mike french's Blog

Revolting Crew

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The good old days are only over when you start to look back at them and squint. But romanticism aside, we all can clearly observe changes occurring in the yachting industry and we're undoubtedly aware that it's evolving; more rules and less freedom, more definition and less interpretation seem to be the order of the modern day.

Despite the pressure we’re under and the inevitable encroachment of legislation in our daily lives, we are, it would seem, surprisingly complacent about protecting our greater interests as a demographic group.

At this very moment several institutions are championing various causes on behalf of yachties the world over: The PYA is lobbying hard to ensure the MLC amendments are palatable. Groups in Fort Lauderdale are pushing the local city to make sure that affordable crew accommodations remain legal. Even the MCA is scrutinizing everything the training schools do so standards are maintained and corners not cut in delivering training.

Despite these isolated initiatives, the industry as a whole remains disparate and is characterized by many varied and competing interests operating independently. This usually ticks along unnoticed until a particular event causes the spotlight to shine on the flaws in the perfect façade of yachting.

One such occasion was recent murder of a crewmember in St. Maarten, where there was a very mixed reaction as some yachts stayed and some left. Whether or not there should have been a uniform reaction is not my contention. What is of interest is that there is not a single body that crew typically turn to, not one body which will listen to their opinions and inform, advise or coordinate unified action. Whether it is a response to a security threat or a reaction to the imposition of new policies. 

But do crew care? Well, apparently the great majority does not. The forums are full of posts at odds with the rules and laws we face with few valid points of view.  One has to wonder if energies would be better spent informing policy rather than whinging about it. Crew security, social security, mandatory rest periods, accommodation standards, local security concerns and training requirements are all issues are discussed far from the “coal face.”  This inevitably means that there is astonishingly little representation. Those representing crew are not accountable or elected by the majority, they are simply recognized by the legislators and the “powers that be.”  The fact is that these chosen few are, in most cases, busting their chops to improve things for the average yachtie.  But do the majority of yachties know that? 

To most yachties the concept of a union is revolting.  But as we see in the Arab world, the concept of revolting requires union. To inform change there must be some form of group proffering some form of alternative from the status quo.  So where does one go to suggest changes to the present way of doing things?  Facebook, Dockwalk who cares? Well, you should! The opinion of crew is important, particularly where procurement is involved. Check out the crew lounges at a marina near you if you are in any doubt so the voice is definitely there.

A revolt is a little far fetched and a union unlikely but from time to time crew could get together and inform change or lobby in their own interests. All you have to do is find the place to be heard. There are people listening!


If nothing ever went wrong there would be no need for regulation. Common sense merely a measure perspective and knowledge, therefore industry regulation is a necessary evil because it does set minimum standards for industry.

Having said that regulation must be realistic, produce positive change and make everyone accountable for his or her choices and actions. Setting a standard and not maintaining it is a waste of everyone’s time.

I jumped on the MCA bandwagon, spent the money got the tickets and for what? I still see un-qualified people in qualified jobs and that will probably occur with the MLC 2006.

I agree with the need to improve crew quarters and crew social rights, but I don’t agree with the unionization of crew because the balance of space and time must be in the owners favor. By nature yachting is all about the owner and enabling them to have the lion’s share of the yacht is the only way yachts can work.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a yacht with unbearable crew quarters; I have however worked with more than one unbearable yacht owner and crew.

Professional associations and industry events that bring crew together enable people exchange ideas and find solutions for problems. Steering crew toward meaningful industry events that aren’t parties is well overdue.

The reason why crews are silent is because the vast majority of them are short timers with no professional desires.

Owners will get what they want, they always do. The wealthy have the power of influence and this is precisely why the world economy is a train wreck.
Posted by: Septic tank at 29/04/2011 18:30


Dream on you lot.
Money talks.
And you ein't got any.
Posted by: Pro skipper at 29/04/2011 19:52


Yacht crew are very well represented. Your position of having this transient body let everyone with an a-hole and an opinion vote on critical technical matters is flawed. Legislators are the voice of those whom vote.
The golden rule shall prevail, especially in yachting. I've known and watched you organizers for 15 years and watched it go nowhere, what say you give it a break and stop taking hard earned monies from the less intelligent members of this community.
Arab world, now that's a great example. I'm sure that when yachtsmen are being shot for showing up to work smelling like alcohol you got a revaluation but until then . do me a favor and clam it...
Posted by: heevahova at 29/04/2011 21:13


Some crew do not tell the truth on there CV'S,they do not respect the job but think it is a party or a way to hook up.Salaries are goning down because a lack of professionalism.Capts quite hiring the unquailified.
Posted by: wk at 29/04/2011 21:19


Yacht crew are very well represented. Your position of having this transient body let everyone with an a-hole and an opinion vote on critical technical matters is flawed. Legislators are the voice of those whom vote.
The golden rule shall prevail, especially in yachting. I've known and watched you organizers for 15 years and watched it go nowhere, what say you give it a break and stop taking hard earned monies from the less intelligent members of this community.
Arab world, now that's a great example. I'm sure that when yachtsmen are being shot for showing up to work smelling like alcohol you got a revaluation but until then . do me a favor and clam it...
Posted by: heevahova at 29/04/2011 21:20


Wake up x generation yachting is a luxury so is its enviroment.Without it ,folks are so adaptable
so you will be too,find another wing and grief off.
Posted by: irma double at 29/04/2011 22:45


Here is an idea for the beginning of a greater scheme......why not check out SuperYacht Watch Dog - a quick facebook page I just put together - it provides a communal location for all crew, from all over the world, a place to come together, share and share alike. The more people use it, the more useful it becomes.........Go on, don't be shy - introduce your self and lets see if we can't help each other, help our selves....

http://www.facebook.com/pages/SuperYacht-Watch-Dog/169340266456517

check it out!!
Posted by: Thomas( Visit ) at 30/04/2011 00:01


I must say, that when I read your blogs, I usually disagree and dislike them, and this is without exception. You seem to be the bloke that seems to yell the sky is falling on a regular basis, you seem to bleed negativity. We are an industry that has gotten further and further away from its roots of people that worked their way up and earned their position. Today its instant gratification, and they know it all within a year. We need more regulation, it helps weed out the ones that are either in it for the short haul or saw a yacht on vacation and on a whim decided it was for them. I remember being approached by a captain in the 90's about starting a union and when I asked why we needed one, he said, to help get the coast guard to make tests easier and more yacht specific. Take out those questions from ships. Well, why would I want that. I have jumped through all the hoops, and many before me, we were able to do it, and so will they. There are no shortages of crew, make it harder to achieve, not easier, it will only increase our value, and it will make the collective group all the stronger. How about just once, doing a positive blog.
Posted by: CaptErik at 30/04/2011 01:14


There is a lot of ignorant anti union sentiment being voiced by some right wing extremists in the US these days.
The reality is that the old days of tough "mobsters" being involved in every aspect of American Labor unions was never quite what the movies make it out to be and today those days are long gone anyway. (I know. I was a Teamster in New York City in the 1970's) Unions, admittedly, were somewhat closed institutions where one might have had to be connected through a relative etc. to get in. No more. Today's modern labor unions are all about training, qualification, safety and certifications for all of the above. Even contractors and knowledgable businessmen realize that they get way more bang for their buck with qualified union labor than they could ever expect from non- union workers. Unions drug test. and I'm not talking a pee test which we all know of someone who has beaten in some manner. They do hair tests that go back 6 months and cannot be manipulated in any effective way. Unions do this for selfish reasons. The rank and file don't want an impaired person risking their life as well as the lives of their brother and sister co- workers.
I recently learned of a construction contractor who, throughout his life, had heard all of the overblown horror stories about "lazy, money grubbing, union workers" and believed them because he had no more experience whatsover than any of the non union people that had told him these myths with today's modern organized labor unions. The contractor had the opportunity to bid a contract to re- model a commercial kitchen. He bid the job at 5 weeks planning to use 10 non- union men. Then he found out that in order to get the bid he would be required to use union labor. The contractor VERY reluctantly contacted the trade union local to recruit union workers to do the job. The local sent a rep to look over the site (much to the ire of the contractor). He could hear the steady ca- ching, ca- ching of the imaginary cash register even before the union rep gave him an estimate on man hours.
After inspecting the site the union rep said they could do the job with 6 men in 3 weeks.
The contractor didn't believe it for a minute. He was sure it was a scam and that at some point the other shoe would fall and there would be massive overruns. He finally agreed and made the deal with the union. He was so sure that they wouldn't succeed that he offered a bonus if they could.
The union contractors were provided with the contractors plans and went to work. In no time they discovered that the non union guys who had done the original plan for the contractor had botched the measurements and some major adjustments were required to meet code and complete the work. The union workers quickly corrected the plans, compensated to meet the code requirements and got busy. After 2 weeks and 5 days they called the contractor to come and inspect the completed work. Needless to say the contractor was so impressed that he not only paid the bonus to the workers that he had promised them but he also vowed never to use non union labor again. Today his company is all union and he gives talks and speaks at seminars for union functions and conventions all over the country.
The bottom line is that a union is what it's members make of it. Nothing more, nothing less. Collective bargaining as we know it today began with the British Railway System and has been integral in improving the lives and well being of union members and their families ever since. Organized labor has also benefitted non union labor as well in areas such as workplace safety and worker healthcare. When a union succeeds in securing improved benefits for its members everyone wins. That is because then even non union shops have to "pony up" in order to compete for skilled workers with the union shops. No longer must workers sacrifice their lives or their health unneccesarily for the profit of their employers. The agencies that monitor and advocate for worker health and safety came about largely through union action.
Posted by: diverdan at 30/04/2011 03:22


Hey diverdan, yachting is not a profit business with a big bad corporate meanie pushing for every ounce of gold he can squeeze from your efforts. Far from it. We Americans protect our system from the constant advances of socialism. And the core group always will. make your plea to the poor little euro-trash crew , maybe they will listen but in the US your not getting anywhere, ever...
Especially with the current community organizer President who has been cut off at every corner as he attempts to fool the system.
It's not ignorant to not want to pay someone to speak for me, i don't need you and i don't like the constant medaling in our business as you search for a way to profit off of others yourself.
Take your union and go back to your island i say
Posted by: hevahova at 30/04/2011 13:00


money money money its a rich mans world
Posted by: ferrit at 30/04/2011 14:45


After 14 years in yachting, I have worked with over 1000 crew members on more than 60 yachts. I am not a permanent crew member but "temporary" personnel and believe me when I tell you that I have seen nearly everything you could see on a yacht.

I have thought for years now that one of the issues yacht crew need help with most are legal, financial and human rights issues in particular. Yacht crew generally have no job contracts, no job security and no organization they can turn to for help if they get a bad deal. In normal business, you are hired based on your experience, qualifications and what you can bring to the team. You have a 3 month trial period where it will be decided whether you stay or you go. I have never seen contracts in yachting, except for Captains and Officers. I have seen crew members get hired and never get paid and they have no recourse or any help in legally getting their money. This happened to a friend of mine that stepped in to help a yacht who's stewardesses all left and were going on charter in 2 days. She worked her fingers off for 2 months and never got paid a dime. I tried to help her but we could find no avenues for her to lobby to get her pay. She was out several thousand dollars.
My husband worked for a very very rich woman years ago and she still owes him $3,000. He worked on her yacht and they had no chef and literally no food onboard. Only coffee and tea, no bread, butter, not even milk or sugar and $15 per day for your food, to be eaten onshore, in Europe no less! Of course, he will never see that money and never had a chance in getting it with no recourse for her or her Captain.

I have seen crew members get fired on the spot, be told they are to pack their bags and be on the dock in 20 mins. and literally, as their feet touch the land the yacht pulls away.

Last summer after finishing a charter we were on a dock in Naples literally in the middle of nowhere, everything was closed and it was at night. The captain fired a temp stew who'd been on board for 4 months and literally left her on the dock. She had her 2 bags, a plane ticket out at 8am the next day, no phone and hardly any cash. Her tips, he said, would be deposited into her account later! He did not call a taxi or transport for her and she was alone, in the middle of nowhere at night in one of the worst high crime cities in Italy, by herself. Luckily, since our charter was over, I was also standing on the dock with her. A car was coming for me and I fortunately knew the Capt. of the yacht that had been docked next to us. In the pouring rain he let us stand on his aft deck until my taxi arrived. I took her to my hotel, she stayed with me and I got her to the airport the next day. Seriously folks. This is not a one-off or isolated incident.
It should not matter whether you are temporary or permanent crew.
Yachting industry personnel can do whatever they like as far as treatment of crew members is concerned and there is no person or international organization or body they must answer to. This, in my opinion, is one of the "real" reasons why some yachts don't want to hire Americans. Because we know what our rights are and we don't tolerate abuse in that way. We have worked very long and very very hard to protect our rights, not just in American, but worldwide. They will instead hire the young S. African or Australian and use them up for 3 months and dump them on the dock with nothing. It happens all the time.

Honestly, what other industry in the world do you know where you MUST have a photograph of yourself on your CV? Except for maybe modelling or fashion, there are not many, that's for sure. I have worked in the music, film and arts industries before and i have never ever put my photo on my CV before yachting.
Incidentally, I just worked on a yacht recently where the owner states that he will not hire any "girls" over a size 6 (there are no uniforms larger than this onboard) and now requires new prospects to send a photo of them in a bikini if they want the job! And this is a huge, brand new yacht.
It is no secret that sexism, discrimination, chauvenism. bigotry, homophobia and nepotism are all rife within this industry. It's all ok until it happens to you, and then what? Who do you turn to? It's much more than crew quarters, MLC requirements, insurance, codes of conduct, etc. It's about human rights. This is what needs protecting.
Everyone has rights and no matter who you are, what country you are from, what color your skin is, what size you wear, or how much money you have or don't have, no one deserves to be treated like a piece of toilet paper. Anyone who thinks that crew have plenty of organizations to turn to for help is fooling themselves. Unless they know something that all the rest of us don't...and if they do, then hopefully they can shed some light on this subject for all of us. Temporary, permanent, short-term or long-term, we are all humans and we are all in the "same boat".
Posted by: Heather Hawthorne at 02/05/2011 06:32


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