Common First-Aid Issues on Yachts and How to Handle Them

While the vast majority of time spent aboard is a joyous, relaxing experience second to none, it is important to be prepared for those times when things are less than optimal. And that includes when medical issues arise and need to be handled quickly and efficiently. The team here at Isabella Yachts Phuket have gained a huge amount of experience and knowledge in all things maritime and would like to share some of our thoughts about first aid at sea. In this article, we will take a detailed look at some common first-aid issues you might expect to encounter when spending time on yachts and how best to mitigate and handle them. The first and, perhaps, most useful piece of advice of all is:

Take a first aid at sea training course

There is no better way to be prepared to handle anything than to learn from professionals exactly how to act in any given situation. Emergencies often spiral out of control because nobody has the confidence or know-how to take charge of the situation and instruct others on how to act. Learn how to handle difficult moments with calm, assertive words and actions by completing an accredited first aid at sea course.

Avoiding accidents altogether

As in any environment presenting certain risks, the best way to deal with them is to be trained in advance and have the requisite supplies should the worst-case scenario become reality. Most boating injuries occur due to a lack of knowledge and preparation or negligence, including:

  • Cuts

Before embarking on any journey, ask the captain to walk you around the vessel and highlight any potential sharp surfaces or objects to avoid grabbing when moving around at sea. Thinner ropes and strings can burn the skin or slice the flesh, especially when wet.

  • Slips and falls

First and foremost, ensure all members of your party are wearing appropriate footwear and that any areas prone to becoming slippery have appropriate rough surfaces to prevent the issue as much as possible. Instruct first-timers in the correct, safe way to ascend and descend ship ladders and dangerous areas to look out for. It pays to remember that not everyone is lithe and sure-footed, even at the best of times, so do not neglect your elderly passengers and do what you can to make them feel safe and comfortable.

  • Drowning

Everyone on board should wear a life jacket so the chances of falling overboard and drowning are drastically reduced.

First aid at sea: when accidents do happen

While the risks of injury at sea are reasonably low, some are unique to this type of activity and can result in medical issues not experienced on land.

  • The first thing to do is remain calm

No matter the severity of the situation or the potential outcomes, there is nothing to be gained from allowing panic to set in. This sense of calm, robotic actions in the face of danger and injury is something that can be learned, and if you choose to take a first-aid course beforehand, this will go a long way towards giving you a sense of purpose and control in the face of adversity.

Fishing Injuries

Injuries when dealing with frantic, slippery fish can happen in an instant and be serious if not handled correctly. Some dangers to consider include:

  • Landed fish may have sharp fins and teeth

Wear appropriate gloves and other protective equipment. Do not discard removed hooks haphazardly and avoid going barefoot around fishing gear.

  • Fish hooks are treacherous and painful to find embedded in the flesh

Do not attempt to remove fish hooks from sensitive areas like eyes or if embedded near joints or deep in the muscle. Seek trained medical assistance immediately.


Fish knives are razor-sharp, but deep lacerations can come from a whole array of places, especially if there is a galley on board. The procedure for dealing with deep cuts bleeding profusely is as follows:

  • Apply direct pressure to the wound with a sterile gauze pad
  • Elevate the injury above the level of the heart to restrict blood flow
  • Return to the shore and seek assistance

A note of caution: tourniquets should only be used as a last-ditch attempt to stop bleeding if all else fails. Remember, the tourniquet must go closer to the torso than the wound, a mistake easily made in the chaos and panic exacerbated by severe injuries.

Overboard emergencies

If you believe a person is drowning, throw them a flotation device and enlist the help of others to get them onto the vessel. Begin CPR if you are confident the person is not breathing and/or has no pulse.

Other medical emergencies

Some less common medical emergencies you might encounter range from heart attacks and strokes to broken bones, and even snake bites. Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of each and the steps you must take to protect the victim in each case.

  • Purchase a reputable published book on medical emergencies or make yourself a notebook to carry with you and refresh your memory when necessary.

Create a bespoke first-aid kit

There are undoubtedly companies who can provide all of the items we have discussed here in one handy kit, but they might be difficult to source, especially if you are already on location. Typical household, store-bought first aid kits will not be sufficient for an expedition on the water, but there is no reason you cannot put together your own. Consider including:

  • Antiseptic solution
  • First aid cream
  • Adhesive bandages and tape
  • Disposable applicators
  • Gauze pads
  • Sterile dressing compresses
  • Cold packs and short splints

Contact us

We hope you found some of these tips and suggestions for first aid at sea useful and that you will head out onto the water feeling prepared and never need to use any of them. If you want to learn more about the fun side of time spent on the crystal waters, please enquire about chartering one of our incredible vessels. With our options for a fully crewed yacht charter in Phuket, you can rest easy knowing you have trained first aid responders on board.

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