We arrived in Yalikavak, Turkey, with a feeling of optimism about the coming season and an eagerness to get the charter underway.
For me the eagerness was slightly dampened, though not entirely saturated, when I discovered that many of our cleaning products (including biodegradable soaps) had been banned in the interests of protecting the marine environment. An admirable measure to take: annoying nonetheless for the deck crew. Which leads to...
Tip one for surviving a six-week charter: Research the area you're visiting.
Knowing the places you're sailing to will help reduce unwanted surprises and keep you looking competent and professional in front of the guests.
This applies no matter which department, whether knowing the rules of using cleaning products in a marine park, or the best restaurants to send your guests.
Tip two: Be prepared for anything, and remain professional in absurd and compromising situations!
When we heard that the owner’s dog was coming on this trip we took as many precautions as possible: plastic matting for interior varnished surfaces and stairs, a harness for hoisting in and out of the tender and an abundance of crap bags, among other things.
You might be thinking to yourself that having a dog onboard would be a nice distraction from the work at hand, perhaps even a source of stress relief?
Nothing can prepare you for the experience of hoisting/lowering a 50kg dog on and off the boat and trying to guide him up and down the swim platform steps with a set of oversized testicles swinging to and fro in your face. Often, contact was unavoidable.
Tip three: Laugh a lot- and brush up on your West Country accent
Living, working and sleeping in confined crew spaces for a prolonged period of time can be extremely testing and can often lead to a volatile environment. It’s hard enough to live in close quarters in the off season; it becomes exponentially more difficult during charter when everyone is under the pressure of having guests onboard.
A sense of humor with an easy-going and considerate nature never goes amiss in these situations.
I’ll be honest, I considered leaving this next part out as I’m not entirely sure whether this is a funny little quirk that people will relate to, or whether it is in fact the unravelling of our minds and a sign that we should have sought psychiatric help months ago.
During our six-week charter, a crew member would appear from their cabin each morning and enter the crew mess with the greeting “Morning Angle” (a Hot Fuzz quote for the films buffs out there) Of course it was said in the appropriate accent (West Country), which would then lead to all further crew encounters being carried out in that accent for the rest of the day.
Six weeks in, we have three or four accents in our repertoire now. I call that a very productive charter.
Tip four: Take care of your physical and mental wellbeing.
During these long periods in high-pressure, stressful environments it’s important to take care of your mental and physical fitness. Taking into account the previous paragraph, it would be safe to assume that the mental wellbeing of the crew was questionable at best, so we turned our attentions to our physical fitness.
We created fitness plans, workout routines and set ourselves goals and targets to achieve by the end of the charter. We were running daily, swimming when possible and constantly challenging each other to sit-up/plank/press-up offs. As a result we were all feeling healthier and good within ourselves. It’s surprising how a little bit of exercise can alter the mood of the crew and improve the morale of everyone onboard.
They go hand-in-hand; looking after your physical fitness will make you feel good and naturally lead to an improvement in your mental health.
The fifth and final tip for the survival of a six-week charter: Spend your free time wisely.
It’s important to make the most your time off, as it can be sporadic at best. More often than not you will find yourself in some of the most beautiful and culturally vibrant places that the planet has to offer. Try to immerse yourself in the places, soak up the culture and see the sights. Sure it can be a little bit clichéd and touristy, but at least when you look back at the places you’ve been you will have good memories, not just yet another view from a boat.
Another good way to spend your time is to utilise the equipment available on the boat (where permitted). Wakeboarding, water-skiing and jet-skiing are great ways to pass the time while having fun and remaining active. Although going out and drinking is not the smartest thing to do while on a long charter, a quiet drink at the end of the day (again, if permitted) can be a good way to de-stress and un-wind and claim a little time for yourself.
Try not to find yourself idle, watching films on your breaks to pass the time, or wishing your life away counting the days until the end of the charter/season/year. Life is short. Find enjoyment in the moment where you can.
Six week charters are tough, but if you do have one looming- or just a busy season, hopefully these tips will see you through to the end without any major dramas.
Fair winds and following seas.
For more advice on how to keep healthy and happy onboard, see Yachting and Healthy Living: Can they Co-Exist? in our new Wellbeing Section.
About the author: Originally from Bristol in the UK, Ed has been in yachting for two years and has a degree in marine engineering and naval architecture. He's currently employed as Mate on a 32m sailing yacht.