Avoiding the 'Dreaded Lurgy' On Board

10 September 2008 By Rubi McGrory

Here’s the scenario: On day two of a trip on board, a guest comes down with a cold. He blames it on some sniffly child on the plane ride at the start of his vacation.

The guest is mostly okay, but he can’t dive because his ears are blocked up, sleeps in every morning, naps every afternoon, and lays off the booze a little.

But before long a member of the crew starts sniffling; and then a second crewmember. The trash cans are filling up with tissues and flu powders and you are getting a queasy feeling in your gut.

You are up at 6 a.m. every morning, working until after midnight, maybe with an hour break or two in the afternoon. Of course, you are laying off the booze. You don’t have time to finish your coffee in the morning, so how are you supposed to linger over a glass of claret?

Can you save yourself? Can you escape what seems inevitable? Or will you become a victim of what our British friends call “the dreaded lurgy” – an unshakable illness that passes easily from person to person?

In yachting, we literally live on top of one another inside a floating container. We breathe the same air, touch the same door handles, and frequently use the same toilets. When one guest or crewmember comes down with a cold, like a breeze on a still day, we know it is going to ruffle us all.

Whenever possible, the offending germ carrier should be quarantined in the bilge, but this is rarely a viable option.

Some people have an amazing constitution, and never seem to come down with a cold. Others catch illnesses as if they were covered in germ Velcro. After guests have been on board for a while, and the 14-hour days start to take their toll, our immune systems get run down. That’s when things can get a little dicey.

Frequently if you feel a cold coming on, the best attack is lots of rest and a few early nights. This isn’t always possible when cocktails start at 8, dinner is served at 9 and you are serving drinks until well after midnight. Next best option: load up on vitamins.

Doctors and nutritionists don’t agree on whether vitamins, minerals and herbs are helpful at all in these matters. Some people swear by zinc (which tastes awful and can upset your stomach), vitamins B, B12 and C, and Echinacea.

But it is always a good idea to keep stocks of vitamins on board for this purpose, just in case. In Europe and Australia, Berocca is widely popular. A water-soluble fizzy tablet, it comes in a tube, like its American cousin, Airborne, and markets itself as an effervescent health formula.

Emergen-C, a purported health and energy enhancement powder in a packet, is another American remedy, which comes in a vast array of flavors. (These are reported to be very effective in hangover management as well.)*

Marsha Coates of M/Y Cherish keeps a huge supply of Emergen-C on board even when the guests aren't around.

“One time our freelance chef started feeling gross,” she laughs, “so I recommended she take two Emergen-C’s every hour. You know they are really fizzy, so after a few hours her stomach was puffed out and full of gas. She still got a pretty bad cold, and she had an awful stomach ache.”

There’s nowhere to hide on a superyacht, especially when you still have a lot of work to do with your crewmates to keep the guests happy.

So, what do you do when you are in the middle of a busy charter and you start to feel a cold coming on?

Do you have any pre-emptive cold remedies to share? Let us know what you do when the sniffles start. Leave your comments below.

Here's to good health...for you, the guests and all members of your crew.

*These health claims have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.