Dockwalk - Bedbugs and Beer Bottles – 5 Tips for Finding the Right Crew House Untitled Page

Bedbugs and Beer Bottles – 5 Tips for Finding the Right Crew House

Apr 3rd 09
By Louisa Beckett

Wherever crew dockwalk for jobs or sit ashore while the yacht’s in the yard, you’ll find crew houses. And in today’s economy, as more crew find themselves on the sidelines looking for that next berth, the demand for these affordable alternatives to high-priced hotels and apartments is growing.

Whether you’re shopping for a crew house in Antibes, Cairns, Fort Lauderdale, Palma or St. Maarten, it’s the same story…while many of them are clean, respectable establishments, others might as well have a neon light in the window that flashes “BEWARE.”

Common complaints at the worst crew houses include overflowing ashtrays, food-encrusted dishes in the sink, filthy bathrooms, stealing, twenty-four-seven partying and illegal drug use.

“My crew house is very clean; I am very strict. It's a good start for newcomers as I run it like the crew area of a yacht,” says Deborah Banks, a former chief stew who runs Debbie’s Crew House in Antibes. “As for the not-so-good crew houses, [it’s] the same old story – dirty, and a lack of respect for other roommates.”

“The last place I need to be is in a place where kids are coming in at two-thirty in the morning and then going on to drink some more, with paper-thin walls,” says Capt. Roy Simpson. “We checked out some houses – you could see the baskets of beer bottles outside the place.” He and his partner, Chef Shelly, chose to spend a recent stint between jobs at Palm Place Residences, an upscale crew house in Fort Lauderdale that features high-thread-count linens and starter provisions. “You get what you pay for,” he says.

But not everybody can afford to stay at a crew house furnished to this high a level. Many crew are just looking for a safe roof over their heads, and maybe a little privacy.

“There were places where there were twenty-seven kids sleeping on mattresses on floors, but all that’s changed over the years,” says Dwight Ledbetter, a veteran yacht captain and managing partner of Neptune Group, Inc., which operates five crew houses in Fort Lauderdale that cater to job-seekers, working crew and students at the local maritime schools. Ledbetter and his partners have spearheaded efforts to improve living conditions in crew houses both in town and around the world.

He offers some tips on what to look for – and avoid – when shopping for a crew house:

1. Consider a house run by former yacht crew. If the proprietors are still “wired in” to the local yachting community, it may be a good place to network for a job. “Captains and stews will come recruit them,” says Ledbetter.

2. Cleanliness is critical. “Inspect the premises,” he advises. “The character of the people who are there [can tell you] if they're working on yachts.” If the trash hasn’t been picked up and the kitchen and bathrooms are filthy, stay away. Even if you don’t care about your own living conditions, the state of your house tells prospective employers how you’re likely to behave onboard their vessel (see Tip #1).

3. Check for bedbugs. Even the most fastidious yachtie can unknowingly transport these microscopic pests and their eggs in their luggage or even the cuffs of their pants, according to Ledbetter. “These days, there’s a big problem with bedbugs. Some crew houses just ignore the problem. We take a proactive approach.” He advises asking crew house proprietors straight out if they’ve had an infestation. You also can check for bedbug residue in a mattress or boxspring. “You can see little spots of mildew,” Ledbetter says. A bedbug’s bite looks – and itches like a mosquito’s.

4. Screening is a good thing. Don’t cringe if the crew house asks you for references. “If you’ve got a bad apple in the bunch that, say, steals from someone else, it throws off the harmony of the house,” Ledbetter says. In particular, make sure the proprietors are vigilant about drug use. Neptune Group has a “zero tolerance” policy. “What if you walk in the front door and someone is smoking a joint at the back door and you inhale the smoke?” he asks. “If they test positive on their next drug test, they could lose their whole career.”

5. Research crew houses online. Check the web to find out what other crew are saying about the houses you’re considering – although, watch out for people with axes to grind. You can Google the house or try an online forum like, “Crew Houses...duu duu duu duuuuuh!” on Ledbetter also recommends joining

Have you had a bad – or good – experience at a crew house you’d like to share?




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  • Looking for a plce you can call "home"? Have a look on and find out what the possibilities are to own a place you can call home in the heart of the Med's yachting scene.
    Posted by Crewproperty 10/04/2010 17:31:01

  • RENTAL>>>>>>>I am a yachtie renting out my 1/1 suite to reliable yacht crew. $250 a week all included + wireless. Off 17th Street.e-mail me
    Posted by Kelovely 14/04/2009 06:31:36

  • To all those concerned (and even those, such as 'slug', that are not) -

    My partner and I own and operate a crew house. Both of us are also highly experienced and highly accomplished yacht captains. And both of us take offense at comments proffered by a certain 'slug' regarding crew housing.

    Reading 'slug's' comments (he seems to prefer being known as a 'slug'), one finds that 'slug' doesn't complain about conditions regarding crew housing, but instead complains about 'Ex Yacht Captains' owning crew housing. If there is an issue with ex yacht captains owning crew housing, then it isn't articulated very well by the 'slug'.

    Reading more closely, one finds that the 'slug' likes to have fun at the expense of others... what was the 'slug's' phrase?
    "You get to live for free and save up a big wedge of cash, handy in these lean times for chasing wine and women"
    Growing up, I myself learned from the short end that fun at the expense of others meant that innocents (such as you and me) are the ones that end up paying for the 'slugs' of the world.

    I have a tip for the 'slugs' of the world - you can quote me on this if you like....

    "Working On Yachts Is NOT For Average People", including the below average 'slugs' of the world.

    I, and Captains like me, avoid the wino 'slugs' of the world, because the owners of the yachts that we work on, and answer to, demand something more from their crew than the casual "Chill, put your feet up, enjoy another bottle of wine"

    Slugs of the world, fulfill your destiny and "go dig ditches"!
    Posted by Dwight_1 08/04/2009 03:07:26

  • There is a new place in Ft. Lauderdale called Crew Castle, is top of the line and doesn't charge more for it. There is a 11 p.m. noise curfew, strict ZERO drug tollerance, and any guest that leaves a mess or dirty dishes or doesn't respect the place does not get invited to stay a second week. The owner (an x Yacht Chef), is very helpful. It is very close to 17th street and US 1. They don't advertise, so it's hard to find, but International Yacht Training School knows them and so does Dwight at Neptune Group (he sends people there when he is full). I just found the phone # 954 931-8945
    Posted by s_2 07/04/2009 20:09:11

  • considering you will be the one looking for a job and the ex skipper is likely to know everyone around and is also likely to be a lot handier with his fists than the milkshake soft kids around today that sounds like great advise
    Posted by scepticscott 05/04/2009 17:42:32

  • Is staying in a crew house worth the risks?
    I´d avoid staying in one at all cost, there not pleasant, safe or restful.
    Posted by Dean_1 05/04/2009 10:55:50

  • Most of these crew flop houses are run by slum lords.
    Don't know how it works in the US, but over here in Spain ninety percent of crew houses are operated illegally by Ex Yacht Captains scheming to make a quick euro off a real estate play by operating a speculative , flipper apartment as a hostel, hotel. Illegal.
    According to todays local newspaper..... "The Spanish tax authorities are reported to have taken an interest in the investigation, as few, if any, of the owners of illegally-rented properties declared their income and paid their taxes. "
    Why not have some fun and Cut the slum lords down to size. Try this, move in with a gang of mates then don't pay the rent. When the ex skipper tries to evict you, stand your ground and threaten to lodge an official complaint with the local authorities. Big crackdown on illegal tourist apartments over here at the moment. Skippy will no doubt have read the newspaper, start flip, flopping like a fish on the dock and capitulate at the first mention of legal action.
    You get to live for free and save up a big wedge of cash, handy in these lean times for chasing wine and women.... The poor ex skipper takes it upside the checkbook and starts dreaming about the good old days as a yacht captain with afternoons driving golf balls and ten percent on every awlgrip job.
    Don't fall for their threats . A new generation of 25 year old, non real estate owning yacht skipper has taken command of the fleet, so no matter how much the slum lords threaten and thrash about , these beached ex skippers cant harm your reputation......
    Chill, put your feet up, enjoy another bottle of wine and remember....the best crew house is a free crew house.
    Posted by slug 04/04/2009 19:44:21

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