Industry » Features » Yacht Crew and the Mid-Season Madness

Yacht Crew and the Mid-Season Madness

Mid-season madness is upon us! Well, itinerary depending, of course. But those crew mid-way through a busy milk-run Med season are quite likely absolutely doolally by this point, face down in a basket of lemon croissants somewhere off the Amalfi coast. Or squinting over the capping rail at Pampelonne beach and seriously considering swimming for it, grabbing a handful of the nearest Vilebrequins and begging for a charitable snifter of Minuty.

I’ve always been fascinated by the arc of a busy season. The psychology of it, the behavioural stuff on board as crew get deeper and deeper into relentless days of hard, sweaty slog. It is ‘colourful’ to say the least. The mid-point can be tough as hell – far enough in to be bone-tired but too far from the finish line for it to mean anything at all. How we react to it really tells us who we are as a crew member, and I guess as a person. It’s like the army training camp of the yachting world - Are we the one who throws their hands up at the first challenge and runs off into the sunset, are we stoically trooping on to the end shouting encouragement as we go or are we lying face down in a puddle of our own tears screaming ‘WHYYYYYYYYYY’ at a pile of tea towels?  I know I have probably been a blend of all of these, and I suspect most of us are. 

I feel like after a few seasons we have a sense of realism about what our fellow humans are capable of and know that most of us will scrabble our way through to the end of a season with some inevitably undignified days along the way. Everyone has those days where they’re staring at yet another 16 hours of relentless rinsing and scrubbing, serving and interpersonal dynamics, jelly fish stings and ice bucket related ‘emergencies’ and thinks ‘I just…. can’t.’ 

What then? Well, in my experience it can go either way. It’s either a crying/anger day (generally the girls crying, generally the guys kicking deck buckets – but not always) or a laughing day. Obviously the crying or angry days are BAD, especially if we don’t keep it to a private cabin weep and start wailing in the beach club and punching towels. But the laughing days can be so, so good. Even though it is a kind of delirious, hysterical laughter, usually born out of one of our weirder survival mechanisms, they really can be quite fun. 

Getting through the bad days

When we’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to stay rational and it can be hard to remember our colleagues are probably not being super rational right now either. The more exhausted we are the more ridiculous the trigger can be for a meltdown or a screaming row.  Here’s some stuff I’ve seen cause actual proper, adult tears or shouting or both: 

  • A teaspoon left in a sink.

  • A deckie putting ketchup on the chef’s truffle risotto (boss leftovers, but STILL).

  • Someone dripping bin juice down a side deck.

  • Deck cushion stand-off (chief stew wants them out of guest area post journey to detail, deck officer says no, not possible until after deck area clean up).

  • Engineer wants Chips Ahoy! cookies. None left.

  • Engineer steals guest cookies from dry store.

  • Lazy crew member slopes off for a nap.

  • Boss can’t find aftershave.

  • Cleaning rag left in a cabin (annual tradition).

  • Someone says “good morning” to the chef.

  • Someone doesn’t say “good morning” to the chef.

  • Guest doesn’t believe captain can’t control weather (annual tradition).

  • Captain tries to go to sea despite weather, guests sick (annual tradition).

  • Stewardess cleans up sick, gets sick, blames captain.

  • Guests get drunk and demand to go on jet skis despite death trap factor.

  • Crew get drunk in crew mess.

  • Crew can’t drink on board.

  • Chief stew finds tissue in bin.

  • One of guest cabins smells of grey water tank (annual tradition).

  • Internet stops working as guests watching important sporting event.

  • ETO tries to fix internet, crew lose internet.

  • Guest gets wet in tender.

  • Guests order five course lunch, change minds once it’s prepared, go ashore for lunch (annual tradition).

  • Guests say they are going ashore for lunch, change minds once nothing prepared, ask for lunch in five minutes (annual tradition).

  • Head housekeeper hides in laundry ‘stain removing’ for a month and a half.

  • Deckie rolls eyes at (insert every single HOD here).

  • Someone is flirting with someone they shouldn’t be (this is progressive: by the end of the season most crew would flirt with an attractively shaped fender).

  • Captain shouts ‘THIS ISN’T A DEMOCRACY’ any time anyone asks a question.

  • Anything to do with the slide – ends in tears: guests and crew.

  • Anything to do with an inflatable banana (ends in tears: guests).

  • Incorrect wine temperature.

  • Underwear net bags not zipped up = massive interdepartmental rift of unthinkable scale.

  • Someone can’t find Sensitive toothpaste in toiletry cupboard (behind regular toothpaste).

  • Someone hasn’t refilled vinegar spray bottle.

  • Trousers (can’t find, too short, wrong colour, too tight, confused).

I’m here to advocate for mid-season survival no matter what weirdness is required and if laughter or some level of lunacy can be involved all the better. It really is better than wrestling with towels and kicking buckets and honestly you can get high as a kite from a helpless cry-laugh when you haven’t slept since before Cannes Film Festival.

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If you can take refuge in madness you will be a better person to work with than one who punches everyone. Then you can cheerfully continue to question every life choice that brought you to a 40-degree day squeegeeing windows off the Kornati islands and you possibly WILL make it through. Unless of course you don’t, in which case I will write another altogether more depressing article on burn-out, under-staffing and the ludicrous expectations of our industry.

In the meantime though, here are some of the survival techniques my colleagues and friends have utilised to ‘get through’.  No responsibility taken for the more gross stuff, and of course none of the unprofessional stuff was me.

  • Fruit friends – it’s amazing the chats you can have with a grapefruit at 5 in the morning!

  • Fart friends - A WhatsApp group dedicated to voicenoting your farts to one another (deck crew obviously).

  • Loud singing and mad dancing (be selective, this is the luxury of chefs in galleys, laundry stews in laundries, engineers in engine rooms/control rooms). Frowned upon at the guest lunch table.

  • Obsess over a pathetically small yet heartening drink/snack ritual. ‘Meet you on the foredeck for a Perrier!’

  • Create alter-egos and elaborate back stories for every crew member and guest. Get confused and call the principal charterer by their pretend name.

  • Guest left-overs – eat them all.

  • Become en-masse obsessed with a series or film and speak entirely in quotes so that nobody has any idea what anyone is talking about .

  • Visit the chef and take it in turns to do impressions of the fish on the galley ‘fish chart’ (Do not do this if the chef is of the angry, knife wielding variety).

  • Have in-depth conversations about who would sleep with who for how much money.

  • Plan elaborate end of season parties/holidays/murders (only carry out first two).

  • Hide in a cupboard.

  • Jump off the bow.

  • Haribo eating contests.

  • Beat yourself over the head with old rolled up paper charts if you still have them. Headbutting electronic navigation equipment not advised.

  • Tell the chef not one item of their shopping list was available on the provision run then run away.

  • Do impressions of each other.

  • Go on a health kick.

  • Get fat.

  • When radioed on the toilet, say ‘I’M HAVING A LOVELY POO’ on the radio.

  • Hide behind the bins in Portofino.

So there you have it friends, I hope you are all holding it together, and if not you are at least cry-laughing hysterically while you crane the tender back in for the 1076th time today.  The beauty of mid-season madness?  Just when you think this foggy, never-ending time is never going to pass and your feet will never stop hurting, you will never sleep again and your family and friends have all entirely forgotten who you are, all of a sudden, whoosh!  There’s only two weeks to go, then one, then done. 

You think the end will never come and then before you know it, it does. I hope you have some good crew-mates to laugh/dance through it all with you, those people are true life savers and I’ll be forever grateful for the ridiculous silliness of some of mine. One day, you will laugh at it all, I promise. Until then, hang in there, and see you on the other side. May the tips be with you!

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