The deadly hazard of urination – don't pee off the rail

Don't pee over the railing! Image courtesy of Pantaenius Insurance.
Don't pee over the railing! Image courtesy of Pantaenius Insurance.

Have you ever heard of “Micturition syncope”? This is a fainting spell that can occur during or, more commonly, immediately after urination due to a severe drop in blood pressure. On board, such a collapse is not only particularly dangerous, but can also be fatal in the worst cases. Pantaenius, the yacht insurance specialist, explains the underestimated danger behind the supposedly short moment of relief and which preventive measures should be taken.

Almost every year there are accidents caused by urinating over the railing. Not all sailors get off as lightly as the New Zealander Todd Vercoe, who fell into the sea while peeing in 2014 and who swam continuously for three hours to reach land, then scratching the letters “SOS” into the sand. Vercoe was saved – many others do not benefit from such luck.

Although “man over board” is the most feared accident among sailors, comfort still prevails over safety for many: It's more convenient to head for the railing than to wriggle out of your oilskin and use the onboard facility. In bad weather in particular, many are also guilty of denying themselves a release for as long as possible – on the high seas, sailors often sit for hours in bulky and multi-layered protective clothing on a wet deck before they are forced to address a call of nature. In that instance, they have often waited far too long anyway, so the process has to be quick and uncomplicated. And this is exactly where the danger lurks; stumbling to leeward, holding the railing with one hand whilst there’s a slippery deck underfoot, and when the boat is heeling, this behaviour can quickly be fatal with just the smallest of waves.

Micturition syncope is the medical term for a dizzy or fainting spell when urinating. This can be especially prevalent if the bladder was overfilled before, with a sudden drop in blood pressure occuring during urination. The bout of fainting can last for up to a minute – half an eternity in water. This phenomenon is also behind the reason why so many men are involved in accidents in the calm waters of a harbour or an anchorage at night.

The sudden drop in blood pressure is controlled by the vegetative nervous system. This part of our nervous system regulates the processes within us, such as breathing, circulation and digestion, which are largely independent of consciousness.

On a sailing trip, the vegetative nervous system is often heavily stressed, already coping with seasickness, fatigue or the cold. This is another reason why micturition syncope occurs more commonly on board rather than in the home. When we add the additional health problems of many older men into the equation, the risk of sudden collapse increases further and any other pre-existing problems with the prostate gland can also prompt the fainting spell when urinating.
If another argument is needed for why men should relieve themselves whilst sitting on board – micturition syncope is one!

A Pantaenius Tip:

Avoid urinating at the railing and use the safer option of the on-board toilet, if available. Otherwise, in case of doubt, the good old bucket will serve as the same in the cockpit. It is important not to delay urination too long, especially if larger amounts of liquid have been absorbed. Alcohol, for example, is not only a trigger for overfilling the bladder, but also suppresses the conscious perception of it. If a trip to the railing is unavoidable, temporarily switch off the autopilot if activated and, if possible, leash yourself to the vessel.

For more handy tips on staying safe, go to https://www.pantaenius.com/

Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp

We are Hiring – Writer – Sailing News

We are seeking a talented journalist and sailor for Mysailing.com.au. You will be expected to  publish a large volume of news and feature content received by the site daily. You will work closely with a wide range of sources to...

Fifty plus teams for RORC Vice Admiral’s Cup

High performance racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club is back with the Vice Admiral’s Cup taking place in the Solent from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd May and over 50 teams have taken up the challenge for 2021. The...

New Zealand opens to yachts from Australia

The newly implemented air travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand, combined with an existing sea border exemption for vessels, means New Zealand is now open to business for cruising yachts and superyachts coming from Australia. The yachts can visit...

What you need to know about the new IMOCA rule

The new IMOCA rule, which will be applicable from 2022 to 2025, was voted on at the class association’s general assembly on April 15. To understand the main developments, Tip & Shaft interviewed the class president, Antoine Mermod. Also interviewed...

Wave attenuator construction great news for Eden

The Port of Eden is set to become a safe small boat harbour, with construction of a wave wall to begin this year. Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, confirmed Austral Construction has been awarded the tender for the project, which...

Realteam sailing wins TF35 Nyon

With just two points separating the leader, Realteam and second-placed Alinghi, there was the potential for an exciting showdown at the TF35 Nyon in Switzerland, but the weather decided otherwise, and racing cancelled, Realteam prevailed. Looking at the forecast overnight,...

Vendee Globe 2024: New Medallia for Pip Hare

British skipper Pip Hare and her sponsors, Medallia, have confirmed they are the new owners of the IMOCA Bureau Vallée 2, which Louis Burton sailed to third place on the last Vendée Globe, and which Armel Le Cléac’h sailed to...

I gots da fever: one man's journey to sailing

I had not been in control of a boat since I was 16 years old. Sure, that is not exactly true. We hired a tinny on the Sunshine Coast with the view to catching a fish. Fortunately, no fish were...

Realteam sailing hits the gas on Day 2 in Nyon

While on day one there was no stand-out team, today Esteban Garcia’s Realteam Sailing, co-skippered by Jérôme Clerc, had the bit between her teeth, posting an almost perfect 1 1 2 1 scoreline. Race 1 got underway in a steady...

InfoTrack’s quick rise to the top in MC38 class

Every new MC38 team knows it takes a season or two to get a handle on the nuances of the slippery one design keelboat, and usually much longer to climb past the class stalwarts – a couple of them with...

New SailGP racing speed record

As well as beating Australia to win the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess, Great Britain also dealt a further blow to the Aussies by breaking their SailGP racing speed record. Tom Slingsby’s team had held the F50...

Latest Posts

Latest

Read all of the latest Sailing News

Racing Posts

Racing

Dinghy and Yacht Racing News

Offshore Posts

Offshore

News from the Offshore World

Cruising & Destinations Posts

Cruising & Destinations

Cruising Stories from around the World

Boat & Gear Posts

Boats & Gear

The Latest Boats and Yachting Gear

Video Posts

Video

Watch everything Sailing and Boating

Processing...
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Join Our Newsletter
Latest Sailing News, Racing, Cruising, Boats, Gear and more
ErrorHere