Keeping the Faith at Sea

7 February 2009 By Matt Gomez

“The sea hath no king but God alone.” - Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The White Ship

Some people have faith powerful enough to part the seas. Others are content just to have faith be a part of their life at sea. But in such a far-flung and demanding industry, it can be quite a challenge for people of faith to practice their religion while working on superyachts.

Just as ethnicities in yachting range from boat to boat and mate to stew, there is a weath of diversity when it comes to religious views of crew as well.

But if a Catholic wishes to receive Holy Communion while in port on Sunday but they're on watch, should captain give them time off?

And if a Jewish member off the crew can't be on watch Friday evenings in order to keep holy the Sabbath should other crew work around his or her schedule?

Some captains and crew treat religion as a purely personal issue, while others may seek to evangelize and invite others to learn more about their faith. “My engineer is a hardcore Jehovah’s Witness,” said a South African deckhand. “At our dock party, he was handing out religious material to crew from other yachts. I had to take a number of comments from stunned and confused yachties about his actions.”

“I’ve never heard of any specific orders regarding faith practice. It's part of what makes yacht owners and this whole industry different,” says Capt. Michael French, chief operating officer at International Yacht Training (IYT) in Fort Lauderdale. “There are a few kosher boats with a totally separate galley for crew,” he says. “Vegetarians may be given special dietary consideration on [some] yachts, whether it’s a personal preference or because of a particular religious belief.” He adds, “It’s really quite an interesting discussion.”

Some yachts offer Bible study meetings led by captains or crewmembers. But these meetings aren't endorsed by the owner or enforced as mandatory for crew. Allowing a time and place to gather for non-sectarian religious discussion can be viewed as less intimidating for crew who are not inclined to follow a specific religion.

So are crew taking part in their religion in a private way, are they believers who don't practice or are they atheist? “None of my past or present crew has asked to attend [religious] services. I don’t like to say I am a non-believer, because I do believe in myself,” says M/Y Constellation Capt. Charlie Kiss.

No matter if you're thinking about joining a convent after your stint in yachting or simply don't believe in anyone but yourself, everyone should have the right to pracitce what they believe if they wish to.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends several best practices for accommodating religion in the workplace:

Employers should inform employees that they will make reasonable efforts to accommodate the employees' religious practices.

Employers should train managers and supervisors in how to recognize religious accommodation requests from employees.

An employer is not required to provide an employee’s preferred accommodation if there is more than one effective alternative to choose from.

Do you or any of your crewmembers worship at sea? Do you find it difficult because you work on a yacht or is practicing what you preach smooth sailing at sea?