physalis.

 

It has a sail, filled with Nitrogen and Carbon dioxide, which may reflect left or right.  This determines the direction it is pushed by the wind, sailing at 45 degrees to the wind and 90 degrees to the other group, so that either group may escape being washed ashore.  Interestingly, it is not a single organism, but a colony of 4 (the float, the tentacles, the digestive polyps and the reproductive polyps).  Tentacles may be 3 to 10 meters in length and have muscles which contract to fish, grab prey, usually small fish and crustaceans and drag them within reach of the digestive polyps. There are millions of stinging cells, called nematocysts, along the tentacle. 

They are among the most complex intracellular structures known. Each is a hollow sphere turned in at one point to form a hollow containing a thread with barbs. This shoots outward when triggered to inject a poison of phenols and proteins through a pore at the tip.

discharge process

Intense Pain

Intense pain may be experienced for several hours and swollen lymph nodes and blisters may develop.  Muscle aches and respiratory problems may occur.  First aid is to remove the tentacle by washing it off or using tweezers or a gloved hand.  Ice packs and local anesthetic spray will help with pain, and hot water (above 45 degrees C) will render the poison inactive. 

Rubbing the area, or using vinegar or urine is not recommended as this may stimulate further stings to be released.  Histamine is released and this may precipitate an asthma attack and cause lymph node swelling.  Some of the visible response and certainly the airway problems may be allergic in nature.

[Update:  this 2018 article from Australia suggests that vinegar is back in favour as treatment for these stings.  It also emphasises that it's important to get the stings off ASAP.  Note that the stings don't penetrate finger skin, so you can pick the tendrils off with your fingers.]

Avoid Getting Stung

The last question of relevance to paddlers is how to avoid getting stung in the first place.  Of course, not getting onto the water is an option, as is wearing long sleeve vests, leggings, gloves and water shoes.  Bluebottle tentacles are typically picked up by the paddle blade and swung onto the body with the next stroke, or they are washed into the boat when "swamped". 

I recommend pausing in the paddle stroke when one is spotted to allow the bluebottle to slide past, and putting the blade in ahead of the float so as to avoid the trailing tentacles.  Getting the tentacle off when it is wrapped around you is quite difficult while paddling, but wait until you can brace on one side and try to wash it off on the other.  Easier said than done!

NOTE: Bluebottle stings don't penetrate the skin on your fingers, so you can pick the tentacles off without harm.  It's important to do this promptly to reduce the level of poison injected by the tentacles.

 

More Information

Further information at the following websites:

http://activehandtherapy.com.au/news/treatment-of-bluebottle-stings/

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Physalia_physalis.html

http://amonline.net.au/factsheets/bluebottle.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_Man_o'_War