If you apply for a job at a shore based company, you can probably Google the business to get a general idea of their ethos, who owns them, and their history. ‘Best companies to work for’ are often even listed in the media.
Yachts, as we well know, aren’t like that at all. Yachts are so private that you often won't be privy to information about who you're about to work for until you take the job, by which time it could be too late. ‘Nice Swiss family’, we’re told, as we sign on the dotted line.
There’s little to no information listed about yacht ownership in the public domain, and that which exists is often inaccurate, outdated, or extremely minimal. The vast majority of yacht crew join a yacht blind.
However, this year has seen the emergence of a few sites and Facebook pages with the intention of 'rating yachts'. One such facebook group, called Hiderate, intends to launch yacht ‘profiles’ based on crew feedback. According to their site:
‘The profile of each yacht will consist of an overall rating, compiled from crew amenities, facilities, budgets. Also levels of morale, politics and leadership. There will also be information about the average ages, nationalities, and of course all the off-duty information that can make or break your time aboard completely!’
Is this the way to counteract the closed nature of employment information in the yachting industry? Or is it a dangerous foray into naming and shaming?
Personally, I foresee some problems.
1. It's anonymous. Sort of.
Generally, if you're not willing to put your name to something it's going to reflect negatively on you in some way. I highly doubt that many crew or ex-crew will be using these systems to go and rave about what a lovely season they've had or how delightful their boss is. Most people change jobs because they are no longer happy with the one they have, meaning that the majority of comments are likely to be negative. On the other hand, if they're happy with their experience on a past yacht, they're more likely to be professional and keep schtum. We've all seen situations on social media where people get very, very brave in the comments. People say things online that they wouldn't dare say in real life. Meaning that there’s no way of knowing whether the negative comments stem from truth, opinion, clash of character, or slander.
Yachtref is one of these sites, it's only recently gone live, but it's T&Cs are available. It's worth noting that they reserve the right to use anything you submit, anywhere they like and put your name to it. Essentially, it’s not as anonymous as it is portrayed, creating a false sense of security that could get crew in a lot of trouble.
2. Yacht cultures can change quickly.
Many crew have been on yachts where one bad apple can spoil the bunch. Say a crew member leaves, rates that yacht as a terrible one to work on, and the person causing all the drama is gone by next season - that yacht will now be tarnished with a certain reputation which is no longer true. Crew change all the time, boats get sold, itineraries vary. What happens on one season may not happen the next.
3. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Just because you've had a bad experience doesn't mean it's a bad boat. You could be the type who has landed on their feet and had perfect trouble-free guests before or a crew who are like family, moved on to a busy, challenging yacht and hated it. Some people are looking for that challenge, and thrive on it. The owner of Hiderate insists on a thread on their facebook page that by adding an option for former crew on the same yacht to agree or disagree with a review will ‘convert opinion into something as close to matter of fact as possible’. Alternatively it could create a popularity contest.
4. Sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs.
Metaphorically, you understand, to find your prince. The same goes for jobs. Sometimes you need to stick it out through a few tough seasons before you find a boat you really love, and there's nothing wrong with that. Generally those experiences make you a better, tougher and more versatile crew member, and one that appreciates a good boat when they find it.
5. Your first yacht job is notoriously hard to get already.
With everyone applying for those 'golden yachts' with no bad reviews, and ignoring the boats that have annoyed a crew member 2 years ago, it's narrowing down the options. People would frankly be quite idiotic to turn down a job because of sites like this.
Another very important point made on a discussion on Hiderate is the contracts and non-disclosure agreements that most crew sign when they join a yacht. It’s bad enough letting something slip to your friend in a private conversation, but putting it in writing on a public forum is very dangerous. The owner of the group insists that by using a ‘star system’ it wouldn’t be a violation of an NDA.
7. Right to respond
Hiderate’s actual site isn’t live yet but Yachtref claims that management and captains can respond via the 'Management Response' panel. However, it looks as though it will be a paid feature. It also states that 'irrelevant content is subject to removal.' and 'YachtRef reserves the right to remove a reference or management response at any time for any reason.' So how valuable is it really?
8. Flimsy guidelines.
I noticed that on Yachtref there are guidelines on the Management Response page, whereas no guidelines are provided for a reference submission. Essentially ‘management’ are very restricted on what will be allowed past the moderation process, whereas if there are any rules as to what crew can submit, I couldn’t find any. That would be a good option. An even better one would be to only allow the rating of certain aspects that don't reflect personally on people, just facts (crew accommodation, facilities, the itinerary, the home berth) which could at least prevent it from spiralling into a vicious forum for scorned crew.
On the flip side I completely understand where this idea has come from. In no other working environment would you be expected to take a job, or even go to an interview not knowing where it's based, who you'll be working with or for, or even the name of the company (yacht).
And it's even more important to have a bit of this knowledge considering you'll be living with these people too. I've worked on boats that I've wanted to warn people away from, but I think keeping those warnings to my personal circle is enough. If I know someone well enough to know that they would feel the same way as I do about a certain aspect of the job then fine, but it doesn't need to be public information. Obviously if there is a serious issue - crew not being paid for example, it's fair to want to stop people from being in that predicament. Most of the other gripes though, are personal, between crew. Is the next step a 'rate my crew' site. Where do we draw the line?
What do you think? Will these sites be a positive or negative force in the industry? Will they work? Have your say in the comments below.