Dockwalk - The Role of the Stew: Labor of Love or Hard Labor? Untitled Page

The Role of the Stew: Labor of Love or Hard Labor?

Mar 16th 09
By Di Thompson

My first Stewardess role was on a beautiful Herreshoff ketch; a yacht so famous that Jimmy Buffett turned up on board one day with his family for a day of sailing, swimming, lunching and circumnavigating one of the picturesque Leeward Islands. Then, at nightfall, when everyone had shuffled off the passerelle and onto the dock, it was time to wipe down every piece of interior brightwork, clean the heads, remake the beds, straighten the lounges and cushions and wash and wipe the mountain of dishes in the galley sink.

On that yacht, it seems like I was always on hands and knees with a spray bottle of vinegar and water. I remember feeling horrified when lifting out the shower floorboards, taking them off the boat and onto the dock and attacking them with a scrubbing brush and bottle of something French that I couldn't pronounce.

Looking back, was all that hard work worth it? You bet it was! Being a stewardess is more than just straightening pillows, although that is part of the job description. Although stews don't get down in the bilges, they still get down and dirty in many ways. And what about the bigger vessels with exponentially larger interiors? Stews must cope with a workload only their great-great-grandmothers would understand. spoke with some interior crew about a typical day in the life of a stew:


“No point in watching the clock, particularly with guests aboard,” says Dee, who freelances along the east coast of Australia. “Most of the yachts I work on are between 70 and 120 feet. Even though they are not considered to be large vessels, with owners or guests to take care of, the workload always increases. Late at night, when your feet start dragging and you think that if you were to sit down, you might not be capable of standing up again – just then, you hear loud and clear from the dinner table, “Another three bottles of that lovely red wine, please.”

“After ten years in yachting, I have worked in all capacities from being confined to laundry and cabin duties in a junior role on a 160-foot Feadship to chief stew overseeing a team aboard a 147-foot Oceanfast,” says chef/stew “Karen.” In her most recent role on a busy charter yacht with two rotating captains and 18 full-time crew, her days were so busy she even delegated filing and other administrative tasks she ordinarily would have undertaken herself to a “green” junior stew straight out of stewardess school. “To make the captains and the owners happy 24/7 is a labor of love indeed,” she says.

“When there are no owners or guests on board, it’s a routine,” says Tia, a chef/stew aboard an 84-foot Horizon motor yacht. “My day will start with laundry, dusting, vacuuming carpets, mopping marble tiles and cleaning out galley lockers and fridges. Then I will prepare and clean up after lunch. During the afternoon, there are windows and glass, light fittings and a quick wipe-down of all the appliances and interior stainless. Then it’s time to start dinner.”

She and her husband, Robin, work as a team and to keep the whole boat immaculate. “There is nothing more satisfying than when an owner steps aboard and compliments his captain and crew on how beautiful his yacht looks. That’s why we crack it as couple,” says Robin. “We love what we do and if any crew thinks they are doing ‘hard labor’, they're in the wrong business.”


What do you think – are stews underappreciated for the job they do? Leave your comments below.

Related Topics:

Blog: Girls on Deck (19/02/2009)



Rating  Average 1.5 out of 5

  • I agree.........
    RENTAL----renting out my 1/1 suite to reliable yacht crew. $250 a week all included + wireless. Off 17th Street ft lauderdale---e-mail me
    Posted by Kelovely 14/04/2009 06:40:44

  • Agree one hundred percent - stop using the word STEW. It sounds terrible, disrespecttful & unprofessional. On professional yachts, we don't call the Captain 'Cap'....the word STEW has driven me nuts for 8 years. They even print it in yachting publications. Severe lack of standards. Thank God someone else hates it!
    Posted by JT_1 19/03/2009 15:14:42

  • This is my job. Owners have guests and crew have customers.

    There is nothing wrong with folding toilet paper and going detail crazy as long as you can convince me that you will do all these details in a short period of time and then... ears pricked up like a hunting dog, guard my customers all day long.

    I have a non yachty stewardess who cant push a vacume but absolutely dazzles customers with one on one personal attention and intelligent conversation, not yachty presentations. Three weeks ago this stewardess was skiing in Switzerland as the guest of a family who sails with us . I can only assume that this family respects the level of service they received last year on a two week cruise.

    I regularly see my stewardess grab a female customer and tender ashore to walk thru a fruit market, buy tomatoes, look into shop windows and relax with a coffee. .
    I have had super stewardess's who reject all of the routines like big wasteful flower arrangements and simply pick wild roses, remove the pedals and do beautiful things. They will actually leave a rose pedal in the bathroom to say.... I have been here and all is well.

    I have seen a stewardess engage customers with knowledge, stimulate interest then jump in a bus with this group of millionaires and ride to Bosnia and show them the ancient city of Mostar.
    A stewardess organizes the English or German or French speaking Russian tour guide and personally takes my customers to the Hermitage and the Summer Palace.
    How many hours are in a day ? How many stewardess's can a yacht carry ? It is my job to ask very much from a stewardess, respect her working hours and not abuse her.

    Our mission is not fluff it is to show customers all the beautiful things that can only by experienced on yachts.
    Posted by monback 19/03/2009 10:04:37

  • Comment to : Posted by monback
    And stewardess, please spend less time on silly toilet paper folding routines and concentrate you attention on my customers.

    Maybe if you understood the whys you would realize that the silly fold is done to make a visual check that there is enough toilet paper on the roll and that you don't leave you guest on the toilet without enough toilet paper needed.

    Don't know if you have ever found yourself in a bathroom and halfway through your business realized there was only a square to spare on the roll. Not fun stuff specially on a yacht where the bathroom space hardly has enough room the the guest items and toilet paper is usually shoved in some little corner.

    Also your "My Customers" that just doesn't sound right, first of all aren't they really guest of the yacht and secondly they are not just your "MY" but our guest as every crew member on the yacht should treat them as a guest.
    Posted by Misselaineous 18/03/2009 23:13:45

  • Thank you Monback for your fabulously wonderful SOUL observations. In Australia we are 'Hosties' or Hostesses.
    Some of the things you mentioned that we do for our guests to make their charter something special are true. Your comments showed what a truly appreciative and grateful Captain you are. Thank you.
    Posted by LeslieD 17/03/2009 22:16:10

  • Debbie, you might not have a suitable disposition to serve as crew.
    Long days and weeks are what its all about. Yachting seasons are very compressed. I can't possibley turn down prime weeks in the schedule.
    I see two back to back groups with same day turn arounds and one pickup that is 1100 miles downrange in which I have 7 days to cover the miles and arrive with a smile. Its the life.
    Today my crew ate breakfast, did a few chores then spent the rest of the day at the beach soaking up spring sunshine. They are happy.
    My crew can see the schedule, they will dig in and get the job done.
    Many young crew read these forums, dont poison them with bad vibes.
    Posted by junior_1 17/03/2009 19:16:45

  • Debbie
    You sound a bit jaded and cynical. I spent 10 fantastic years on yachts, working my fingers to the bone. And I worked for wonderful captains, first mates, etc. that worked just as hard as me!!! At some point all crew on board work hard: with guests on board - the stews work hard, in shipyards, the deck crew, engineers and captains work hard. A shame that you generalize about captains, officers and first mates being Lazzzy...
    Posted by Isobel 17/03/2009 11:03:54

  • First off flush this American slang word STEW into the black water tank of yachting failures. A stewardess is female, steward is male. I have only met a handful of stewards in my whole career. When you introduce this slang STEW to my multilingual guests, who speak English as a fourth language ,they reach for their dictionary, scratch their heads and wonder why we speak about STEW, potatoes, carrots and beef at 8 o'clock in the morning. Stop this Goulash.
    Second. What is a Stewardess ? As a yacht captain for over thirty years I can tell you exactly what the position is.
    I only hire girls and this stewardess is the SOUL of the ship. My relations with the owner or guests are defined by the stewardess's personality, ability to engage people and her attention to detail.. Many times the guests don't even know my name, my interaction may be only 15 minutes at breakfast to decide the days itinerary.. After this the guests belong to the stewardess. A stewardess is not a cleaning machine. Every crew on the boat is a cleaning machine. The stewardess adds detail and quality to presentation. The stewardess guides guests thru a new town, helps them find a fun restaurant, reminds them that their phone rang earlier in the day, gets them to the taxi on time..
    The stewardess must educate the guests and crew. I now have repeat customers, some for more than ten years in a row ,that have been trained in the way of yachts by a first class stewardess.
    If a captain turns the stewardess gang into walking vacume cleaners they are not operating a yacht they are running a McDonalds. And stewardess, please spend less time on silly toilet paper folding routines and concentrate you attention on my customers.
    Posted by monback 17/03/2009 08:32:52

  • Maybe that was 30 minutes worth of sleeping. But still not "two or three hours". ;)
    Posted by Debbie_1 17/03/2009 02:46:22

  • I don't mind working up to 15-17 hours. But if it's every day with a one to two day turn around for weeks on end, I don't really think it's fair. Yacht owners and cpts need to respect people's time...your time is not just valuable, everyone else's is as well. If stews think about it, they're basically earning around the minimum wage when they work those hours. I'm not talking about the lazy chief stews who do "admin" work.
    I've enjoyed much of what the industry has offered especially the travel and people I've met...but I think others need to be considerate about what stews have been doing during shifts.

    The crazy, slanderous, and thieving cpt that I mentioned earlier on this site actually told me that I slept for two hours [a few days after I started this god forsaken gig]..when this guy was on his butt for hours and fooling around his "gorgeous" gf for hours as well on other days. I slept for 15 minutes and took a half hour break afterwards...some two hours.

    Perhaps things need to change so that stews can stop leaving the yachts! That and many of the cpts, officers, and first mates need to get off their butts and work as well while on charter. They are Lazzzy!
    Posted by Debbie_1 17/03/2009 02:42:49

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