On the Job

A Chief Stew’s Guide to Preparing for Crossings

28 April 2022By Kylie O'Brien
iStock/PaulVinten

Written by

Kylie O'Brien

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

The ocean is one of the most amazing places on earth and many yachties choose to work on it for this reason. But, as awesome as it is, the ocean can also be a formidable force that commands respect.

With this in mind, picture the following scenario. You’ve had a fantastic Mediterranean charter season, but as with all things yachting, time just seems to be a resource that as chief stewardess you never have enough of.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye, you dropped off your last charter guests for the season in a flurry of thank yous and goodbyes. Now you must get to the other work — the stuff that magically gets done with seemingly very little effort to the untrained eye.

But for those in the know, you’re moving heaven and earth to get stuff done on time; tasks that require an enormous amount of planning, delegating, and communicating to get the desired result. For example, you must schedule training courses, allow for interior crew holidays (including a mini break for yourself), provision for the crossing, and prepare the yacht for sea … all within a couple of weeks’ turnaround. Let’s start with the obvious first steps: provisioning and preparing the yacht for sea.

Provisioning

As the interior manager or chief stewardess, you more than likely will not have to plan crew meals for the crossing as the chef will take care of that. However, you will need to make sure that the crew auxiliary supplies are on board. Consider the following:

  • Beverages: caffeinated drinks, teas, soft drinks, juices, and water
  • Crew toiletries: soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products
  • Crew condiments, breakfast cereals, and snacks
  • Any missing crew uniform items, office supplies for the bridge, and crew birthday gifts
  • Restock the crew medical consumables: paracetamol, plasters, eye wash, and vitamins
  • For the guests: brand-specific toiletries, glass and crockery replacements, and miscellaneous items that you cannot pick up in remote locations such as themed event items and party decorations

The lists go on and on. So, helpful tip number one: Compile your requirements ahead of time. This doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking if you have a standard list on the go at all times. Order the bulk of the items with your preferred supplier or place an order online at your favorite supermarket for delivery. This will allow your time to be spent more wisely on the more individualized items.

Preparing the yacht for a crossing is more than a quick whiz around stowing as you go. As we are all well aware, mother nature is a powerful force, and you do not want to be caught off guard, should she decide to throw an unscheduled squall your way.

Cleaning Up Guest Areas

The guest areas should be on top of your priority list to be packed up and stowed as much as possible. In the guest cabins, strip everything back from top to bottom and place all pillows and duvets in the wardrobes. Next, put down all carpet runners and furniture protectors. All glassware, ornaments, crockery, artwork, and furniture need to be safely secured, with plenty of padding and strong but gentle strapping.

The deck crew will more than likely need to store the exterior cushions inside for the passage, so allow for this necessity by clearing an area well back from the aft doors. These cushions need to be contained as much as possible.

iStock/1001nights

Preparing Crew Areas

The crew area and accommodations are still working areas, so they won’t need to be stowed as much as the guest areas. However, you will need to remember the anti-slip for the benches in the crew mess, removal of all rubbish before you set sail, and stow any plants as required.

Preparing for an Emergency

Depending on your yacht’s standard operating procedures, you may be required to prepare extra items for emergency situations. Items such as extra water, electrolytes, blankets, and high-calorie snacks like nuts, granola bars, and hard candy.

Keeping Crew Motivated

Keep to the daily schedule as much as possible, but when writing your schedule for the crossing, allow for an extra margin of time for the unknown.

Also good for morale: a sneaky swim if the captain and ocean allow. Include the interior crew as an extra set of eyes for lookout or companion for the watchkeeper.

In addition to normal duties, focus on what’s time-consuming but not physically strenuous: polishing silverware, detail cleaning guest cabins at a slower pace, training junior crew, starching guest napkins, polishing interior brass and metal fittings, and cleaning out decoration cupboards.

In my opinion, any kind of crossing is the best part of the job — the feeling of being at sea is simply magical. A crossing is also a time where you can really hone in on your skills through training and by taking your time with the small details.

The more you can check off the smaller items, the more you can focus on getting the yacht back together for your next charter on arrival.

This article originally ran in the December 2021 issue of Dockwalk.

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