The Graceful Exit

19 April 2011 By Claire Griffiths

There have been times, let’s say two, whendiving overboard rather than opting for a spot of diplomatic dialogue with thecaptain or owner seemed like the only available option for Bosun James Ross. With hisflippers on and mask adjusted, he jumped ship and headed for shore to drownfrustrations in the local bar in both the Caribbean and the Galapagos whileworking on board. “We were on a three and a half year world tourat the time with 50,000 sea miles behind us,” says Ross. “It all just got [to be]too much. I partied hard all night then swam back to the boat to find the linewas up. That time, I knew I’d be fired – I’d already resigned once, but hadbeen persuaded to go back.”

Guts and gusto-wise, Ross ranks high, but as arecommended template of “how to go gracefully”…his story isn’t one toreprise.

“I'm notsure there is an easy way – you can’t just leave at, say, the end of acharter,” says First Mate Pieter of S/Y Bagheeraas he ponders the question of how to leave a yacht before the end of acontract, but he can’t come up with any obvious answers. “I’ve always left at the end of season orcontract,” he muses. And Chief Stew Dominique of S/Y Noheea doesn’t have the solution either. Her suggestion: “I supposeyou just say ‘Thank you’ and be really appreciative.”

But you can’t afford to be too cavalier in sucha small industry. “Never burn your bridges,” says Isaac, deckhand on a 110-metreLurssen based in Antibes. He advises, “Don’t take a new job without tellingyour captain and make sure you tell him you’re thinking of leaving in advance. Ifyou talk to him, maybe you can improve the situation on board. You need to beas professional as possible and give plenty of notice.”

Louisa Gallimore, Crew Manager at Bluewateragrees and insists that crew must keep things on the table when they areplanning to leave. Notice periods on yachts vary, she explains, but one monthis the norm. “Talk through your decision with your department head or captainand don’t contact agencies to look for work beforehand because it will get backto the captain,” Gallimore warns. Professional yachties will build in a“handover period” prior to their leave and never will jump ship prior to or inthe middle of a charter.

“All captains want longevity,” says Gallimore, “sohopping boats every season is not a great idea. It’s good to stay a year or two– especially if the yacht offers training. People can grow out of their boats –they might leave to find a new boat that matches their ticket, but others arehappy to stay on smaller boats where the work suits their lifestyle.”

If you are planning to make a move, look aheadto avoid large gaps of unemployment. If you’re based in the Med and you resignin November, there’s less chance of finding work before the spring.

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