Job Security? What Job Security?

3 July 2008 By Kate Lardy

There’s so much talk about the problem of crew turnover these days. Three months to one year is the shockingly-short average length of time that The Crew Network’s Ian Pelham has seen a crewmember keep a job.

The industry is rampant with crew who jump ship for no good reason and owners who complain about seeing new crew every time they come on board.

“Captains are desperate for people who make a commitment and stick to it,” says Pelham.

Yes, it’s hard to retain good crew but what about the other side of the story, the other reason behind these short job stints – the lack of job security in this business?

I knew something was strange about this industry when I got my first stew job. I replaced a stewardess who got fired for these horrible offenses: 1) using only white cocktail napkins, and 2) hanging up wet towels (rather than drying them in the dryer). Mind you, this was on an 80-foot sailboat, not a 200-foot superyacht.

Soon after I started, the mate was fired for walking too loudly on deck. I was soon gone after that. Me, Miss straight-A student, employee-of-the-month type who had never been fired from anything in her life.

It was a shock.

Pelham has an even more ridiculous story: the crewmember who got fired because he opened a brand new bag of frozen green beans when there was a entire quarter-inch left in the old bag.

Fortunately, it seems captains generally tend to stick up for crew when it’s an owner decision to fire – not, of course, by going against the owners’ wishes, but by being honest with the placement agencies about the circumstances and offering a glowing letter of reference.

When firing is not the owner’s decision, another top reason qualified (an important word in this sentence) crew are let go is because of personality or “clicking” issues with the rest of the crew. Some crew might be perfectly capable and pleasant, but if their style doesn’t mesh with the yacht, they might find themselves out of a job.

“Clicking” can be tough to ascertain in an interview and can put an unfortunate blip on the CV.

Living in close quarters, which puts a spotlight on any personality issue, and dealing with owners who are nearly impossible to please is just part of the problem; add the way yachts are bought and sold like stocks and you’ve got a great job one day and you’re on the docks the next. I, in fact, lost my second job on yachts when the owner determined that he just didn’t want to deal with the yard/warranty issues any longer and sent the boat back.

A couple of firings in the yachting world is no big deal I soon learned. Placement agencies are likely to overlook one or two (15, on the other hand…).

What’s the craziest reason you’ve heard for someone getting fired? Post your comment below and be sure to vote in our interactive poll.