While there are numerous benefits to becoming a crew member on a superyacht, one of the most rewarding is the opportunity to travel (and on someone else’s dime).
It furthers one to cross the great water.” —I Ching, Chinese classic text
I now know this to be true. When I came home for my first vacation from yachting, I got in touch with one of my former college professors. I remember his first question to me was, “So, how are you enjoying indentured servitude?”… I laughed at the time, but I have to admit, I didn’t quite know what that meant. Once off the phone, I grabbed my trusty Webster’s:
Entry: Indentured Servant Part of Speech: noun Definition: a person who is bonded or contracted to work for another for a specified time, in exchange for travel expenses (as in to America back when the English were migrating to the New World).
Well, he got me on that one. And I thought, Right, that is what I’m doing—but I’m also getting paid a helluva lot to do it… I’m getting paid to travel the world! I couldn’t have felt prouder of myself. Some people would give their right arm to be able to visit some of the places I’ve seen.
As a yacht crew member, you are living and working upon the canvas of the world. But yes, the word “working” is a key factor. While guests coming onboard often prevent you from being able to experience every single destination your yacht visits, there will still be time along the way to enjoy many of them. Here’s another reason that respect for your guests must remain in the forefront of your mind: You owe these very people for the ticket you are holding. Therefore, service to them becomes very much a feeling of obligation—and thanks—for allowing you the incredible opportunity to live a free and adventuresome lifestyle.
I had a crew recruiter say to me, “Yeah, but you don’t always get to see these places for yourself, so it’s not really about the travel.” I couldn’t believe my ears! For me, just getting a glimpse of a gondola race in Venice from the guest cabin window I was cleaning felt like the opportunity of a lifetime. The alternative? I could have been at some corporate desk job staring out at a busy city intersection with skyscrapers stretching up on every corner…people bustling about to run errands, catch buses, get to lunch appointments…horns honking, brakes screeching, garbage cans falling. No thanks!
While serving as a yacht stewardess, I always had a fascination with the staircase leading up from the crew living area below deck to the main level of the yacht. Some mornings I’d reflect: At the top of those crew mess stairs lies your job, lies your obligation, lies your responsibility…but also lies your freedom in abundance. And sure enough, just outside that door (okay fine, or even just that window), a glorious new part of the world always awaited me.
Here is a sample Confession straight from the 2nd edition of The Insiders Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess: Confessions from My Years Afloat with the Rich and Famous:
I Must Confess… Times in port, with no guests onboard, are spent living life to the fullest.
For some, this means partying like there is no tomorrow. Yachties feel this need to maximize the time they get for themselves. Those times can be few and far between—a couple days in a port may be all they will get for several weeks if facing a big charter or an owner coming to live onboard for an extended period.
For others, time ashore with no guests on the horizon means seeking out an adventure, such as taking a weekend away to some random place nearby. Many crew I worked with were known for just “heading out” with no specific destination in mind: just renting a car or taking a train, only to stop when the time felt right. We all did this—even if we could only manage a day trip. Some went alone, some went in pairs, and sometimes we’d go in a big group. Many of my fellow crew members, and this is true for a lot of the industry, had well-traveled or backpacker backgrounds. And even if they didn’t, we all shared a common trait of wanderlust. We were vagabonds at heart. We each wanted to find the most authentic place within a place, to experience a destination like a local, or to behave like explorers, seeking off-the-beaten-path locations and experiences in every port we visited.
When we lived in Palma de Mallorca for several months, our crew did something like this nearly every weekend. The boat was being painted, and so we only worked 8–5, M–F, with an occasional Saturday morning tossed in. Someone was always on the boat standing watch, but if you weren’t scheduled for duty, you were GONE. In Mallorca, we had one island to explore, and I’d be willing to bet we discovered a side of it that most tourists—even locals—never see. When we weren’t on charter, I was known for disappearing up to the top deck of the yacht, plugging my laptop into the bar, and typing out my thoughts for hours by the light of the moon. I did this in so many wonderful places—San Juan, Puerto Rico; the island of St. Kitts; Amalfi, Italy; Golfe Juan, France; Göcek, Turkey…
Ah, and running…running was my escape and a way to get out and investigate some of the ports. They were empowering, my runs ashore; even if guests were onboard and I only had a two-hour break. I loved to get on land (when we were docked and I could sneak off, that is) and move by my own two feet. Running in ports like Bermuda, and then Viareggio, on to Genoa, Haifa, and then Palma—it was like one continuous journey in my mind… Feeling like Forrest Gump when he walked for years…I imagined that my feet had carried me all the way to that point…and in many ways, they had. Even if I were just sent ashore to buy fresh produce for the chef in a place like Split, Croatia, I took this as an opportunity to soak up all I could of this perk to my job. Compare this to when I go to grocery stores in America, where I put my head down and focus on getting in, getting what I need, and getting out.
In Split and other ports, instead I was looking around for something to sense, making the effort to capture a memory or new idea, trying to learn a characteristic of the local people, or simply watching how the world carried on in a place that was so far away from what I’d always known. To think of all the lives that had been there just as long as I had been alive, and wondering what they’d been doing… and looking back, to wonder still what they are doing today. So you see, while you might not be able to enjoy every port of call, or to step on land to explore and play in every destination, the opportunities do come—and when they do, you make the most of them. Meanwhile, you always have the sea.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Read more “Confessions” from the book, including information about megayachts, who owns them, where they travel, and what the guests are like by downloading Chapter 1 here.