While on a beach in Mexico and not long after her son’s birth, former Stew/Chef Alice Baker realized that things were going to be different going forward. After eight years in yachting, she now needed a change in direction. Baker came up with the idea of KNOT Yacht Services, even creating her first brochure in a dial-up Internet cafe in rural Mexico.
For a few years, Baker was working on board, juggling being a mother, and starting the company, which was officially registered in December 2021. Even though the company is entering its fourth year, it is Baker’s first season working on it full-time and as a fully operating business.
KNOT Yacht Services got started in New Zealand, and in the beginning, Baker did everything to see how it went. With a scaled-back version of America’s Cup due to COVID-19, it allowed her to ease into the business and work her connections in the NZ industry as she had worked on a few vessels and done some Pacific seasons.
“I did offsite catering for vessels when they went out for day trips for the America’s Cup, I cleaned, I refit interiors of vessels that had arrived to NZ, I went on charters, and basically said yes to anything that was asked of me,” she says.
With the help of her sister who is a former stewardess and chef, Baker has met some amazing women as she has built her team of five aspiring and former yacht crew. Specializing in interior and galley services in Auckland, its surrounding areas, and as far as Northland for shore-based services, KNOT Yacht Services helps take care of a number of vessels.
The land-based interior team assists in keeping interiors in ship-shape and are on call if boats need an extra hand with turnarounds — even fully setting up interiors of new vessels that arrived empty. A number of these are luxury day boats, where her team works in pairs with an experienced member and a green member, which offers them training on yacht cleaning protocols and over time they work their way up to being sent to go on charters.
“The industry in New Zealand is set up a little differently. It’s really growing down here,” she says. “But a lot of the vessels aren't fully crewed, so we take care of their interiors, supply temporary crew for day trips or charters, provision for them. We are also a MLC recruitment agency.”
While she never used an agency herself during her time in yachting, she has discovered a knack for recruiting. “I am very good at meeting and chatting with people. I always found my jobs this way. I now really pride myself in how I offer my recruitment services — I recruit myself through word of mouth, from connections I've made personally, and researching, calling, and meeting with applicants,” Baker says. “My team of aspiring crew benefit from this also as I am able to place them in jobs that are going to be good for them.”
Because there aren’t many dayworkers in NZ, Baker wants to leave room for them, encouraging people to search for their own crew and then reach out to KNOT if they get stuck. “We want to support the superyacht industry and to work in harmony with others,” she says.
While they have taken a step back from catering, they still do crew meals and delivery meals for when boats come for refits and their chefs take leave. KNOT Yacht Services helps make sure the crew get healthy, fresh, nutritional meals delivered daily and prepped offsite in their kitchen.
They work with other local businesses that support the NZ industry, including ones that help them take an eco-approach to their cleaning caddies and products used, and GoodFor store that supplies food in bulk for provisioning to reduce waste. KNOT is taking the steps to implement changes where they can to care for the ocean and hope to set a NZ industry standard.
“As we offer training to our team, I would like to offer some sort of training program (still interior and galley focused),” she says. “And I would also like to streamline Kiwi crew to the overseas industry as I know our hardworking and sunny natures don’t go unnoticed in the yachting community.”