I recently spent 2 months as a Stewardess on a swanky super yacht. Then some DRAMA occurred and long story short, I no longer work on a swanky super yacht. Unfortunately for all you sticky beaks I can say no more about it, but I can assure you it’s a great story and I can tell you what I learned in the process. Having learned that I don’t enjoy being a glorified cleaner I’m going to become a Dive Instructor before I return to the high seas in the hopes that I will get to do more diving and less vacuuming. Anyway anyway anyway…
I wrote the majority of the following post while completing the second part of my four hour watch cycle while my other crew mates slept below deck. We had been up at 4:30am to see the boss off the boat and stow everything that moved before we crossed the North Sea back to The Netherlands.
It felt completely natural to be sitting there doing my ‘Boat Life’ in the same way that complaining about the District Line, drinking too many pints and trying to find my Uber driver felt like my natural ‘London Life’. Or being salty all the time and eschewing shoes was ‘Thailand Bella’. If travel has taught me anything, it’s that adaptability, embracing change and just fucking going for it can take you to some exciting places.
In my 2 month Masterton hiatus I had explained to every man and his dog, and his dog’s extended family, about my intentions to get a job on a super yacht. It’s scary to commit yourself to a plan that you have little idea of how to accomplish. What if it doesn’t work out and you have to slink home with your tail between your legs and even more credit card debt than before? Well now I know.
I had psyched myself up to spend all my hard won savings eking out a living in the port of Antibes. I planned to subsist on toast while I walked the docks, sniffing out a job like a truffle pig with a vocational snout. But as it turned out I didn’t have to do any of these things because I was hired directly via a recruitment site that I had uploaded my CV to. A tiny part of me felt robbed of that job hunting experience, but then the larger, louder, more sensible part of me got up and told that tiny part to go and play in traffic. Anyway anyway anyway…let us launch into yacht life.
Is the super yacht life what I thought it would be?
Yes and No. It was better than expected.
I had prepared myself for a shit show. I had read all the horror stories online about being bossed around by hookers, drug use, harassment and generally being treated like dirt. Instead I joined a relatively happy crew on a newly built boat, I basically hit the jackpot with my first job. I had used a very clever device whereby I mentally prepared myself for the worst case scenario and then all expectations were easily exceeded.
When I first thought about pursuing yachting I bombarded a few friends with endless questions about how it all works but the answers to all my questions were ‘it depends’. The experience you have depends on so many different things. The size of your boat and crew, is it private or charter? who is your owner and where are they from? What is your itinerary and how many trips do you have in a season? All of these things are going to change the way you operate, what you earn and crucially, how early you have to wake up.
I was on a 35 metre private family boat and did one trip around Norway so what I’ve experienced is completely different to someone who is on charter in the Med on a 100 metre yacht with a Russian billionaire and his contingent of sex workers.
So what is yacht life like?
Well it’s definitely not as glamorous as it sounds and involves more vacuuming than you would think, and you don’t just vacuum the floor mind…you vacuum the roof and the walls too. You will also walk around with a glass rag in one pocket and various pieces of lint and hair in the other.
In fact a lot of the time I was on my hands and knees, extricating my bosses pubes from drains and other corners of the bathroom. You are essentially a servant required to do anything and everything deemed necessary by your superiors, which is everyone when you are on the bottom rung of the ladder.
You can expect to spend 10 days in Norway but step on dry land for just a handful of hours and stare longingly at the shore while you iron someone’s fitted sheet on the lower deck. On the other hand I have also learned how to successfully fold a fitted sheet and that pleases me greatly.
It’s busy and detail oriented, you are trying to provide effortless 7 star service on something that floats. You also can’t drink the water out of the taps so along with quail’s eggs, fine chocolates and lobsters you are packing in litre upon litre of water everyday. At one point we found ourselves dragging a stolen trolley full of water and flower arrangements along the cobbled streets of Bergen in the rain. So yes, very glamourous.
Other times you will be in FloraHolland asking people to help you find 10 Orchid stems of varying heights because the bosses wife insists on it despite the fact she isn’t on the boat. You might find yourself playing 90s club bangers in the Crew Mess and drinking red wine made by your Croatian crew mates. You might also find yourself teaching them the phrase ‘Born in a tent’ when they insist that you must be cold because you aren’t wearing four layers of clothing. You might be sitting on the sundeck wrapped in wet weather gear and getting soaked to the bone when you hit rough water on the coast of Norway. Every day is different and that is kind of the joy of it.
In addition to that, the kitchen is now called the galley, walls are bulkheads and toilets are dayheads. You have to take your shoes off and put them back on about ten million times a day and put a drop cloth under anything you’re doing. You have to be careful and considered in your approach to everything and particular in the extreme.
You will work from 7am until 11pm (or whenever the last guest has gone to bed, so that could be 3am), and be on call to cater to the whims of everyone on the boat. Eventually you get to crawl down to your cabin, peel off your uniform, shower in a cupboard and get into your single bunk in the room you share with your direct manager.
You will have a total of five coat hangers and two small drawers to keep all your worldly possessions in which isn’t so hard when you have 50 pieces of uniform to wear the rest of the day. One uniform for when the boss is on and one for when he isn’t plus an evening outfit, winter clothes and wet weather gear all in triplicate. You can’t move for the quick-dry, multi-pocketed, navy and khaki forest of clothes.
You might also end up throwing up in a sink with your boss as you cross the North Sea…but only if you’re lucky.
What can I do to prepare for yacht life?
Work on your thick skin. It can be easy to soak up other people’s anxieties and neuroses when you live in a tiny space together 24/7. I can be a bit of a crier at times, and having been an unflinching goodie two shoes in my school days I still find criticism hard to take sometimes.
I also like to sleep, don’t really like being told what to do, can be a bit of a slob and really enjoy my own space/company. By all accounts I’m not even close to being cut out for yacht life, but my 26 years revolving around the Sun have taught me a few things that meant I could make it work. I’ve lived in a single room that was actually half of a bathroom cordoned off by a false wall. I could touch both sides when I stretched out my arms, so I know I can live in small spaces. With no floor to speak of my floordrobe bit the dust and I became a tidier person who hung up clothes instead of leaving them in a crumpled heap.
I have over invested in a relationship and realised I was limiting myself based on someone else’s plans. I have lived with 10 insane Australian’s in one house and learned to share my space. I have made myself have awkward conversations at work about promotions, money and placing more value on myself. I’ve learned that ‘Unless they payin’ your bills, pay them bitches no mind’. Credit to RuPaul for that one, (I’ve also learned that I have an unhealthy obsession with drag queens).
I’m just trying to live my best life the best way I know how. Sometimes that means I’m puking into a toilet crossing the North Sea and other times I’m sitting on that toilet enjoying an uninterrupted view of Norwegian Fjords. The toilet is always there, it’s up to you how you frame the toilet. Profound. I know.
I would also advise embarking on fewer ill-conceived toilet analogies on the internet.
So yachting is over now, the next adventure is Edinburgh where I’m going to work the fringe festival for The Assembly and cram in as many shows as I possibly can. Make sure you’re following me on Facebook and Instagram for the low-down on how that goes.