I stood on the dock in the baking summer heat, with my bags next to me and nowhere to go.
I'd never jumped ship before that day, and had never thought I would. But I was furious; the situation on board was laughable.
Leaving a yacht with no notice is obviously a risk to pride, reputation and financial security, but sometimes, as I did, you just have to walk...
Research shows that 88% of people leave their jobs because of negative factors in their place of work rather than financial reasons.
But for yacht crew, it's no secret that money keeps us there for that little bit longer. We tend to put up with more than our nine-to-five, desk job counterparts because we know the sweet taste of a tax-free salary or what it feels like to hold a wad of notes post-charter.
But how willing are you to put up with a bad boat for good money?
Of course, it's only normal to have a few ups and downs in any job. We've all had those ‘off days’ when we've had to deal with crew who couldn't handle their drink or crew mates with foul attitudes. We all remember a time when we tolerated cramped living conditions and broken toilets or a day when little things turned into big things.
We've all forced a smile for the world's rudest guest or felt under-crewed and over-exhausted. We've all missed a friend's wedding or a Christmas at home. That's yachting.
But we do it because the money makes it worth it and (in theory) we love what we do.
Which is all good and well when you're on a boat that you love and you're doing a job that makes you happy. A job where despite the demanding hours, cabin fever and swollen feet, you consider your role and say to yourself, "Hey. I'm in a good place. The money, the travel, the people I work with and the job I do are all worth it."
But what about crew in unhappy jobs who work on toxic boats with the odd lousy colleague? What about them?
Crew in bad jobs tend to bribe themselves into believing that they'll stay for one more pay cheque, one more charter, one more bonus. They wonder whether yachting's really for them. Or if they're the ones to blame. And before they know it, they've hung out in a bad job for too long, getting grumpy, learning little and moving nowhere. The truth is - you can only stay in that red zone for so long before it's too late and you lose your passion for yachting.
And as yacht crew, we don't like to admit that we're in bad jobs because it's an ego-centric industry and reputation is such a huge player in this game. You wouldn't dare rat-out the unravellings on board or admit that you gave up mid-season because the yacht was a circus - especially not when you're trying to sell yourself to crew agents or prospective employers who want to know why you left.
There is just so much else to consider for the crew member who leaves behind a bad job: what about a reference letter? Will they pay me what I'm owed? How will I get home? Will I get another job? What about logged sea time and incomplete Training Record Books? Have I let the team down? You think about the crew who you like and respect and you consider how unfair it would be on them.
Suddenly you become a small fish in a big, big pond.
Despite all the general stepping on egg shells when you leave a bad job for the right reasons, I've found it refreshing how crew agents and employers prefer hearing an honest answer rather than little white lies; and how some crew mates will thank you for taking a stand when no one else did. Jumping ship mid-season certainly hasn't held me back from finding more work or moving on with my life. Of course I don't dock walk with a badge that says "I'm Bianca and I jumped ship once" but I also don't cover it up when people ask. You needn't lower yourself to gossip or a personal backstabbing contest once you've left but saying things like "I wasn't prepared to put my name to unprofessional behaviour" or "I felt the boat and guest safety was compromised" says more about your strength and character as a crew member than staying on board would have.
At the end of it all, it's about staying true to yourself, sticking to your ‘non-negotiables’ : the things you simply wouldn't tolerate as a crew member in what should be a professional work environment in an all-round professional industry.
Probably the best advice I got about this was from an old captain who said: You can bullsh*t the mind but you can't bullsh*t the guts. In other words, when the guts say go, go!
My word of advice? When you're surrounded by drama and stuck in the mud, remind yourself: this is not my circus. These are not my animals.
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