Crew Perspectives of COVID-19

16 April 2020 By Staff Report

As we hit the middle of April, it’s more evident that things are not usual. We’re continuing to check in with crew about their experiences with COVID-19 and their current status and situation. Share your stories with us — email

Chief Stewardess Gaby Welch on 52-meter M/Y Deniki
Bay of Bengal

Chief Stewardess Gaby Welch weighs in on the boat’s current situation, sharing that they are currently on a world tour, which was cut short. The boat is returning to Europe to be closer to first-world health care, if needed. Welch cut short her holiday to make sure she could return to the boat before flights were canceled.

“I am currently on the boat, we spent two weeks in quarantine in Indonesia and are now at sea for five weeks,” she says. “While in quarantine in Indonesia, the stewardesses disinfected the boat three times a day; we also wore masks and gloves when dealing with customs, as well as disinfected every product that came on board when provisioning,” she says. While they struggled to find toilet paper and hand sanitizer before leaving Australia, their agents in Indonesia came through.

“The owner has been fantastic, and the safety of the crew has been of utmost importance,” she says, also sharing that the vessel management has sent out circulars about preventative measures. “It was disheartening to be informed by management that if crewmembers were stranded on holiday, that they wouldn’t receive their salary. It is also so sad to see so many of our colleagues be struck off due to the current circumstances.” She notes that operations have been pretty similar to normal — “apart from the additional cleaning and precautions we have taken to keep ourselves safe.”

Capt. Tripp Hock on 45-meter M/Y Amore Mio

“Not much different here for us yet in Malta,” says Capt. Tripp Hock, who says businesses are open and they were able to come out of the water the first week of April. “As Malta has isolated itself from the rest of the world by simply switching off all flights and ferries, it feels like true, self-contained ‘old school’ island life, and even the World Health Organization [is] calling it a ‘model country’ for others to follow.” Obviously, he noted that they have been respecting social distancing guidelines. “We are still with our skeleton winter crew, so again not much changed,” he says. “We’ll wait until late May or so and see what the summer season will hold in store for us…”

Capt. Richard Mckee on 115-foot M/Y
Golden Boy II
San Diego, California

“Personally, the virus has not affected me too badly,” says Capt. Richard Mckee. “As a matter of fact, it is nice to have life slow down a little.” Work is moving along, says Mckee, but as expected, things are slower. “Currently, I am on the boat solo, wearing a few different hats keeping the exterior and interior maintained on top of my normal duties,” Mckee says. His engineer is doing some computer work from home, his stew is staying home, and the chef was visiting her family and is now under stay at home orders. He does have a “barebones crew of contractors” coming aboard to complete essential engine and electronic work. “I have implemented a daily regimen of sanitization and have posted notices on the aft deck with COVID-19 warnings,” he says. On April 4, San Diego Bay was closed to recreational boating.

Mckee shares that their schedules have changed, and continue to change, meaning their upcoming seasons have had to adjust — Golden Boy II was planning to do a season in Monterey for whale watching and golf, but it might not work out. The other vessel was planning to be in Miami and work its way up to Maine. “That program is now in a holding pattern. We have talked Bahamas or Mexico as an alternative, but everything is shut down currently, so we play the waiting game,” he says. The vessel’s owner is not on board until they move north for the summer, “but she wants to implement processes for sanitization regarding food and quarantine procedures for crew or anyone coming on and off the boat,” says Capt. Mckee. “I would like to add that there is probably no better place to be than stuck on a yacht with a beautiful view of San Diego,” he says. “I feel blessed every day for what I do. I hope everyone out there stays safe and healthy.”

Stewardess on a 85-meter-plus motor yacht

The anonymous stewardess shares how their normal work days have been affected with having to social distance between the crew (at two meters apart, which she admits is almost impossible). There are three different shifts for meals/tea breaks, and crew meetings have been held in the tender garage to be in a wider area.

“We are allowed to go off the boat as we like, to the supermarket, run, etc. We have six different schedules to disinfect all the boat (door handles, high affluence areas),” she says. “We are still receiving contractors on board as usual but also while maintaining social distancing. We distributed a lot of hand sanitizers all over the boat and have to use them constantly as well.”

They have rotation on board, but no one is able to leave or come back to the boat at this time. Also, they have an apartment for quarantine for crew able to return to the boat, but they have to be quarantined for two weeks before joining back.

Chief Stewardess Marien Sarriera, currently unemployed

“There is no freelance work available and that means unemployment,” says freelance Chief Stewardess Marien Sarriera, who is still waiting for the U.S. government to issue a form for independent contractors to apply for unemployment. “Thankfully I have an online business that has given me the financial means I need to continue to eat and pay my bills.”

Despite all the downsides, Sarriera remains optimistic: “This crisis has been a true blessing in disguise as I have been given the time and the drive to grow my biz in the middle of it all. I am very grateful for that and my health of course. My partner, who is a captain, was in the middle of searching for a new vessel and that has come to a full stop as of now, giving him the opportunity to get creative in setting up new ways to make money from home.”

As for bringing in money (via her own side business), Sarriera knows she is one of the lucky ones. “Freelance opportunities have come to a full stop. There is the odd daywork post, but to be honest who wants to risk getting infected for $150. [This] is not worthy for anyone. This is a time to honor our fellow humans and take all the measurements required to stop the spread.”

Fortunately, Sarriera says she does not know anyone who has COVID-19, and “no one I know, knows of anyone, either.” This is something she is not taking for granted. “Do your part and stay on board or at home until instructed differently.”

Bosun Alex Kempin on a 50-meter motor yacht

Alex Kempin and six of his crewmembers are on lockdown at a marina. While he says he doesn’t know anyone diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, there was a recent health scare: “I actually had the normal flu a few weeks ago, so there [were] some concerns for my crew and I, but I was then tested and cleared,” he says, adding that it was a normal checkup test, not the coronavirus test. “I ordered testing as soon as I felt symptoms, got tested, got results, and was then confined to the cabin.” As a safety precaution, he was confined to his cabin for five days after the flu passed.

Like so many others, Kempin and his crew are waiting in port for it all to pass. Of course, all future owner’s trips have been postponed until this all clears up. “We aren’t allowed to leave the marina and must practice social distancing with other yachts,” he says. The yacht also has several hand sanitizers stationed all around the yacht. All provisions, which must be delivered, are sanitized before coming aboard.

Captain on a 30-meter motor yacht
South of France

The anonymous captain aboard a 30-meter yacht confirms that at the moment, he and some crew are on lockdown. Fortunately, he is healthy and does not know anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

While store runs aren’t always as fruitful as they’d like, they seem to have little complaint. “No, we don't always buy what we want, but we get the essentials. We change the purchasing cycles to reduce the risk and comply with the lockdown,” the captain says.

“It has changed all my routines and created distress for me about the future and the need to make difficult decisions about cost contention versus maintenance of crew and yacht,” he says. For instance, he and his crew have changed all preparations for the season, they haven’t gone to the shipyard, and like so many others, have reduced the crew size on board. “We’re completely out of information about what we can do this season. All the maintenance and preparation done by outside companies has stopped and we do not know how and when it returns.”

In addition to super vigilant hygiene routines and more breaks on board, the captain tries to give a daily updates to crew with a positive message. As for the owner, the captain and crew have been instructed to maintain the situation, not to incur future commitments, to reduce costs to a minimum, and to be safe and healthy. “I feel like they’re lost in the plans and not knowing if it’s gonna be possible to have season, which is bad for the yacht. They will have other more important concerns at the moment with their companies and business; the yacht [is] a detail at the moment,” he says.

As for what he’s doing with his extra time, the captain says he’s doing more reading, following an onboard exercise scheme, and has more contact with friends and family via the Internet.

“I never thought I would go through such a global and long situation in my life, but I am sure that more positive future will come after this difficult moment.”

For more related content:

Crew Perspectives: Capt. Peter Vazquez
Crew Consequences of COVID-19
COVID-19 Chartering Concerns