Cruising for a Boozing

15 April 2008 By Kate Hubert

After a long day scrubbing decks in the blazing Mediterranean sun, is there a more beautiful sound in the world than the inviting hiss of an ice cold beer being opened?

Ah, glorious refreshment...

While off-charter and in port, most yacht crews are permitted to drink after work; some are even allocated an allowance of beer and wine. While sometimes things can get a little rowdy – we are talking about crew, after all – can you tell when the drinking is getting seriously out-of-control? And should you worry when it does?

Most superyacht crews are young, fit individuals who let off steam with the help of a drink or two after the work is done. We all recognize, and in many cases appreciate, when alcoholic beverages become a part of our lively social scene. The drinks act as a social lubricant and a catalyst for conversation, particularly when crews are thrown together.

“A charter season can be long… That means you are stressed, you have to get along and swallow a lot of frustration,” says Stefanie Först, stewardess. “So as soon as there is a break the crew usually gets off the yacht and ends up absolutely hammered: Frustration drowned in alcohol and ready for the next charter.”

These blow-outs are usually pretty harmless, but we’ve all heard the tales of when they are not, such as the crew who thought its beer allowance had been cut until they realized the mate was getting through a whole crate of beer himself in one sitting.

That’s just wrong...

So how do you tell when social drinking becomes problem drinking for captains and crew?

Someone who is an alcohol abuser clearly drinks way too much on a regular basis. Their drinking is self-destructive and can be a danger to others, but they have some measure of control over their drinking.

Alcohol and boating can be a dangerous cocktail – Does the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster ring a bell? In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard recognizes that 20-25 percent of recreational boating accidents are caused by, or linked to drinking alcohol, and that alcohol-related incidents are responsible for half of all boating deaths. That is a sobering statistic indeed.

What about the morning after a night of seemingly harmless and social binge drinking? Just as you may still be caught for DUI on land after a serious bender, a night of blotto before boating may mean you’re turning up on deck legally drunk. And that’s nothing to laugh about.

“Big hangovers cause big mistakes,” says Jock Ferreira, captain of the appropriately named M/V Amnesia.

While we are all aware of the dangers, sometimes the symptoms of alcoholism can escape us – especially when they are evident in our closest of friends and crew buddies.

Here are some signs of likely alcohol abuse:
• Continuing to drink even though you have health problems that are affected or caused by your drinking
• Putting yourself or others in danger
• Continuing to drink even though you realize your job is in jeopardy
• Missing work, or going in late due to alcohol use
• Feeling annoyed or defensive when other people comment on, or criticize your drinking habits
• Feeling remorse or guilt after drinking
• Scheduling your day around drinking
• Focusing recreational activities around obtaining alcohol, drinking or recovering from alcohol use   
• Drinking alone or in secret

People who abuse alcohol can usually turn things around themselves when they realize there is a problem. If one of your colleagues is showing these signs, try to talk to them about it, and help them break the destructive patterns of behavior. Because if they continue drinking, it may be nearly impossible to stop…