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Treating marine stings and rudderless voyaging

Jan 1, 2003

I would like to respond to a pair of articles from the recent edition of Ocean Voyager (Issue No. 59). Regarding the Ocean Almanac item on stings (p. 65), we here in Chesapeake Bay are painfully familiar with jellyfish stings. Nearly every year, the bay is literally filled with "sea nettles," as they are called here. I have been doing sting research for some years and must take issue with the treatment advice given in that piece. Jellyfish toxin, like many others, is a large protein. I doubt that the 5% acetic acid solution has much effect on it. I recommend a paste made up of ordinary kitchen meat tenderizer mixed with water and spread over the affected area. Shaving or scraping the area does help. Older tenderizers were made from powdered papaya latex and were very effective in combating the toxin. Because of health problems related to handling the latex, however, many manufacturers have switched to a pineapple enzyme, which is less effective.

As for Steve Callahan's article on rudder repair ("Rudder rebuilds"), I should like to offer another possible approach: doing nothing. My old skipper, the late Clayton Ewing, racing his 57-foot Sparkman and Stephens yawl Dyna to England, lost his rudder about halfway across the Atlantic, spent a day trying to innovate a jury rig (in heavy weather), before finally giving up and sailing 2,000 miles rudderless to a third-place finish.

He later said that had he concentrated from the outset on sail trim and not a jury rudder, he might have won the race! I believe that most good junior sailing programs teach rudderless maneuvering. Dyna always had a superb crew and, being a yawl, had plenty of sail options. Perhaps the average sailor might not be able to copy Clayton, but it did work.

William L. Wrightson, Jr., is a licensed master living in Easton, Md.


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