Focus on Refits - 10 Ways to Keep the Crew Happy During a Refit

15 October 2009 By Louisa Beckett

With a little thought and advance planning on the part of the captain and the shipyard staff, a refit can be a time of refreshment and renewal, not only for the yacht, but also for her crew.

Here are 10 tips to ensure the crew stays happy and positive during a refit:

1. Vacation, vacation, vacation. A refit – particularly one that requires a lengthy yard period – is an ideal opportunity to give crew the vacation time they need to recharge their batteries after a busy season with the boss or charter guests aboard. How to structure the time off is up to the captain – some will let all the crew who aren’t essential to the refit project off at once, while others schedule vacations on a rotating basis.

2. Back to school. A long refit can also provide time for crew to update, renew or expand their certification and training. It helps when the shipyard is located in an area that has one or more training institutes where crew can physically go study.

3. Working 9 to 5. “I think the crew enjoy having a normal routine and taking time off in the evenings, hopefully in a nice city with amenities like Fort Lauderdale,” says Patty Lengel, Derecktor Shipyards sales manager for Yacht Service, Refit & Repair.

4. What’s the 411? “We act as a conduit of information,” Lengel says. “We make sure that they are aware of everything in the area to meet their needs – for their downtime as well as the refit.”

5. Home sweet home. Unless the refit period is an extremely short one, Lengel says most crew do not live aboard the yacht at the shipyard. “We will actually connect them with a realtor and drive them to the location,” she says. “We’ve had captains and crew who said they rented a house with a pool!”

6. Lifting Iron. Depending on the scope of the refit and the size of the shipyard, many yards give the refit captain and crew their own office space. Some yards, particularly those with transient docks, even offer resort-like amenities. “We just put in a fitness center this summer,” says Eli Dana, Newport Shipyard dockmaster/yard manager. His yard also has an on-site café and ship’s store, as well as barbecue grills the crew can use.

7. Can You Hear Me Now? While most yachts have their own WiFi network, it’s not always possible to keep it turned on during a refit. Captains can purchase external wireless USB modems for crew computers and free WiFi Internet access is becoming more and more common at shipyards.

8. Give Me Four on the Road. Providing crew with a set of wheels so they won’t feel “trapped” at the yard, hotel or crew house is very important. “We’ve got a couple of courtesy cars,” Dana says. During a long refit, many captains also will rent cars for themselves and the crew as well.

9. Celebrate! “Tonight we’re taking eighty people up to the Providence Bruins [hockey] game,” says Dana. Newport Shipyard also holds regular crew parties. Dana adds that happy shipyard workers also equal happy crew members. “We’ve gotten to the point where it’s a happy place to be,” he says.

10. The ‘A’ Team. The easiest way a shipyard can keep a captain and crew happy during a refit is maintain a clean and safe working environment, promote open communication between the yard staff and crew and above all, do an outstanding job on the project. That way, everyone leaves happy.