Work Hard, Play Hard: Yachties and Alcohol

15 January 2010 By Janine Ketterer

“[Yachting] is renowned as a hard-drinking industry,” said the first mate on board a 200-foot motor yacht. He seemed to hit the proverbial nail on the head. In a recent poll on we asked crew about their drinking habits and their thoughts on the industry’s collective alcohol tolerance.

“I don’t drink when I’m working, obviously, but I do go out in the evenings on weekends and drink a bit,” said the mate. Fifty percent of the crew polled agreed with him. “But when I was younger and a deckie, I was out almost every night drinking.” Twenty-two percent of crew who answered said that they drink daily.

Alcohol seems to be a constant in the lives of crew. After all, owners and charter guests have alcohol on board to enjoy during their vacations and time off. But when it comes to crew drinking, what’s the policy? “We don’t have a formal policy,” said the mate. “But it’s expected that crew won’t drink if there are guests on board or if we’re underway and everyone must be responsible.” Fifty-nine percent of crew polled said their boat does have an alcohol policy.

“We never had an alcohol policy,” said the deckhand of a 130-foot motor yacht. “…until the other deckhand and I kept coming home drunk at two a.m. As we do things, they make rules about it.”

“We absolutely do have an alcohol policy,” said Capt. Axel of motor/sailer MITseaAH. “In your free time, you may do what you like. But if we have guests on, there is absolutely no drinking, even if it’s for weeks at a time. If a crewmember has even one beer while we’re underway, [he or she] will be fired. That’s just a matter of safety.”

Forty-eight percent of crew said that the policy on board their boat is much like that on MITseaAH. Nine percent of crew said they are not permitted to drink at all.

The majority of polled crew, 63 percent, said alcohol is provided in the crew provisioning. Capt. Axel said, “Beer and wine are provided in the crew provisioning. To be honest, most of the time, if we’re in a foreign port, I’d rather have the crew drink on board rather than go off the boat and be mugged or something.”

“Alcohol isn’t provided for us,” the mate of the 200-foot yacht said. “But I think it’s better not to have it because no one is tempted.” The mate of a 157-foot yacht agrees, “We have no alcohol allowance on board, but I think it’s a good thing. We’re a healthy crew and like to go to the gym and keep active. It’s easier when there is no alcohol around.”

Even if there is no alcohol on board for crew to drink, there is plenty flowing at almost every crew event, but does that create a problem?

The mate of the 200-foot yacht says no. “This industry is work hard, play hard. People become yachties for that very reason. After a long charter, it’s good to let your hair down and relax.” Fifty-seven percent of crew polled agreed, answering “It would not be a crew event without alcohol.”

Capt. Axel said, “My policy has always been, you’re representing the boat. Go and have fun, but drink responsibly. If you’re on vacation and away from the industry, what I don’t know, I don’t know. But to me, a crew event is an industry function and I don’t want to see my crew wasted in the pages of Dockwalk.”

So, it really comes down to this: Collectively, do crew drink too much?

The mate of the 157-foot motor yacht said, “I think some do. There’s no doubt about that, but I find that the people in the industry who’ve been around the longest know how to handle their alcohol – people in their thirties and forties who really want to make a career out of yachting. It’s the young twenty-something kids that are out drinking too much.” The mate of the 200-foot yacht agreed. “I used to drink every night, but now I have more responsibility and have to set an example for the rest of my crew. Plus, I just can’t handle doing that anymore.”

“Personally, I do think crew drink too much,” said Capt. Axel. “It’s become part of the accepted culture. It seems that quite a lot of crew spend their downtime drinking. Our crew [on MITseaAH] are very athletic. We like to go mountain biking and do watersports and take advantage of what we have. I try to organize things like that for them.”

Almost everyone polled said that they have run across at least one crewmember with a drinking problem. The mate of the 157-foot yacht said it seems there is one in every crew who just can’t get it together in terms of drinking.

That might be due to age and maturity. In most walks of life, the young 20-somethings are out gallivanting, drinking and partying, but as they grow up and gain more responsibility, they curtail their drinking in excess. The mate of the 200-foot yacht said, “This is a work-hard, play-hard industry; as long as you can get your job done and be responsible then drinking is fine. If not, this isn’t the place for you and you won’t be in yachting for very long.”