Crew vs. the Economy

21 November 2008 By Janine Ketterer

The current status of the world economy has everyone on the edge of their seat. At first, it didn’t seem like the superyachts would be affected; after all, yacht owners and charter guests have plenty of cash lying around, right? But the initial rosy outlook is fading. With the end of the crew shortage – and some owner’s bank accounts – is the economic downturn leaving crew down and out?

First Officer Chad of M/Y Time For Us says that he hasn’t felt any effects, “But there sure is a lot to talk about.” Perhaps the purse strings on some boats won’t be pinched in the slightest. In Dockwalk’s December issue, in the article “Is it Really Gloom & Doom,” Wes Sanford points out that yacht owners are wealthier than the average person and have a better ability to weather these financial situations. For crew on those vessels, yachting will continue as it always has, but for others it’s a different story.

As crew are hitting the height of earning potential, their needs – or wants – might not be met when raises, bonuses and exceptionally generous tips can’t be found. “[The current state of the economy] means I can’t afford to go back to England. I need to find a boat that pays in euros,” says Deckhand Harry of M/Y Serenity. Brace yourself, your owner might not be giving up his or her own luxuries, but yours might suffer a bit.

And what are crew doing about their own cash? “At the moment, [the economy is] not greatly affecting me because I don’t have any investments or much money in the bank,” said Deckhand Nick of M/Y Mia Elise. “Some crew have lost money in the stock market, but I don’t invest. If I did, it would be in real estate, but not in the U.S.” Crew have to be wary of which banks they use (particularly uninsured offshores) and which stocks they choose. If you have your cash in the faltering stock market or in failing banks, all your hard work could amount to nothing. During this time of financial uncertainty, crew should speak to a financial counselor and get the full story before making any monetary moves.

But when you’re not bringing in any money, where to put it isn’t the first issue you face. Sanford also says that it may be more difficult to find a new job in this economy. As more crew line the docks each day looking for work and the crew agent’s inboxes fill to capacity with CVs, even qualified, seasoned crew face fierce competition.

“There seems to be day work, but it doesn’t seem like owners are hiring or guests are chartering,” says dayworker Daniel. It’s cheaper to hire someone for a couple days or a week than to pay salary and benefits, so day work it a viable option to help make ends meet while looking for a job.

This being said, crew have it better than most people during a back-sliding economy. No mortgages, no car payments and in some cases no food bills means a lot less to worry about.

The best thing to do is batten down the hatches and ride out this storm. The age-old adage what goes up must come down is just as true in reverse. “I’m new to the industry, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens and hopefully it turns out positively,” says dayworker Kristy. With some ingenuity, optimism and some good old-fashioned hard work, there is light at the end of the tunnel.