This article was inspired by a post in the Facebook Group, Palma Yacht Crew, that asked: “How do you know when you’ve had enough? And what do you plan on doing once back on land (aside from getting a dog, obviously)?”
At the time of writing, this the post had 382 comments.
So why leave yachting?
Bad owners, captains, HODs and/or fellow crew members can make it much easier to leave. There are simply moments when you’ve had a total gut full and have zero interest in risking the same situation happening again.
As was pointed out in the PYC post, dreadful onboard experiences really help to ease the indecision usually involved in leaving, so if you have a difficult head of department, captain or owner you might consider yourself blessed on that front!
But sometimes it’s simply a strong desire for a more ‘normal’ life where you have a regular hairdresser, doctor and dentist and can hang a painting on the wall. In the end it’s the simple things that you crave – family, friends and familiarity of services. And, yes, maybe even a white picket fence and a dog.
Next Step – Actually Leaving
Leaving is relatively easy for those who’ve only done a short stint and their heart was never really in it in the first place. But for others it is much harder. Many relapse and return, sometimes multiple times.
Anyone crewing back in the early 90s probably recalls “Last Season Sid” – a chief engineer on rock star wages who told everyone he was doing his last season year after year but kept crewing, all the while accumulating more investment properties. He was regularly seen driving a flash car and looking more like a movie star than an engineer!
But aside from the love of the work, many people are actually afraid to leave because they have no idea what to do next, and aren’t sure they’ll be financially capable of dealing with the realities and expenses associated with land life.
Few find the transition easy, and I’ve heard many crew say that they could really have used some support, counselling, guidance - anything and everything to help them through the process.
Reality - It’s humorous even though it doesn’t feel funny at the time.
The primary struggles you’ll face are dealing with expenses and responsibilities you’ve become completely unaccustomed to. Rent, utility bills, car expenses, health insurance and groceries are all alien to the average yachtie - and it’s just the beginning. We haven’t even mentioned any form of clothing, travel or entertainment. Did I mention razors - do you have any idea how much they cost? The unfamiliarity and panic is sobering.
Grocery expenses are relentless, and you’ll find you have a sudden appreciation for why your parents didn’t serve up the very best cuts of meat, the freshest seafood, exotic berries and specialty vegetables. You’ll find yourself in the supermarket with facial or leg stubble (due to your efforts to conserve razors), wide-eyed over the cost of laundry detergent, bug spray and organic produce. After being accustomed to multiple trollies, you’ll be shocked at how much a single trolley with so few bags has set you back.
You load them into your car and drive home. Packing the groceries away can provide a sense of novelty because you can put things where you want rather than where you have to. But don’t be surprised if you’re left wishing you had a stew or two to help with the process.
Learning to keep your own house
On that note, another serious reality is the fact that you no longer have a team of experts at your disposal. You have to cook, do the laundry, clean the house, repair and maintain things - all by your lonesome, with no crew. As yachties we’re generally not afraid of hard work or domestic chores, but 20 years purely as a stewardess makes for interesting times in the kitchen.
I basically went from mum’s food to a few years of traveling where cooking was the last thing on my mind, to a few decades of expert chefs preparing my food. Don’t get me wrong, I love having the freedom to choose what I’m going to eat, as opposed to someone else deciding for me at every single meal. But the fact that I have next to no experience makes for quite a struggle.
Part of that problem is that yachtie life taught me to love to entertain, but I’m too scared to entertain because I cannot cook! You know those 'nailed it' posts you see on Facebook? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve completely lost it laughing at my own 'nailed it' creations.
For male crew they probably have a similar experience when it comes to laundry. I know my husband (captain) certainly had to adjust his level of expectations for quality laundry service once we moved ashore.
Each of us has those special things we most miss at sea. For some I’m sure it’s gardening - but that was not the case for us. I don’t dislike ironing, cooking or cleaning, but I do dislike gardening, and it shows. Well-intentioned family and friends bought us 'unkillable' plants, but despite our best efforts they died. And who really wants to spend time mowing the lawn? Not us. So now we find ourselves with fake grass (thanks, Rybovich, for giving us the idea), fake plants, palm trees and thoughtfully-designed areas landscaped with lovely Italian tiles that allow us to avoid all the responsibility that comes with green things. Though I’m embarrassed to say that, a few years on, our fake grass has weeds!
OCD - It’s not a disorder, it’s a job requirement
And then there are the ingrained habits of yachtie life that are difficult to shake once on land. In the initial years, your friends and family will laugh at your meticulously organized and labeled cupboards. You’ll notice every fingerprint and cringe at every mistake a waiter makes during a meal at your local restaurant. If you don’t have children, there’s a good chance you’ll remain like this for life.
If you do have children, the perpetual charter-like requirements attached to parenting will calm your OCD to a degree. You’ll still notice the fingerprints but might only polish them out daily rather than hourly. Shipshape just doesn’t cut it at home.
Don’t expect too much change on this front. Chances are you’ll never be able to leave a back-to-front toilet roll untouched, and you’ll be squeegeeing your shower glass for life. Your friends will continue to view you as a clean freak even though you’ll be impressed with how much you’ve relaxed your standards and disregarded the state of your car with its remnants of children’s food scraps. I should mention that the cost of razors will continue to bother you for a very long time!
Cooking disasters and gardening failures aside, most things have gone reasonably well. The novelty of being able to grab a hammer and nail a picture onto the wall is rewarding, and overall we’ve become very house-proud, if still considered a bit weird in the eyes of many normal, non-yachtie citizens. And we’ll probably never change.
Now let's take a more serious look at the realities of finding work and earning an income once you move ashore: Earning After Yachting
About the author
Jodie worked on board yachts for 20 years progressing to chief stewardess, purser and interior manager. Moving ashore she established MY Virtual Purser and later co-founded Superyacht Operating Systems. Most recently the company launched the Luxe SOP System & Knowledge Centre for yacht crew and shorebased professionals responsible for delivering 7-star service.
Related articles and tips for moving ashore:
Caroline Rossy: A Life After Yachting
Are You Really Ready to Move Ashore?
When You're Ready to Move Ashore
Yachting's Golden Handcuffs - Part 1
Yachting's Golden Handcuffs - Part 2
Yachting's Golden Handcuffs - Part 3