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Boozing And Boating Can Only Lead To Bad News

, , , , , , , , , | Healthy | September 14, 2022

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a medical nature. It is not intended as medical advice.


My boyfriend and I offer sailing holidays. People book a berth in a cabin and live and sail with us for one week. This, of course, means that we actually live with our customers and spend A LOT of time with them in very limited space.

I used to work as a nurse until March 2017. During training, we theoretically learned first aid in a “wild” setting, but that’s very different from emergencies in hospitals where you have a big crew and the right equipment. Still, you know the basics, and you learn how to calmly analyse the situation before making decisions. One of the guests in this story was (is, probably) a gynecologist working in a delivery room, so the situation was pretty much the same for her.

This happened during the summer of 2017, in a marina in Italy.

We arrived at the marina at noon because of an incoming gale. The crew was a bit grumpy over the short day out, but safety first. Next to us was another boat that had stayed in all day, opting for drinking and enjoying the sun in the cockpit instead. They were already pretty drunk.

Our crew got out some bottles of wine and started drinking, too. They were all adults, so there was nothing wrong with that. (Our guests aren’t allowed to drink before or during sailing. Afterward, it’s up to them.) There was a decently-sized motor yacht on the other side. The owner was lonely and invited all of us over. Our crew (minus my boyfriend and I) and some of the neighbours went.

A few hours later, all but two of our guests came back, claiming it was just too much for them. Everyone was drinking very heavily. Those who stayed were the gynecologist and her friend.

In the evening, [Friend] came back; he needed to use the loo. He was angry because the yacht owner would only let him use the one on board if he took his shoes off. (Never, ever enter someone’s boat with shoes on; that’s a huge faux pas. The yacht owner was not asking for something unreasonable with his request.) [Friend] stomped back to our boat, but instead of using the toilet, he just peed on our gangway and started an argument. It was annoying and embarrassing.

We went to bed around midnight. [Gynecologist] and [Friend] were still partying. At four in the morning, [Friend] rushed into our cabin.

Friend: *Yelling* “Someone fell in the water! We need help!”

We rushed over, just in time to see people managing to drag one of the girls from the neighbouring boat back up onto the dock. [Gynecologist] acted correctly and put her in a recovery position, and the woman started to vomit water. The others told us that the girl was leaving the yacht and fell off the gangway, went under the dock, and resurfaced on the other side. Bad, bad, bad. Port and marina waters are notoriously dirty and nothing you want to swim in, even less inhale.

We ran over and my brain was in nurse mode, analysing and planning what to do. My boyfriend and I told the yacht owner to call for an ambulance. This is where [Gynecologist] started to forget her training. She was absolutely wasted and in no condition to be practicing medicine. 

Gynecologist: *Slurring loudly* “An ambulance isn’t necessary! She just needs to sleep it off!”

The woman was in and out of consciousness. My brain was remembering something from training about secondary drowning; she definitely needed an ambulance. As the yacht owner called for one, I rushed back on board my boat to get blankets and then went to guide the ambulance to the right place. After a few minutes, I could hear yelling from the dock and went back.

When I brought the blankets, it kick-started the medical training in [Gynecologist].

Gynecologist: *Screaming at my boyfriend* “You need to get infusions! I need to put in an IV line!”

Boyfriend: “What? No.”

Gynecologist: “You’re a murderer!”

Boyfriend: “One, we don’t have that stuff on board, and two, even if we had it, I would not let you near anyone with a needle in the shape that you’re in.”

More screaming followed.

When the EMTs finally arrived, [Gynecologist] refused to move over so that they could reach the woman. She was trying to explain to them in slurred, drunken German what had happened and was hovering over the woman. The Italian EMTs, of course, couldn’t understand a word that she was saying and were trying to get her out of the way.

Boyfriend: “Would you just move over and let the professionals do their job already?!”

During that time, I was knocking on the door of the neighbour’s boat, trying to wake them up. Someone would need to accompany the woman to the hospital and bring her papers. They were really annoyed at me banging at their boat in the middle of the night. When I told them what had happened, one man let out a loooooong, annoyed sigh and called her name. It sounded like it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.

The next day, [Friend] apologized for his behavior the previous day; he was super embarrassed. [Gynecologist], not so much. She saw my boyfriend and screamed at him again.


And she stormed off. She kept her word until two days later. Then, she got wasted again and started crying. She felt so belittled because he had called the EMTs “professionals,” and she felt that he didn’t take her seriously as a doctor. She refused to accept that she had been drunk.

The woman who fell off the boat was admitted to the hospital. She was in the ICU for two weeks. She had severe pneumonia from aspirating the dirty marina water, and according to our neighbours, she was close to dying from secondary drowning.

I know that a lot of people associate boating with drinking, but it can turn dangerous so, so fast. The woman was lucky to survive.

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