8 Things Crew Do to Feel “Normal”

Feb 12th 09
By Joanne MacKenzie

Recently, I talked to a chef-and-captain couple who said they were looking forward to having some downtime between jobs just “to have a chance to live on land and feel normal for awhile.” The chef said she was going to take some household items out of storage in order to live with her own things around her for a couple of months.

Finding “normal” isn’t always easy for crew working on yachts.

They live with other adults in a relatively small place, wear uniforms and have little control over their work schedule. For the most part, the end of the workday means going down the stairs to a crew mess and a cabin that is shared with someone else. Things you may associate with a normal kind of life – like having a dog or a piano or your own room with a whole bed – simply aren’t options when you work and live on a boat.

While most crew get used to the routine of boat life, there are times when they just need to get away from the boat to feel normal. Here are some of the “normalizing” activities crew do:

  • *  Many crewmembers go for a run or for a walk. (Remember to stick to safe areas.)

    *  The bar is generally the closest place within walking distance of the boat, so a lot of crew find happy hour a pretty normal way to spend time at the end of the day.
  • * Some crew take up a new hobby or sport. A first mate told me he started kite boarding just so he would spend less time in the bar.

    *  Some crew don’t have to walk that far. A chief stew said, “I wear high heels around my cabin just to feel normal for awhile. No flat shoes or white T-shirts. Just something nice for a change.”}

  • *  Shopping can be a great “normalizer.” The same stew said she once paid about 200 euros for a top that she didn’t even like or wear just so she could get off the boat and go shopping the way she would normally do at home...not so easy – or cheap – when you’re docked in a place like Porto Cervo.

    *  “Getting off the boat and going out for dinner away from the other crew or any crew for that matter,” is how one captain said he tries to normalize his time on board. He says it not only breaks up the monotony of eating in a crew mess, but he also thinks it’s a healthy way to “remember how the other half lives.”

    *  A few crewmembers even go so far as to spend a night away from the boat. “I booked a hotel in the BVI one time just to stretch out on a big normal bed and watch movies all weekend just to feel normal and get off the boat for a couple of days,” admitted another stew.

    *  One chef said she doesn’t need to go anywhere – she uses text messaging to keep in contact with people who make her feel normal. “I text family and friends at home and it keeps my head on straight, reminds me of who I am and who the real people in my life are when people on the boat are driving me crazy and the bulkheads start caving in,” she says.

What kind of things do you do to feel normal when you’re on board for extended periods?


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  • I always try to make sure I have a good stock of books to read - fiction and fact - its another form of escapism and you can even choose to learn another language and repeat phrases to yourself throughout your day. Or even just paint a french manicure on your tootsies in your crew head on your down time. I also allow myself the luxury of phoning family and friends in the UK and keep up with what is going on in their lives - they love hearing about where I am and what I am up to - it sounds so crazy to them but it helps keep things in perspective when you've got a bit of a shitfight going on with difficult guests and you have to suck it up or awkward crew politics to ignore... I do love my work though, just going outside to look at the view and take a deep breath is often enough for me :)
    Posted by Caroline Freedman 18/07/2010 00:17:29

  • After close to two decades of yachting full time, I am now a full time massage therapist. Part of the reason I got into this business came after I realized how much difference a massage or stretching session can make. At Planet Massage we offer all sorts of stress relieving treatments such as our healing rhythms biofeedback program. Alleviating pain can do wonders for making one feel "normal". It is amazing how an hour of massage and meditation can help you focus and get a grip on an otherwise hectic world. While in Fort Lauderdale, visit Planet Massage on Las Olas Boulevard. Http://www.PlanetMassage.com
    Posted by Chef Mark Lohmann 18/02/2009 17:55:05

  • I totally agree with the 7th comment. Staying in a hotel room for the night can, alas, make you feel like you are the one on vacation. Get out there and enjoy your current locale...isn't that why most of us are in this industry? We are travelers at heart. The importance of getting off the boat is crucial. And you shouldn't feel bad about it, when granted the option. I always tell my crew mates to remember the "human factor." Don't lock yourself up in your room...you can nap at the end of the season, mates ;-)
    Posted by Kimi Reid 18/02/2009 16:43:00

  • While I was still working as crew, I would do volunteer work at the Animal Shelter. What I missed most was being able to have a dog. Working at the shelter helped fill that void in my life and allowed me to have friends who were not yachties. That's always nice too.
    Posted by Kelly_1 17/02/2009 19:22:23

  • Ouch Dee, the boat owns you? Im sorry you feel that way. "When i was in Antigua I joined the sailing club and raced against local Laser sailors (i hired a laser dinghy) Carl is a former Olympic sailor and it was like I was back racing with friends in the UK"
    Posted by Capt_Chaos 17/02/2009 15:50:39

  • I love going to see live music. I have purchased lots of tickets for shows I never got to see, but love the chance for seeing my favorite bands in different places.
    Posted by Rubi 17/02/2009 14:35:00

  • Since the boat owns you 24/7 when you're working, just getting off the boat and mingling with non-yachtie people is fun and "normal feeling" until you get to the part of "what do you do for a living".....
    Posted by Dee Pearce 16/02/2009 19:40:37

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