I think that in this ever expanding yachting world, we as yacht crew are all colleagues. It doesn't matter that we work on separate yachts, whether they’re bigger or smaller, luxury or more laid-back, private or commercial.
I just want to take a moment to write this down, as there are some things I'd like to highlight about our lives in this industry.
If I say something that you already know or do, good on you!
If you take offence or secretly feel that I'm pointing the finger at you, good on you too!
Heck, I think even I will benefit from writing this all down...
Go ahead, read. Let me know what you think.
What is it with these yachties from other boats who feel like they are better than you? I can only describe it this way because these people ignore you when passing your yacht, or look at you with an expression of horrified bewilderment when you actually wave at them and say ‘Hi! How are you?’
I don't particularly like feeling like a total douche when all I'm doing is being polite. I wonder if these yachties are the equivalent of land dwellers that live next door to someone for years and don't even know their neighbours' name. You know, those people who rush to their car just to avoid meeting the eyes of another human being.
When I’m on the passerelle and speak to you, I’m not asking for a kidney, I’m just saying ‘Hello!’ So what is up with the attitude that makes you act like you are better than me? Not a way to sell your boat, your family (crew) or yourself.
Now I realize this sounds a bit negative, but want you to know that besides feeling a bit douche-bagged, I've learned to turn it around in my head and laugh about it. I can't help that I am a happy person, raised with manners and won’t be brought down by a pompous yachty.
But to those sour pusses out there, think about why you do it. And if there is any benefit to the facade you put up, please let me know. I am all ears.
And to you, who reply with a smile and a wave, thank you! You just made my day a little better.
Now I started this letter about attitude because a good one reflects on your work. Besides making the boat shiny, beautiful, and running, guests are our number one priority.
We all understand how important it is to keep the guests happy, and this can create stressed behaviour. I've noticed on yachts that some crew seem very uptight, rigid, almost robotic.
Crack a smile! Even if the guests aren't the most warm, or outgoing, or even if they seem incredibly rude, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying your work. They say a smile is contagious after all.
Now I'm not saying that I skip around deck, constantly smiling ear to ear, leaving fairy dust in my tracks, or that I never get fazed by rude or grumpy people.
It's a learning curve dealing with negativity from guests, fellow crew members, while our own negativity can be the hardest of all to beat.
At least with guests you can count down the days until they leave, helping you put your best foot forward in the meantime. Knowing there is an end in sight, you can make sure these people leave with amazing stories, ever lasting memories and a good impression of you and the rest of the crew.
Do you ever have guests write comments in the guest book? And what do they say? I bet you it’s not about how shiny the superstructure was, a ‘job well done’ on the perfectly polished wine glasses, or what a magnificent sound the engine of the tender made.
They write how awesome it was that you took them out wakeboarding for hours without looking bored. Or that the stewardess was so patient and fun with their kids. Or that the captain did everything in his/her power to make any request happen. When I read these comments at the end of a charter I feel proud, a sense of "mission completed". Upon reading them, all those frustrations you had on charter with these guests seem to evaporate. Which is good, because you need renewed positive energy to enter the next hectic (or maybe boring) charter.
We have a crazy job. A job that is crazy fun, with crazy hours, involving crazy situations. It takes a bit of crazy to take on that crazy.
However, don't let yourself go completely bonkers; make sure you step back once in a while and appreciate the good things.
I believe it's all about balance, Ying and Yang. If you genuinely can't figure out any up sides to ‘down’ situations, get off the boat.
Because after a hectic day, you don't leave your workplace and leave the problem behind. On a boat, an issue is there 24/7. Which brings me to my next point in my letter: your crew.
Your crew becomes your family. It's not that you have a perfect group that get along with each other like the Brady Bunch, but these are the people that you need to be able to rely on. They say you can choose your friends, but not your family. That is also true on a boat. If you don't like someone, it’s impossible to avoid them. At least with family on land you can leave the house for the day, or move out. No such escape routes exist with crew who want to keep their career on track. So what do you do?
You learn to put aside your differences and get on with it. At least, that is the mature way to handle this on a boat (and let’s face it, in life).
Another thing. It's easy for a group of fit people, from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, morals and values to turn life and work on board into a Soap Opera.
Yeah, you know what I am talking about.
‘He and she slept together, while this other girl actually liked him first, even though she hooked up with another guy on shore that same night.’ Dramaaaa!
We’ve all heard it, or something like it, about our crew.
However, luckily for us, episodes of "As the Boat Turns" don't usually blow up into suspicious deaths, or a coma followed by amnesia, or sordid revelations by your uncle's second cousin, twice married to a lamp post.
Having said that, let’s have a look at the more relevant situations.
I think the worst thing to do on a boat is to let things that bother you fester inside of you. Be honest with each other, diplomatically that is. Make sure you say things in the right way, and if it isn’t going to solve anything, then just don't say it. Why say something mean or hurtful out of spite?
Also, go directly to that person, and take him/her aside to avoid ‘He said/ she said’ situations, or embarrassing the person in front of others.
Think before you speak, judge, disagree, or whatever. Put yourself in someone else's shoes and try and figure out their way of thinking or being. It's easier to point a finger at someone than to look at your own behaviour. Our eyes look outwards the whole time, rather than at ourselves, that face you only see a couple of minutes a day in a reflection.
Now if the situation is turned around and someone tells you something that you do or did that bothers them, don't automatically jump into defence.
Listen. I mean, really listen.
Be a grown up and allow this person to vent, to let it out. It takes a solid person to come to you and honestly tell you what's upsetting them, especially if you are the cause. It takes another solid individual to deal with it accordingly. Try to get to a position of truce, even if you don't agree.
If a person is narrow minded, short sighted, stubborn, or even just vile, that doesn't mean you have to retaliate in that manner. Stay true to yourself with a clear mind, knowing you handled the situation the best you could. If you don't add fuel to the fire, it will eventually die out.
Work hard, Play hard:
Now this is my last point and ending of my letter to you. Work hard and play hard seems to be the yachty motto.
And believe me, I was the poster child... well, one of many amongst us. The amount of alcohol that has flown through many of us is downright ridiculous.
I'm happy to say though that I've grown out of the hard partying way over the last year or so. Part of it comes from age, part of it comes from wisdom (don’t laugh.)
Wherever it comes from, I certainly don't miss the hangovers.
Don't you hate those days, after a night of partying hard, when you are parched, weak and irritable, working in the hot sun with a pounding headache, thinking to yourself: Oh man! Never again… only to repeat it soon after? Often that very same night?
I’m not judging. I've made great memories doing exactly that, and I have a lifetime of insane stories to tell. I did stuff I probably wouldn't have done sober, much of which I can’t remember - and it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t mind forgetting a few of the memories that did stick.
How about you? Were you the more sensible one that knew when enough was enough? Or have you done the walk of shame at 6:00 am along the dock back to your boat?
I know I am getting personal and gritty about our lives but, let’s face it, I’m not the only one.
We are all different but doing the same job. Are we all fit to work AND play hard?
I wasn't. Slowly it was destroying me, I had to make a change. I love the job too much, so I had to eliminate the heavy partying.
This doesn’t mean that I don't like a party, of course I do. I just leave the hardcore stuff to those who can handle it better than I can (this includes people who only think they can).
Yeah, of course I sometimes think to myself: How boring am I now?
Which is followed quickly by Tomorrow I will actually feel mentally and physically fit enough to go out on an adventure. Woohooo! Who's boring now?
Reading back I realize I might sound like a ‘know it all’, preaching the etiquette of life at sea, the yachting messiah! But that’s not my intention.
I’m only writing about this because I’ve experienced and struggled with things in this tiny floating world of ours and I just wanted to write it down and share it with you in case it made some kind of difference to your life. Maybe you recognize your own vices, that you struggle with or have struggled with, or maybe you realize how much better you dealt with stuff than I did.
In the end, these situations aren’t only happening on boats, yachts are a lot like ‘real life’ after all. Just smaller.
Anyway, I hope you’re well, and enjoying life to the fullest. My regards to your family and crew. And who knows, maybe we will bump into each other soon! Just make sure you say hello.
The Other Yachty