Too Close for Comfort?

6 January 2011 By Lucie Ferrer

Whether or not you’ve had a rough season guest-wise, we all love it when we get a friendly bunch on board. You can hear a collective sigh of relief; this week we aren’t dealing with high-maintenance lunatics, but apparently normal, friendly, reasonable human beings. The question is: is there a limit to how close you can safely get before you enter the dangerous grey area between guest and crew?

When guests want to know all the inside scoop about what goes on in crew life, it can be flattering, but ends up becoming an invasion of what very little privacy crew have – at the best of times. When the Facebook friend requests start to come in, crewmembers can feel there’s nowhere left to hide. Even though the owner’s or guest’s intentions might be good, this could open a can of worms, not to mention all of your photos and personal details on their computer screens.

By the same token, most crew wouldn’t want to risk offending guests or owners by ignoring them. It’s the proverbial: rock meet hard place. Luckily, there are privacy settings on Facebook and other social networking sites that allow you to add people to groups and set privacy settings for said group: the people who aren’t allowed to see everything.

Of course, it’s great to have a good relationship with guests and owners. Often, they can open doors outside the yachting world for crew, if and when they ever decide to leave it. However, it warrants remembering that things can get a little awkward when the usual divisions are wiped away and crew are treated as equals. When boundaries between owner/guest and crew blur it can be easier to lose sight of the usual hierarchical norms and unintentionally overstep the mark.

One crewmember told the tale of how the charter guests insisted on treating the crew like members of their family. They ate every meal together and the family took an interest in all of the crewmembers, promoting the “we’re all family here” vibe. However, the relationships went down in flames and the guests became the guests from hell when one crewmember made a joke that fell flat and offended one guest, albeit unintentionally. Being put firmly back in your place and demoted from “family status” to “barely fit to serve” is a hard fall to take.

As unnatural as it may seem at the time, crew can’t afford to forget the fact that no matter what the owners or guests may say, we will never be at their level. We’re the crew, they’re the guests. At the end of the day they’ll always be the ones wearing the trousers. If you get too close and the relationship turns sour it could cost you your job.

Moral of the story: make the most of having friendly guests, but don’t lose sight of the line or there’s a chance you’ll cross it.