Nicky Andre probably didn't see a future in superyachts around the corner when she started a career as a leading headhunter in London, but a sideways move into yachting would change her life dramatically. After six years as a chief stewardess, Nicky Andre has combined her recruitment, financial and yachting experience to launch Hemisphere Crew Solutions, based in Monaco. Over a year into the venture, Nicky Andre sat down with OnboardOnline to discuss her past lives and how they have come together in her bespoke crew headhunting agency.
OnboardOnline: How did you get into the yachting industry?
Nicky Andre: My partner was offered a position aboard a yacht but it was a couple’s only position, (it was a double bunk). He asked if I would consider being a stewardess for one season, which I accepted happily. I left the crew industry over six years later!
OO: Is it how you expected it to be?
NA: To a large degree, yes. However, I was never told about the unbelievably satisfying feeling of being trusted by a family aboard their yacht. To be relied upon to know their requirements and to deliver them to the highest standards possible. It can be a very rewarding. (Being flown in their private jet certainly has its advantages).
OO: What do you love most about your job?
NA: I love helping crew into their next career move. I take it very seriously; often crew rely on their job for their rent, mortgage payments and supporting loved ones. I like to understand a crew member's requirements in detail and assess the suitability of the yacht for their needs as well as their suitability for a yacht. Also, when headhunting there is no better feeling than finding the exact candidate your client is searching for and the crew member gets to feel pretty special!
OO: What is the single biggest issue affecting yachting at the moment?
NA: MCA changes to deck and engineering qualifications have brought about a lot of frustration and some confusion for yachting crew as we are brought into line with some merchant experiences. The increase in course requirements are pricing some valuable crew out of the market and hindering them progressing their careers.
OO: What keeps you awake at night?
NA: If I have forgotten to get back to someone, I have a note pad next to my bed!
OO: What would you change if you could?
NA: I would be a rotational engineer in my next life
OO: What could you do without?
NA: Bread, it’s the enemy!
OO: If you weren’t working on boats, what would you be doing?
NA: I am doing it, working with an amazing dedicated team at Hemisphere, Monaco.
OO: Where is the most beautiful bay in the world?
NA: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
What is your favourite yacht?
NA: All yachts are amazing but the crew is what makes them special. And the efficiency of zero speed stabilisers!
OO: What was your greatest experience on a boat?
NA: Meeting Richard Branson and Jeremy Clarkson.
I was working aboard a 30m MY when Richard Branson stepped aboard for an after dinner coffee. I was the only crew member still awake and quite in awe. He politely asked for a coffee but not just any coffee, a....long, strong, skinny Macchiato with 2 sugars served tepid to cool. At this point I looked at Madame who looked a little panic stricken!
I politely acknowledged his request and walked towards the galley, as I stepped in I was faced by our only form of hot beverage maker....a kettle!! (the family only drank herbal teas and never had the need for a coffee machine).
After a few minutes of trying to think outside the box Madame appeared at the door and said she had explained to her guest that we were not a floating Starbucks and a verveine would be better at this late hour! Embarrassment averted! When I returned with his tea, he did make a joke of the situation and I returned his good humour with a small blush.
As for Jeremy Clarkson imagine him as he is on TV but bigger, louder and funnier, great fun and enjoyed interacting with the crew.
OO: What was your worst experience on a boat?
NA: The whole crew apart from the Captain, C/Engineer and myself being violently seasick on a long passage. The smell lingered for days!
OO: Generally speaking, which nationalities tend to be the best bosses?
NA: Lebanese owners were one of the best nationalities I worked for. The main reason was down to their family values and the attention they gave to their children and friends which in turn extended to their crew. It does take time to become trusted but once you have proved yourself they are very generous, polite and aware of when crew are in need of some down time.
The best charter guests?
OO: Who do you most admire in the world of yachting?
NA: Women breaking the limits and those on the race circuit. For example, Dee Caffari was awarded an MBE in recognition of her solo circumnavigation against the prevailing winds and currents, setting a world record in the process by becoming the first woman to complete this epic voyage in 2006.
OO: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
NA: Utilizing my experiences as a head hunter, financial adviser and yachting experiences to develop Hemisphere Crew Solutions.
OO: What do you do when you are not working?
NA: Good question, I work most weekends but do enjoy golf, scuba diving (which I have been doing since a toddler) and walking our Cane Corso (dog).
OO: Which three favourite objects would you take to your desert island?
NA: My phone (if I can have internet/power access to read my emails, I am an addict), my duvet and a good book (a true story).
OO: What is your motto?
NA: If you are not in the right frame of mind to do a job properly first time, wait until you are.
What is your favorite story of the sea?
NA: I find the events surrounding Truk Lagoon and the Japanese in WWII very interesting and certainly is on my bucket list to dive at some point.
OO: What will you be doing in five years?
NA: Hopefully the next stages of Hemisphere will have been realized, watch this space…