What Happens on Board, Stays on Board

2 June 2009 By Di Thompson

There’s an unspoken virtue that can go a long way toward helping to elevate a crew member’s reputation in the yachting industry: Respect for confidentiality.

Almost every written employee contract these days has a clause stating that keeping company business private is part of the employee’s work conditions, and the yachting industry is no exception. For obvious reasons, yacht owners, guests and captains trust that their business on board the yacht, whether it is professional or recreational, will stay on board.

Consider the life of a famous musician or other celebrity whose everyday life is on the world stage. He has purchased or chartered a yacht with a (hopefully) tight-lipped crew in order to escape from his everyday realities. He wants to retreat to his private floating haven, which cannot be penetrated by the media or other prying eyes.

It's on board such a vessel that your ability to keep what you see and hear confidential is both essential and highly regarded.

Capt. Jason Mills said recently, “I was perusing CVs for a suitable candidate for the coming season, and was astounded to see that one clever person had gone into detail stating all the famous people they had served during previous yachting experience. This particular CV stayed in my hands for one New York minute before going into the paper shredder.” Capt. Mills continued, “Owners and guests expect a high level of professionalism from superyacht crew, and onboard privacy is paramount.”

Another form of “loose lips sinking ships” that we are all too aware of is dockside gossip. The need to be the center of attention by telling a good story can get you into more trouble than it’s worth.

What are the possible consequences of “talking out of school”, so to speak?

“They can be very real,” says Capt. Ed, who works for an owner who insists that his yacht’s crew sign a confidentiality agreement. “An indiscretion is as easy as mentioning a single episode about a guest from a recent charter. If your seemingly harmless piece of gossip gets back to the owner or agent, it can mean instant dismissal for a crewmember.”

One recently fired crewmate found this out the hard way. “I was out drinking with the captain and crew from another yacht several weeks ago,” says the ex-deckhand who asked not to be named. “I mentioned that the owners’ daughter was on board with her girlfriends and how hard they partied on their last night. My captain was informed and he told me so in the wheelhouse the next morning – with a copy of my signed contract right under my nose. I had breached the confidentiality clause that warned me of instant dismissal.”

All crew must take the privacy agreement seriously for this and other reasons, including security. Everywhere a yacht is docked, you might be asked, “Who owns your boat?” The vessel’s security depends on your answer.

Your boss could be nearby on the back deck enjoying his morning paper and a cup of tea. On the dock, a punter is admiring the yacht and calls out this very question to you. If you come up with a creative or witty answer to the question, your boss will certainly respect you for doing so. He may even get a laugh out of it!

What do you tell punters on the dock who ask who owns your yacht?