Things that Go Bonk in the Night

9 June 2009 By Lisa Hoogerwerf Knapp, By Joanne MacKenzie

Have you ever lost an earring in a hard-to-explain place – like the bridge of someone else’s boat?

In yachting, privacy is an elusive thing, especially since most crew bunk two to a room. Looking for places to spend “quality time” alone together can lead couples to some interesting places. So if you hear something go bonk in the night, don’t worry; it’s probably just love in the laundry room.

The deckhand on a 60-metre charter yacht says he and his girlfriend slipped past the alarms and stole away to the sun deck to have some quality alone time. The next day, he found out that their stolen moments were on film. “I didn’t know the surveillance camera was pointed at that part of the top deck,” he says. “Fortunately, it was too shadowy to see our faces well, but the captain knew it was me and so did the rest of the crew.”

Some crewmembers have understanding roommates who will vacate the premises for a few hours in exchange for the same courtesy at a later date. “Some crew pay for their roommate to go out to a movie,” says Capt. Russ. A pre-arranged “Do Not Disturb” sign can help prevent an unwanted intrusion on their return. When you see that sock on the door, don’t come knocking.

A hotel ashore is a better solution, if you can afford it. One captain says he used to go to a hotel in Monaco and come back to the yacht at 5 a.m. with a newspaper, like he just went out to get it.

The stewardess on a 35-metre sailing yacht says that she and her boyfriend, who works on a 45-metre motor yacht, used to get a hotel whenever they could both manage to get the same time off in the same port together. But, she says, “Sometimes you just can’t do that and all you have is a few hours together. We used to use the tender stowed on the top deck of his boat. We’d crawl in and cuddle like a couple of kids in a fort. It was the only way we’d get any time alone.”

Taking the tender out for a moonlight cruise is another popular way to share a tender moment. Then there’s the beach, if it’s close enough – although not so close that it’s within binocular or camera range of the yacht.

Onboard romances are even more difficult to pursue on yachts where the policy is no relationships allowed between crew. The engineer on a 35-metre sailboat, who was secretly seeing the second stew, says they used to stay in her cabin and set their alarms a half hour early so he could sneak back to his own cabin. “After six months, the other stew told the captain and he sacked my girlfriend,” the engineer says.

The chief stew on a 50-metre motor yacht says when she started seeing the captain, she had to lie a lot. “I would tell the girls I wanted to go off and have time alone. I would meet [the captain] and we would have our time together. That backfired one night when we met up with the crew in a gay bar. We didn’t know which was worse...the crew thinking that [the captain] was gay or that he was seeing the chief stew.”

The owner’s suite is definitely off-limits for romantic rendezvous. “I’ve heard of crew using the owner’s bed,” says Capt. Craig. “I heard that from a lot of captains who found things they shouldn’t have found in the owner’s stateroom.”

Every now and then, some bold crewmembers will invite themselves to use the guest cabins on board. The stew on a 115-foot motor yacht says she had to clean up after her chef brought a girl home one night. “He was so dumb about it. He tried to make the bed look like it did before, like I wouldn’t notice. He’d make a terrible stew,” she says. “He admitted he did it and it didn’t happen again.”

Some captains and chief stews actually will allow crew to use a guest cabin when no guests are aboard and the crewmember has family or a girlfriend or boyfriend visiting. And some crew who date are simply given their own room in the crew quarters. That’s the easiest way to keep everyone happy.

What’s the most interesting place on board you’ve heard things go bonk in the night?