Nautical safety: How to save a life on board a yacht

Offered By Pharmacy Progres

At sea there is a greater chance of an accident occurring because it is wild, unpredictable and can become hostile when you least expect it.

Pharmacy Progrés has commenced a campaign for nautical safety as it is fully committed to doing everything it can to solve a health problem on a yacht or superyacht.

There are three basic pillars when faced with a health problem at sea:

  1. Radio-medical consultation
  2. Crew health training
  3. Status and equipment of the first aid kit

It is on the status and provision of the first aid kit that Pharmacy Progrés comes into action. Our expertise in first aid kits has allowed us to launch a series of products that help those on board to act immediately in an emergency. When there is no time for a radio, medical consultation and speed will determine success – and ultimately the health of the person involved.

It is obligatory to carry a well-equipped first aid kit, depending on the flag of the ship and its characteristics. However, there are devices that play a very important role in saving a life at sea which are not obligatory for all boats.

In this guide we look at three potentially life-saving devices that we believe are essential at sea: a defibrillator, an anti-throat device and an emergency team with oxygen therapy.

Opened medical kit for yachts and superyachts


Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. In Spain there are about 50,000 cardiac arrests per year, with 45,000 deaths from this cause. And throughout Europe every day there are 1,000 deaths from cardiac arrest, which would be the equivalent of two jumbo jets crashing every day with no survivors.

It is crucial to intervene within the first 3-4 minutes after a cardiac arrest as it can increase the chances of survival by more than 50 per cent.

The semi-automatic defibrillator is very simple to use: it analyses the patient's heart rhythm and then recommends applying an electric shock to re-establish it, should it be necessary. A cardiac arrest does not have to be the result of a disease or biological ageing; it can happen to anyone.

The best advice is to have it on board, especially if you are going to make long trips or are responsible for a crew.

Anti-throttling device

Another essential item is an anti-throat device. It takes up little space and is so simple that anyone can use it.

We are not as aware of it, but choking is the third largest unnatural cause of death in Spain, before road accidents.

Choking occurs immediately and this generates a lot of anguish for anybody in the vicinity. If you are faced with a situation like this, the best advice is to encourage coughing: it is the natural mechanism for unblocking. However, if the cough is ineffective because of a complete obstruction, the person may become unconscious.

This can have very serious consequences. If no oxygen is able to reach the brain, brain damage can occur in just 4 minutes – and in just 10 minutes the brain can die completely. In this short time, we depend on the health training and the serenity of the crew to be able to carry out the manoeuvre with skill.

In a case of complete obstruction, and as long as the person is conscious, the best advice is to begin the Heimlich manoeuvre; but if we do not know if it’s a pregnant woman or a baby (under 12 months old), an anti-trapping device can easily, quickly and effectively unblock the airways.

Superyacht medical kit in front of an orange vessel

Emergency equipment with oxygen therapy

What can be done in the event of a respiratory emergency such as an asthmatic crisis, inhalation poisoning, a diving accident or even a respiratory blockage?

You must administer oxygen using a complete set of equipment, as we not only need an oxygen cylinder with the mask, but it is also useful to accompany it with a manual resuscitator (especially if we are faced with a respiratory blockage). Traditional oxygen systems are complicated to use and it can take time for crews to transport the bottles to the site of the accident.

In these cases, it is essential to be quick in administering oxygen and to start with the manual resuscitator if necessary.

At Pharmacy Progrés we have an emergency team that has a lightweight oxygen cylinder accompanied by the manual resuscitator. It doesn’t require special storage, it doesn’t pollute the environment and most importantly it can save a life.

Carrying your first-aid kit, having the health guide provided by the marina's social institute at hand and having easy-to-use devices that can save lives are exactly the tools that Pharmacy Progrés recommends all yachts and superyachts to have on board at all times.

Given its benefits we would also strongly advise basic training in first aid, should it be possible.

Find out more about Pharmacy Progrés. Alternatively, you can read further articles on Medical Supplies and Services.

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