Wake Up Call: Confronting Crew Misconceptions

17 September 2008 By Janine Ketterer

“Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” When considering work on a mutimillion dollar yacht, cruising to the world's most beautiful ports, perhaps even rubbing shoulders with celebrities, some crew might think that they, too, will get a taste, even a small one, of this glamorous existence.

Those same crew may end up disappointed.

People come to the yachting industry for many reasons: love of the sea, love of travel, love of money, just to name a few. Often, as in many other careers, what you see isn’t what you get.

Misconceptions can cause a shock to the system when you’re jumping into a new career.

“A lot of people think it’s going to be easier than it actually is,” says Mate Chris Lyon of M/Y My Girl.

Yachting is a team sport. You have to pitch in where you’re needed. If the stew needs a hand setting the aft deck table for dinner, a deckhand grabs the silver. If the chef needs a second hand to stir a pot of sauce, the stew already has a whisk. On top of that, you’ve got your own duties that can keep you running more than 18 hours a day.

Yachting is not your typical "9-to-5" career. Up before the earliest guest riser and to bed after the latest night owl is simply what's expected. Mate Nicholas Ocoback of M/Y Lucky Seven knows this all too well.

“How long I’d have to work, that was a misconception,” he says. “Those long hours, I, for sure, was not ready for that.”

Sometimes it’s not the workload or the hours it takes, but the position itself that causes concern once on board -- particularly for the newcomer who may have had different expectations after spending months at school.

“It’s a lot more work than I expected, but my biggest misconception about the industry was more about my own position,” says a deckhand who requested to remain anonymous. “I was told I was hired for a higher up position and here I am working as the bottom-of-the-barrel deckhand even though I have a resume for something else.”

The industry itself puts on a shiny front for crew, but sometimes captains or owners feed into misconceptions to get people working.

Not all false impressions leave a bad taste in your mouth, however.

“I didn’t think I’d be paid as well as I am,” says Deckhand Andy Wilson of M/Y Gaudeamus. “Not only that, all of the expenses and such that are included are great. I didn’t think I’d be taken care of so well.”

And some new crew don’t come into the industry with any champagne wishes at all.

“I didn’t have any misconceptions, really. I was quite prepared,” says Deckhand James Roper of M/Y Aurora. “I took about 12 months and really checked the industry out. I asked the right questions and talked to the right people.”

Preparation can be the glue that makes crew stick in this industry.

Exotic ports and flowing cocktails have long been associated with yachting, but Mate Chris Lyon of M/Y My Girl says there's the one thing all crew need to remember – and please inform the newbies: “It’s only glamorous if you own the boat.”

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