Dockwalk - Maintaining a Sense of Self on Board Untitled Page

Maintaining a Sense of Self on Board

Sep 2nd 08
By Rubi McGrory

Being a crewmember on a yacht is truly an alternative lifestyle. You not only live with your co-workers, but your boss and his friends, as well.

Frequently, the uninitiated don’t get exactly what that means until you explain how laundry works, and that at any given time everyone’s underwear could be mingled together.

Most crew know who wears which item of underwear.

This generally drives home the point that there is no such thing as privacy in this yachtie world.

It is important for your sanity, and the well-being of the rest of your crew, to have a little bit of time for Y-O-U. But how exactly are you supposed to accomplish this when you work 14 to 16 hours a day for weeks at a time, and when you do finally catch an odd hour off, you generally want to sleep?

Space is also an issue. Taking your favorite pastime or hobby on board may prove difficult if your extracurricular activities include quilting or dirt bike riding; even jigsaw puzzles can be a bit of an issue.

Booze can be a driving factor in determining how downtime is spent. But not every day off should find you hungover in your dark cabin watching movies you’ve seen before, especially if this day off was weeks in coming. Drinking, while a fun, social way to while away your free hours, is not usually the best option.

Many crewmembers go straight to the water during their free time, either kayaking, SCUBA diving or beaching. Laser racing and model boat racing are always a good time, especially if you can gather together an ad-hoc league in your marina or anchorage.

Exercise and fitness provide other opportunities to clear your head and feel good about yourself. Most boats don’t have a gym available to crewmembers, and you may not have access to one ashore, but more and more marinas have small gyms or even common rooms where they offer yoga and other group classes., a free website, can help you create a run/walk/rollerblade/kayak trip anywhere in the world.

Jim Duhamel of S/Y Timoneer says he likes to get off the boat and stretch his legs, either with a long walk or a bicycle ride. But there are downsides.

“Once,” he explained, “ I was riding around St. Martin, just sort of pedaling into the sunset. On my way back to the boat, the police stopped me because I didn’t have a light on my bike. They made me let the air out of my tires! That day I got a bike ride, and a long walk!”

There are so many other booze-free ways to recharge your batteries. “On my last boat, a few of us were really into crossword puzzles. We had a few books of New York Times puzzles and sometimes three or four of us would work on one,” says Chief Stewardess Jennifer Santino. “I also learned embroidery and really like it. It doesn’t take up too much space, and I can work on a little bit at a time. At the end, I have a feeling of accomplishment and something to show for all of my time.”

Sometimes, to gain that feeling of not losing yourself to your work, it isn’t about what you do off the job, but what you do for yourself on the job that really counts.

A woman who asked to remain anonymous said, “Sometimes it is literally weeks before I can do anything for me, so I always make sure I am wearing really fun underwear. That way, no matter how ugly I feel in my uniform, and how horrible the guests are, I always know I’m staying true to myself and am fun underneath.” (Except all of the other crewmembers probably know what she is wearing -- just check the laundry!)


Rating  Average 3.5 out of 5

  • I'm a massage therapist (18 years) Ditto on the massage idea..taking time for you gives you permission to receive deeply within. I always take time aboard at bedtime, exhausted, to make sacred time for myself..meditation, a foot rub. When I get on land I ask locals where do they go or what do they do for their relaxation therapy, and I experience that cultures ways.
    Posted by penguin 11/12/2008 17:43:43

  • Great article! I find myself in a unique situation I am able to transport my motorcycle on the yacht so I have had it with me when we go to New in New England in Fall is spectacular...not like the traffic light districts of sunny Florida...nice way to get some freedom!
    Posted by Chef Peter_1 16/09/2008 19:43:10

  • I'll gladly second the bicycle riding. This summer, while working aboard a rather dour and humorless yacht in Chicago, my bicycle was not only my exercise, but my freedom.

    Chicago is an amazing city, full of restaurants and parks. Buzzing around in urban traffic was just the ticket for firing up my adrenal glands and my heart rate. I met some really cool people as I rode about. I found numerous cool places just to sit and watch the people go by, as well as catching up on my reading.

    I bought a fairly decent bike. (See:
    Of course, it's light, quick and nimble. The nice thing for a yachtie is that both wheels have quick-releases, so stowage is made more simple. I also swapped the rear cassette from mountain ratios to a roadie cassette, giving me more speed as opposed to climbing strength.

    Lesson learned? What ever you can do when you get off the boat... make it count and make it fun!

    "Ride it like ya stole it:-)"

    Posted by Samael9 11/09/2008 19:50:42

  • A great way to take time for yourself is with a massage. When in Fort lauderdale, visit Planet massage on Las Olas.
    Posted by Chef Mark Lohmann 03/09/2008 21:52:40

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What do you do to maintain sanity and self on board?


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