Dockwalk - The Graceful Exit Untitled Page

The Graceful Exit

Apr 19th 11
By Claire Griffiths; Photo by Suki Finnerty

There have been times, let’s say two, when diving overboard rather than opting for a spot of diplomatic dialogue with the captain or owner seemed like the only available option for Bosun James Ross. With his flippers on and mask adjusted, he jumped ship and headed for shore to drown frustrations in the local bar in both the Caribbean and the Galapagos while working on board. “We were on a three and a half year world tour at the time with 50,000 sea miles behind us,” says Ross. “It all just got [to be] too much. I partied hard all night then swam back to the boat to find the line was up. That time, I knew I’d be fired – I’d already resigned once, but had been persuaded to go back.”  

Guts and gusto-wise, Ross ranks high, but as a recommended template of “how to go gracefully”…his story isn’t one to reprise.

“I'm not sure there is an easy way – you can’t just leave at, say, the end of a charter,” says First Mate Pieter of S/Y Bagheera as he ponders the question of how to leave a yacht before the end of a contract, but he can’t come up with any obvious answers.  “I’ve always left at the end of season or contract,” he muses. And Chief Stew Dominique of S/Y Noheea doesn’t have the solution either. Her suggestion: “I suppose you just say ‘Thank you’ and be really appreciative.”  

But you can’t afford to be too cavalier in such a small industry. “Never burn your bridges,” says Isaac, deckhand on a 110-metre Lurssen based in Antibes. He advises, “Don’t take a new job without telling your captain and make sure you tell him you’re thinking of leaving in advance. If you talk to him, maybe you can improve the situation on board. You need to be as professional as possible and give plenty of notice.”

Louisa Gallimore, Crew Manager at Bluewater agrees and insists that crew must keep things on the table when they are planning to leave. Notice periods on yachts vary, she explains, but one month is the norm. “Talk through your decision with your department head or captain and don’t contact agencies to look for work beforehand because it will get back to the captain,” Gallimore warns. Professional yachties will build in a “handover period” prior to their leave and never will jump ship prior to or in the middle of a charter.  

“All captains want longevity,” says Gallimore, “so hopping boats every season is not a great idea. It’s good to stay a year or two – especially if the yacht offers training. People can grow out of their boats – they might leave to find a new boat that matches their ticket, but others are happy to stay on smaller boats where the work suits their lifestyle.”

If you are planning to make a move, look ahead to avoid large gaps of unemployment. If you’re based in the Med and you resign in November, there’s less chance of finding work before the spring.


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  • I would like to think that in this industry it would be possible to have an honest conversation with the captain and explain your situation when discussing if you are going to stay or leave the vessel. However, I have experienced and have had friends attempt to do that with less then stellar outcomes. The last yacht I left, I spoke with the captain after the season was over in hopes of having an honest conversation about whether I would stay on for the next season or leave. I did this purely out of respect because if I was going to leave, I did not want to leave him in a bind, and give proper notice, or if I was going to stay, I wanted him to know I was all in. I approached him, and told him that I would like a few days to decide if I was going to leave the yacht, or if I was going to stay, I wanted to decide for myself that I was going to be there whole heartedly and give it my absolute best, not that I did not before. I thought our meeting went well, however, after lunch I was called to the wheel house and told to gather my things and get off the boat by 4. So unfortunately, once you give the captain any idea that you are even contemplating thinking of leaving, they may already be looking for someone new. So just my 2 cents, I thought I had that open relationship where I could have this conversation with my captain, and apparently did not. So if you are thinking of approaching this subject, be prepared to be unemployed much earlier then you may have thought.
    Posted by Jonny P 17/05/2011 20:53:45

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