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Is This Sabotage?
Posted: Monday, June 29, 2009 11:58 PM

Dear Crew Confessor,

I am the chef on a yacht that was recently sold to a new owner.  We have a new captain, mate, and second stew but the engineer, myself and chief stew were kept on by the new captain.  The past few months have gone alright, but I am disturbed by the behavior of our engineer in relation to myself.  

I always had the impression that he didn't much care for me, but I've always gone out of my way to be kind to him, and asked him on numerous occasions about his favorite foods etc... there have been many times when he has had long projects with the engines that I have left out late night snacks and treats, just to be nice, you know!

Lately I've had the distinct impression that he is trying to sabotage me with the new captain and maybe the owner too.  He's made sly comments to the captain (I overheard) about having "the trots" and asking if the captain had an upset stomach, then adding it had happened before, "something he ate, must have been."  Obviously insinuating it was food I'd cooked.

Then the other day he was in the crew fridge, yanked something out (a tray of raw vegetables) and made a comment like, if he wanted to eat like rabbit he'd live in a hunch.  To make matters worse he came storming into the galley with a gallon of milk claiming I was poisoning them all (the expiration date was months old).  A$$hole!  The milk had been frozen!  

I think he's trying to sabotage me.  I know he doesnt' like me but the mate thinks he has a new girlfriend, a girlfriend who happens to be --- A CHEF!  


Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 11:08 AM

My first question is this: are you certified in sanitation ? If so, keep a log of food that you serve, and make sure that hot entrees and main dishes, that contain protein, are cooled to 41 degrees or lower, covered and stored properly. Keep left overs a maximum of 2 days, then discard.

When dealing with people of this type, you really need to keep a journal backing up your actions and his, with date, time, and place of occurrence...this way you have a sufficient defense if questioned by the Captain or owners. These are the things I used in commercial kitchens to cover my butt.

The engineer is certainly doing a hatchet job on you by feigning a food born illness and using subterfuge. Has there been any crew member who had the same "medical" complaints as him? Does he have a physicians diagnosis of food born illness ? As an engineer, he is not qualified to do the aforementioned. He is pulling the oldest trick in the book to get rid of a chef. Plus, his actions could be considered slander.

I highly suggest that you have a meeting with the Captain and the engineer to try to clear this matter up. 

Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 1:16 PM
Joined: 27/04/2009
Posts: 1

In all situations like this, documentation is the key.  I would recommend that you send emails to a trusted person that has some familiarity with the situation so that there is a date and time stamp.  This will show that the events are and have been on going.  A word of warning however, if things get ugly, emails are admissible in court and can be used by either side.

Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 1:47 PM
Joined: 29/07/2008
Posts: 1

Dear Anonymous, Obviously this guy is compelled to discredit you. His girlfriend is behind the whole thing !" Oh wouldn't it be wonderful if we could work together on the same boat " I'm sorry you have found yourself on the receiving end of the worst in human behavior.Unfortunately you have to continue doing the best you can and hope the Captain sees right through this skullduggery . Eventually this engineer will expose himself for what he truly is, a complete ass.And you'll be the wiser for it.

Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 2:47 PM
Joined: 13/06/2009
Posts: 1

The best result would be, the engineer goes.  I'd say go off site away from the boat if you have a chance and treat the captain to a drink or meal "off the record" and bring him up to date on what you think is going on.  That kind of thing does really need to be "away from the office" to create a clean and frank atmosphere.  And everyone likes to be treated.  ALWAYS phrase everything in terms of the best interests of the boat, NOT the best interests of you.  This is a serious matter - in this case, your engineer might well try to create some food poisoning, at great, even fatal, risk to crew, owner or guests.

I wouldn't wait for shore time - time is of the essence.  If shore time is days or weeks away, ask for a private meeting with the captain, and go "off the record", or ask permission to "speak frankly".  Once he has made up his mind to fire you, it will be much harder to get back in his good graces.

I also am thinking, if the engineer lies about you, what else does he lie about?  Like, "yessir, I sure did change those filters".   

Rather than try to stop the source, insulate the receiver. 


Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 4:08 PM

Don't know if it's a good idea to talk with the cpt about this issue your taking with the engineer, he might be on good terms with engineer and see you as a some kind of narc.

The yachting industry is among the most corrupt industries that I've seen, I would not be surprised that even if you are doing everything that you are supposed to and qualified to do, you might lose your job. If you do, the best that you can do for now, is to get over the issue and find another job asap. It's good to document things that you may see as improper, but it may or may not help you keep your job with the cpt.

In the meanwhile, try talking to both the cpt and engineer.  Also, stay cool and friendly with others who may help you as a good and positive references. You don't always need a cpt. for a reference.

Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2009 2:43 AM
hopefully your captain reads this may make him think could this happen on his ship?good luck.

An Owner
Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2009 5:46 AM
Joined: 15/01/2009
Posts: 53

 Yes anonymous, this is sabotage in it's purest form. Also, the most blatant and lamest method of manipulation that I have had to deal with in all my years. There is a certain segment of society that finds getting ahead at the expense of their peers, and by climbing over the backs of their friends is a perfectly acceptable method of achieving their goals.

Rest assured that if your mate is aware of the situation, your Captain is also acutely aware of it too. This leaves you with one of two possibilities.  Either the saboteur has already accomplished his goal in poisoning the well and the Captain is in agreement, or the Captain is aware and dismissive of the saboteur's game.

Were you a member of my Captain's crew you would be expected to inquire with the Captain herself as to her opinion of your job performance and if there is something she feels that you can do to improve. If this is not a regularly scheduled evaluation any Captain with a measurable amount of insight is going to seize the opportunity to address the situation. When he or she does, you simply have explain that you were worried that due to a couple of incidents or comments being made,  you were worried  that you might not be living up to his or her expectations and that is important to you.

You don't have to play the saboteur's game, you don't even have to mention his name because as I said, if the mate knows, so does the Captain. Personally, on our boat if the same situation would occur (it never would), my Captain would already be looking for a replacement for the saboteur since he represents what the owner considers one of the lowest forms of life. It wouldn't matter if you were a vegetarian that refused to touch beef. You'd still be around longer than the sniper.

Give your Captain a chance. They've seen this all before.    

Posted: Friday, July 3, 2009 10:33 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1064

Have a straight up discussion with the captain. "You have a minute to talk? I'm getting some weird vibes from the engineer, and I'm feeling a bit disabused. Do you have a problem with anything I'm doing? Should I go find another job?" If the engineer is trying to sabotage you and you are doing a good job, most likely the captain sees through it. We aren't all stupid. If it was me, and you approached the situation honestly and openly with me rather than pulling some manipulative BS, and there was a situation between you and the engineer that couldn't be resolved, guess who I'd let go.... I don't appreciate it when people try to manipulate me, and I don't need the headaches. I expect adult behavior. I can replace an engineer as easily as I can replace a chef. Talent and knowledge of your job is not everything. Yachts are a tight place and the work is hard, the living even harder. If you can't act like a respectful adult with your fellow crew mates, ALL of them, I don't need you as my quality of life declines, and the only reason I left the commercial sector for yachts and took a major cut in pay is for a better quality of life. If someone tries to play games and manipulate me, they're gone quicker than they can realize what happened. If you think I'm so stupid, I don't need you, it's a respect issue as well as a trust issue. You want something from me, just be straight up and ask me about it. Machiavellian schemes and dramas are the last thing I need in my life. I get enough drama already. Most captains I suspect feel pretty much the same way as I.
Crew Confessor
Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 7:54 PM
Joined: 20/11/2008
Posts: 94

Dear Chef Under Fire,

A bit of a pickle you are in here but your situation is hardly hopeless.  You could finish the job and poison him for real, perhaps during a delivery, and with the help of the chief stew his body could go over the side under the cloak of darkness.  For added measure make sure his fly is down so that if his body is recovered his death will be blamed on him relieving himself over the side.  Just kidding of course!  The Crew Confessor would never suggest such a thing, though I don't doubt that the thought has crossed the minds of more than one harried yacht chef.

The engineer does appear to be on the devious side though and you are wise to be on the alert.  Hopefully you have crew mates who are "on your side" and who will stick up for you.  If he claims to have gotten ill from something you cooked again they can back you up by proclaiming that they ate the same thing and felt perfectly fine.    Appear very sympathetic to him over his illness,  be very solicitous.  Don't let your suspicions show.  You might also produce some information to offer him about digestive disorders that might be plaguing  him such as irritable bowel syndrome, or diverticulitis that may mimic the symptoms of food poisoning.  I would offer this information to him publicly.  If you feel he is making this up and is truly trying to weasel his girlfriend into your position, make sure your galley is always scrupulously clean and your instant read thermometer prominently on your person at all times.  I always recommend independent thermometers in the fridges to make sure the temps are kept low enough too.  I would also keep a record of all meals served to everyone, and like one chef has already suggested here, don't keep leftovers for more than two days and even less if they spend any appreciable time at room temperature (i.e. sitting out on the crew mess table).  

A private chat with the captain is certainly in order.  Express your concerns calmly and sincerely and reaffirm your commitment to the yacht, the captain and the owner.  Make it clear, in no uncertain terms that you consider yourself a professional and  food safety issues are of utmost importance to you.  Explain that you take his thinly veiled accusations very seriously, and will not stand having your reputation slandered.  When speaking with the captain explain that you are giving him the benefit of the doubt and if has indeed suffered intestinal distress it might be due to an underlying physical condition that should be attended to by a proper physician.  Apologies to all the fine engineers, but I find that sometimes they have an inflated idea of their own importance, and fancy themselves to be difficult to be replaced.  The fact is no one is irreplaceable and a crew person who would stoop to such levels in an effort to have his girlfriend placed on board the vessel is no crew member I would ever wish to go to sea with.  Hopefully your captain will share this opinion and if he does not he will likely come to regret it because skilled engineer or not, a person of such low character will certainly show his true colors and eventually put others in jeopardy as well, with the captain himself not immune from his machinations.  Take heart, not all captains will take an engineers word at face value, more than one captain has lost his job to an engineer too.

Your Crew Confessor

Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009 2:59 AM
Joined: 17/06/2008
Posts: 71

Crew politics is nothing new and dealing with it is never easy. Doing your job well, having an intelligent conversion with the Captain and then asking him to mediate are positive actions. Mediation is what I’d try, especially if you can make coherent statements and remain calm when facing up to this person in a controlled situation. Be proactive, confront him and take advantage of the surprise factor. Rarely do people think they will be confronted when the sneak behind peoples backs and bully others. Be sure to compliment the engineer when confronting him, avoid negative comments and only speak about the facts. Lowering yourself to mud throwing will be the reaction he desires. Disarm, diffuse and use body language to confirm your confidence as a person and let him behave in an unprofessional manner. Once you have somebody distracted, angry and frustrated it’s very easy to make them make Freudian slips and unforced errors. My father told me once you don’t fight to win, you fight to live. My last piece of advice would be to calm down, critique your physical and emotional state. Fatigue and closed working environments amplify situations like this, because unnecessary anxiety and taking a deep breath and considering the possibility this may be a storm in a tea cup is very important, because this is precisely why you must go into this positively and not go for the throat and make negative comments.
Posted: Friday, July 10, 2009 4:35 AM
Be very careful, engineers can be dangerous. They aren't always fixing things in the engine room, I'm convinced that they spend a lot of time plotting, and they aren't plotting courses.
 Average 5 out of 5