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Captive Crew
Posted: Friday, April 24, 2009 9:28 PM

Dear Crew Confessor,


I have been working on a fabulous Feadship for the past six months.  The work is hard but the money is good.  I've seen a lot of nice places, through a porthole.  I knew we would get limited time off when I signed on but even so, it's been a revelation of sorts.  


The captain is a bit of a captain bligh.  We are not permitted to go ashore unless we are participated in an organized activity that the captain has designed.  This holds true no matter if we have guests aboard or not.  I guess I should have known that this would be THAT kind of a boat when I had to sign a form acknowledging that I read the crew manual and promised to follow it to the letter.  One of the more famous parts of the letter is the section entitled personal crew hygene where it is stipulated how often one must brush one's teeth and what sort of haircut one is permitted to have along with how often it must be washed!


If we are permitted to go ashore after a hard days work it is not to have a cold beer at local watering hole, no, it is to go for a 3 to 5 mile run with your crewmates!  In fact if running isn't your thing he will needle you with subtle comments about turning flabby!


He even tries to control our vacations, or so I'm told by the other crew because I've not had one yet.


So, Crew Confessor, is this normal?  I didn't expect a pleasure cruise but I didn't enlist in the armed forces either, or did I?





Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009 12:40 AM
You did sign that piece of paper. Stick it out for at least another 12 months.
Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009 9:51 AM
No, it is not normal. He has no right to your personal time and no right to make you sign anything that gives him control of your personal time. He sounds like a control freak, I'd walk.
Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009 8:30 PM
I had a similar experience aboard a vessel that I worked on during the early stages of my career. The captain was a total control freak. We would be allowed one day off per month which in my mind, ruined the mentality of the entire crew. The money was alright, but that did not factor in my decision to leave.

I think you should do what's best for you...that is leave and don't look back.

Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009 9:39 PM
Joined: 06/03/2009
Posts: 3

Hi, I worked in the Merchant Marine for a long time. When a ship is in any port the company has to make arrangements so the crew can go ashore. If the crew is confined to the vessel they get overtime or penalty time for not being able to go ashore. This guy can't really hold you on the yacht on your time off. I'd just confront him and say you need some space for yourself so you can perform your job better. Is there a way to file a formal complaint on the yacht? I'd use that. If the vessel is operating under ISM rules I think it has to have this. It's hard to quit when jobs are slim. I often have found saying something about a situation to the best way to solve that problem. Smooth Seas, Steve
Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009 12:28 AM

At least you’re not dealing with wacko crew getting all trailer trash drunk, fighting couples and foolish newbie behavior from senior crew.

Posted: Monday, April 27, 2009 2:17 AM
Working conditions on yachts cannot be compared to commercial merchant ships. Overtime and penalty time are unique to unionized US-flag ships. ISM is not a catch-all regulation and does not involve monitoring of crew time off a vessel. For Swabbie, if you don't like it, leave. If you can't leave because of finances, then just grin and bear it until you can.
Posted: Monday, April 27, 2009 2:53 AM
Well if one has to be "behind bars" at least it's a Feadship! Gilded cage and all, but better that than some others out there.
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:49 PM
I feel your pain in this situation. Last Summer I was subjugated to these sorts of psychotic control issues. To add humor to the situation, he told the crew to not to talk to anyone in Greece at all because it is a Muslim country !

Next time  on an interview, always ask the Captain what is their management style  and watch their reaction when they tell you what it is. If they look up to the right or touch their nose or glance down and to the right, chances are they are not telling the truth.

Most of all, always go with your instincts.

Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 10:01 PM
Unless Captain's are the total center of attention--like Christ at the Last Supper, they can't function. The last Captain that I worked for--it lasted 5 days, would let the crew go only to a certain waterfront bar where HE assigned seating AND "introduced the evening's topic," AND decided who could speak and when... He also slept with a loaded AK-47. No joke
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 5:54 PM
Swabbie, These days, available jobs on yachts are as scarce as hen's teeth because people are keeping their jobs even if they are dissatisfied. Heading into the traditionally "busy" season of the year, if the yacht is busy, chances are you are not going to have a lot of time off anyway. If I were you, I would keep the job and starting looking quietly for something else. It is always easier to find a good position while you are already employed and not desperate for cash. Try and hang on so that you have put at minimum a year into this position, that way your cv will not reflect short-term positions. Good luck, and keep your mind focussed on the long-term goals.
Crew Confessor
Posted: Friday, May 1, 2009 4:54 PM
Joined: 20/11/2008
Posts: 94

Dear Swabbie,


It's obvious that your captain is what is popularly termed, a control freak. It's not uncommon in the yachting industry, and on the bigger, very high end that Feadships occupy, a captain who is a control freak has a lot of things to freak out about. Yachting is all about the details, and on a big fancy yacht, there are many, many details. Someone who is a control freak actually suffers from a personality disorder that typically starts in childhood. Most of them are unhappy and very insecure so they try to cover all their bases, overcompensating to ensure that there is no possibility of failure because the prospect of failure terrifies them. Often they are remarkably unaware of their negative affect upon others, oblivious to the misery they can impose upon others.


A year ago I might have advised you to give your notice and find a happier work environment but, as you are well aware, times have changed. I am going to advise you to bite the bullet and stay on this boat for at least a year longer if you can. I would be very cautious about looking for a new position while still on this yacht as control freak captains are notorious for their paranoia and if he gets suspicious you are likely to find your seabag dockside in record time. Be grateful that you are paid well, fed well, and probably very physically fit. Life could be worse. If you were in the armed forces your life would be much worse and you wouldn't be getting paid as well! They rather wrote the book on control freakism. When you finally decide it is time to move on and you begin to make inquiries you will find an added benefit for your perseverance. The yachting world is "small" and it is likely that your captains reputation is well known. Your time on board will be well respected for your commitment despite the adversity you endured. It's much easier to put in a few years when the captain is wonderful, the money is great, and the owners are lovely. Putting in your time on a "hell ship" can pay dividends down the road.


So, you have had the misfortune to find yourself working and living with a control freak. Unfortunately when you work aboard a yacht you get that double whammy effect, no home to go to at the end of the day, but there are coping mechanisms you can use to make your life more pleasant. The first step we've already done and that is to identify that the captain is a control freak. This isn't a disorder that will resolve itself without long term professional therapy and since most control freaks don't think they have a problem at all this is unlikely.


Don't lose your cool. Be as calm and patient as you can be, even when being criticized and try not take criticisms too personally as control freaks are notoriously difficult to please. Cultivate close relationships with the rest of the crew and be free with your own praise for what they do.


Be aware of the his stress level and try to keep out of the way when he goes into the red zone. Control freaks don't cope very well with stress and when the level gets too high they can pop a cork and steam roll whomever happens to be handy.


Don't bother thinking of better or smarter ways to do things at work because control freaks will reject nearly every idea they are offered, if only because they did not think of it first. Keep your brilliant new method for stainless polishing to yourself.


Silently forgive your captain for being a control freak. This may be hard to do but it will actually help you to reclaim your own self determination and control of your own life.


Guard your self esteem. Don't let yourself believe it if he tries to demean you or make you feel as if you have no worth as a worker or a human being.


Be wary if he becomes suddenly friendly or overkind, this is a ploy used by control freaks to well -- control you. Be wary if he attempts to engender your sympathy, he may well be attempting to manipulate your emotions and --- control you.


Don't believe it if he tries to blame his behavior on you. Another classic tactic to control you. ex. "I wouldn't have to have so many rules if you people would only do your job."


Lastly make a definite plan or goal for your future (ex. license or course completions) and your eventual departure. This will give you a sense of your own destiny and feeling of control.


Best of Luck,

Crew Confessor

Posted: Friday, May 1, 2009 9:39 PM
I agree with the crew confessor, as someone who has been involved in the industry for many years, I do think I can narrow down which Captain you work for, to probably 1, maybe 3 at most, so, sticking it out will be seen be other less demanding, (even if still strict), Captains as a great advantage as a potentially strong self disciplined crew-member, so if you can, stick with it, it will pay off.
Posted: Friday, May 1, 2009 11:50 PM
Joined: 25/03/2009
Posts: 15

There's a section in the STCW 95 about certain behaviors with crew. I can say I threw in the towel on my first one ( which was a 115' Feadship) due to the same circustances. But I hadn't done my STCW 95 yet, see. I did follow my instinct that was honed razor sharp in the service, and decided it would be in my best welfare to leave the yacht, because I felt the captain was a liabilty to my wellbeing. I understand all the details to worry about, but if they freak about the small stuff, what happens when that storm blows up outta nowhere, or while at anchor, the windlass goes. I got paid fat, and ate well. However, follow your instinct. The capt. said "You're burning bridges in this industry". My answer-B.S. There are plenty of yachts out there. I would say I do agree with alot of the "posters"  and sock away your loot while you can. I must admit, being a gym-rat, I would love to work for your captain, seeing how I dont drink, but I have tattoos, and plugs in my ears, so he wouldn't dig that. If you are staying on, STAND UP FOR YOURSELF! Good luck dude.
Posted: Saturday, May 2, 2009 8:29 PM
Thank you Crew Confessor! I only wish I had known about this personality disorder ten years ago. When you are young and inexperienced in the world it is easy to take harsh words and criticism to heart. When you are a hard worker trying to do a good job and are met with only critiscism or demeaning comments from the one whom you seek approval from the most (in this case the captain) it is easy to get disheartened and to feel like you will "never get it right, never be good enough." I hope new crew read this and take heart if it happens to them.
Posted: Sunday, May 3, 2009 12:14 AM
Harland, did I read correctly on one of your posts that you were ex IDF and USN?
Posted: Sunday, May 3, 2009 3:23 PM
[Post removed by moderator]
Posted: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 11:22 PM
In all the yachty bars in all the countries around the world, I have never heard better advice, it is a shame this is not common knowledge, this advice can help every crewmember survive the industry. Well spoken Crew Confessor.
 Average 4 out of 5