How Long Is Long Enough?

28 July 2011 By Claire Griffiths

There’s no barometer to officially measure the right amount of  time to stay on board a boat. But First Officer Ryan of M/Y Paramour hits the nail on the head when he says, "You need to balance happiness with ambition."

Junior crew are cut a bit of slack for moving and grooving out a career path and gaining experience by changing yachts, but for those who are serious about the boating business, there are unwritten rules.

Rule No. 1: staying at least a year, says Louisa Gallimore, Crew Manager at Bluewater Yachting. "Longevity is really, really important. Two years on board the same boat is nice to see on CVs."

Capt. Tom of M/Y Lionheart is more than happy to see young crew move on and climb up the professional ladder, but if deckhands and stewardesses start abandoning ship before the sun sets on a two-year stint, he would be distinctly unimpressed. "It depends how well you recruit in the first place," he says. "But I want two whole seasons out of my deckies and stews because we put a lot of work into training them for the boat. I’d be quite angry if they left before that."

In an ideal world, his senior crew would stay forever. Capt. Tom believes they are the best in the industry and at the top of their game. "We started rotating our chief engineers and ETO’s partly because we didn’t want them to leave and it’s the same with our head chefs. Rotating senior crew is becoming an industry standard."

But speak to young crew and they paint a slightly different picture. Mate Regan of M/Y One O One has never stayed longer than a year, but he doesn’t rule out a more lengthy stint if things work well. "I stay as long as I feel happy. If you overstay, that’s when problems start and arguments. I know some guys who are miserable who’ve stayed three or four years on the same boat. The job gets stagnant, then your life becomes stagnant."

Chief Stewardess Melissa of M/Y One More Toy is happy to get two seasons out of junior stewardesses and believes the same "two-year" rule can apply to chief stewardesses and chefs, too. "It’s good for crew to have a change of chefs, if not they can get bored with the food. Longevity is not always a good thing, crew get a little bored and lose interest in the job."

"Most people leave ’coz of relationships with other crew, but we’re pretty close to perfect on M/Y Paramour!" says Bosun Paul. "You never find out the real deal until a month into the job, but captains can strike it lucky and pick up an amazing team."

For Gallimore, the chief engineer (for example) who has stayed seven years on board the same boat is not necessarily favored over another chief engineer who has hopped boats every two years, she explains, "Especially if the ‘hopper’ has progressed each time to larger boats gaining certification along the way."

But if you keep bunking off boats for no obvious professional/skill-related gain, eyebrows start rising.