Getting Along in the Shipyard

19 October 2010 By Louisa Cowan

The anticipation of time in a shipyard can be daunting. Whether you are involved in a refit, a new build or just undergoing routine maintenance work, shipyards can be dull, dirty and miles from anywhere. This isn’t a guest trip, this is back-to-basics, completely unglamorous, ship construction and some crew may feel a little out of their comfort zone.

During a yard period, often there are tight deadlines with restricted budgets (especially in the current climate) and fuses can be short both for the yacht crew and the yard staff. However, there are some less obvious advantages to having some time out of the usual yacht routine – so how do you ensure the stress levels are kept to a minimum, the work get’s done?

First and foremost, to get along well in a shipyard it is imperative that the crew develop and maintain good relations with the yard staff.

Niels Gregory, mate on M/Y Cakewalk says, “Communication is key. We have actually joined the shipyard in their manager deck meetings every week. This has helped out quite a bit as far as knowing what is going on and the completion dates of ongoing projects. We have an open door policy so there are no stupid questions. We have formed a very close relationship with the different departments here at Derecktors [Shipyard], which means we work very well together.”

Both the crew and the yard staff should appreciate that their working relationship is intrinsic to the successful completion of a project.

Christine Winans from Pendennis Shipyard in the UK suggests, “Talk to the people working on your boat at every level, building a rapport with the refit team will help ensure your project runs smoothly.”

Time spent in a shipyard is completely different to the usual day-to-day in the superyacht industry, but nearly all yachts will do it at some point. While it may not be exactly what some crew signed up for, there is a lot that can be learned. Take advantage of the opportunity to add some new skills to your repertoire.

“The crew haven’t gotten into welding, but we have done pretty much everything else.,” comments Gregory. “From cabinet and shelving woodwork and fabrication to the installation of exterior hardware, there is plenty to do and we go wherever we can help. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Yelling from the side lines doesn't help anyone.”

You  also may find that on board isn't the only place with training and learning possibilities.

Christine says, “Pendennis can organize training offering crew the opportunity to update and up skill whilst on site. We provide a range of qualifications for all crew.”

Keeping motivated whilst in the yard can be a serious challenge. They say that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and exercise is a great way to beat the boredom blues, so make use of the facilities being offered by more and more shipyards across the world. Gyms and exercise classes are found in many yards. Rybovich Shipyard in West Palm, Florida even provides a pool for visiting crew.

This could be the chance to meet a whole bunch of new people, integrate with other crew and make some new friends. International Technic Marine, France prides themselves on their Black Box Clubhouse “which offers a convivial and relax atmosphere for lunch, diner or after working hours....”

Keeping the moral high is important when making sure that deadlines are being achieved and working standards don’t slip.

Gregory says, “Motivation is quite difficult to keep up, the occasional barbecue and beers after work helps with moral. Plan activities for days off - paintballing, go-carts... getting your mind off of the boat is important. We are currently working extremely long hours, so any distraction is a help.”

Instead of dreading that yard-time that is looming at the end of the season, embrace it and welcome it as a time to learn new skills, meet new people and have your feet firmly placed on the ground for a while.