8 Things Crew Do to Feel “Normal”

12 February 2009 By Joanne MacKenzie

Recently, I talked to a chef-and-captain couple who said they were looking forward to having some downtime between jobs just “to have a chance to live on land and feel normal for awhile.” The chef said she was going to take some household items out of storage in order to live with her own things around her for a couple of months.

Finding “normal” isn’t always easy for crew working on yachts.

They live with other adults in a relatively small place, wear uniforms and have little control over their work schedule. For the most part, the end of the workday means going down the stairs to a crew mess and a cabin that is shared with someone else. Things you may associate with a normal kind of life – like having a dog or a piano or your own room with a whole bed – simply aren’t options when you work and live on a boat.

While most crew get used to the routine of boat life, there are times when they just need to get away from the boat to feel normal. Here are some of the “normalizing” activities crew do:

  • *  Many crewmembers go for a run or for a walk. (Remember to stick to safe areas.)

    *  The bar is generally the closest place within walking distance of the boat, so a lot of crew find happy hour a pretty normal way to spend time at the end of the day.
  • * Some crew take up a new hobby or sport. A first mate told me he started kite boarding just so he would spend less time in the bar.

    *  Some crew don’t have to walk that far. A chief stew said, “I wear high heels around my cabin just to feel normal for awhile. No flat shoes or white T-shirts. Just something nice for a change.”}
  • *  Shopping can be a great “normalizer.” The same stew said she once paid about 200 euros for a top that she didn’t even like or wear just so she could get off the boat and go shopping the way she would normally do at home...not so easy – or cheap – when you’re docked in a place like Porto Cervo.

    *  “Getting off the boat and going out for dinner away from the other crew or any crew for that matter,” is how one captain said he tries to normalize his time on board. He says it not only breaks up the monotony of eating in a crew mess, but he also thinks it’s a healthy way to “remember how the other half lives.”

    *  A few crewmembers even go so far as to spend a night away from the boat. “I booked a hotel in the BVI one time just to stretch out on a big normal bed and watch movies all weekend just to feel normal and get off the boat for a couple of days,” admitted another stew.

    *  One chef said she doesn’t need to go anywhere – she uses text messaging to keep in contact with people who make her feel normal. “I text family and friends at home and it keeps my head on straight, reminds me of who I am and who the real people in my life are when people on the boat are driving me crazy and the bulkheads start caving in,” she says.

What kind of things do you do to feel normal when you’re on board for extended periods?