The sun was setting off the coast of Panama this week as the 285-foot superyacht Lonian sat securely anchored next to its spectacular 216-foot support catamaran yacht, Hodor. Among Hodor’s cargo is five tenders, including a 55-foot chase boat, Jet Skis, and quad bikes. The support yacht also prominently features its own custom hospital with a private nurse and 20-person crew for its billionaire owners.
Most yachts over 300 feet contain mini-hospitals, or secure medical rooms, and yacht nurse staffing agencies can barely keep up with the increase in demand following the coronavirus outbreak. As yacht owners find themselves virtually isolated in their foreign locations, the need for onboard medical protection is an urgent necessity.
“COVID-19 has impacted the yachting industry heavily,” says Alex Haubrich of Yachtie World. “Many crew members have lost their jobs and are stranded away from home and family. Some owners are using their vessels for social distancing, which is understandable, but some are running with half the crew or less, which means the demand for the remaining crew members is increasing. A lot of employed yacht crew are panicking as they don’t know whether or not their jobs or health are in jeopardy.”
And with maritime movement now increasingly restricted, many yachts are stuck in their destinations while territorial waters, including the French Mediterranean Sea is prohibited for docking. Antigua and Barbuda have banned inbound traffic from North America and Europe. The Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands have restricted activity to only essential services, and St. Maarten has closed its waters to all foreign vessels, including superyachts. Nobody is allowed to disembark for any reason.
One superyacht nurse staffing agency Wilson Halligan currently advertises the nursing position as less glamorous than it may sound, since it often means nurses also act as stewardesses: “A nurse/stewardess is expected to maintain the onboard medical ward and nursing stations. This would include stock take, ordering supplies and recording inventories. Depending on the yacht owners’ health, they may be required for certain medical duties; otherwise, they are on standby awaiting the need for medical attention. There are often two nurses working together and sometimes even an onboard doctor on some of the much larger vessels.”
While the yacht nurse is part of the interior team, they often perform double duty and assist in housekeeping and service, and the gig usually lasts five months on and one month off. One yacht nurse aboard a megayacht (who wishes to remain anonymous) tells me she had to deal with an owner with a sudden traumatic injury, and they were too far from any land to helicopter them out.
The yacht she works on has an x-ray machine and a Hyperbaric chamber. She ended up taking care of the client with medication and an IV as the yacht continued its course closer to shore for surgery and medevac. All yacht nurses need an ENG1 Medical Certificate, and most have at least two years of experience working as a registered nurse.