Burned out under the sun?

It’s September, the season is almost over. Eight charter weeks out of the way. The owners have just left after a straight and intense 4 weeks on board and the first of 5  more charterweeks ahead is already in full swing. The sun has been brutal all summer.  After helping out on deck she goes below to tidy up the interior. The aircon hardly cools her down. In fact, if she’s working near the airhandler too long she feels this annoying tickle in her chest that makes her cough. When cooking 3 meals a day, the galley stove creates yet another ‘temperature zone’ on the yacht, sucking out her energy. The days are long. For weeks she hasn’t spoken to her best friend, who’s partying in Mikonos. She wonders if a corporate job like hers with a 2 week summer break would be a better way to go but quickly imagines how boring that would be. The youngest of the guest’s kids snaps her back into reality with a last minute request for pancakes for breakfast. The little boy is very polite and cute, but she just served 4 types of eggs. She tries to block out all the things she would prefer to reply to the little boy. His parents paid big bucks and with a chef at their disposal, of course mom is going to tell little Arthur he can ask for pancakes. She says to herself:’I’m sure they believe all the food appears magically out of my galley. If so that’s probably a compliment.’

The work especially on Pocket Superyachts run by only 2 or 3 people, is hard to compare to any other job. More than anything it’s because it’s a lifestyle (for lack of better word). The crew live on the job. It’s not a 9 to 5. The best crew are people who have high standards and they like that everything has to be perfect all the time. That means that wherever they look around on board, at any time, they will see some work to do. Even when they are trying to enjoy a break. If you are, what is called, an over-achiever, you are at risk of getting frustrated with that. You’re either feeling guilty for not getting all the work done at any given time (there’s always work on a yacht) or overexerting yourself in an attempt to get it done. Until you throw in the towel. The crews who have never experienced these feelings are often not great at looking after the boat. At least not in detail.

In the winter, if the yacht doesn’t do a dual season, the perfectionist will be living on a yacht where engineers and workers are on and off the boat all the time with floorboards open and cushions stacked in a corner of the salon. Far from perfect.

The crew on Pocket Superyachts have to be energetic and therefore, often, young. Often we have seen that they haven’t gained enough experience to self-analyse their feelings and mentality. Being organised and methodical helps a great deal. In our Code Of Practice, which is handed out to all crew that works with Invisible Crew, we emphasise the importance of using worklists. Over the past couple years I have been absolutely amazed on several occassions to discover that crew are not using any type of worklist at all. Not even a little note book with to-do’s! So that means they are walking around thinking; ‘Ok, what shall I do next?’ I guess they then see something and get to it. There is no way that they are tackling the priority first. There is no way that they have the sense of achievement that a full page of striked out to-do’s will give you at the end of a workday. There is no way that they didn’t oversee that small issue deep down in the bilge that will soon become a major issue.

To maintain motivation and mental sanity while working on board a yacht you need to be organised. You have to take time, even if it is little but often, to breathe and reflect (if not meditate) on your feelings and put yourself in a positive state of mind. Know why you have chosen this line of work.

Despite the pressure you feel to have everything perfect all the time, know that things will never be 100% perfect. When you see a job, write it down on your to do list, instead of ‘I’ll just quickly do that.’ It will allow you to safeguard your time for whatever is priority in that moment, even (especially!) if that is a planned moment of rest. You can then forget about that little job because you know you will find it on your list. That way, things are as perfect as they can be because all jobs are either done or noted on your list.

Finally I’d like to share one more observation that only occured to me after starting a family. Having run yachts myself I know, as described above, that when you live on the job, it feels like you rarely have any real off-time apart from the times you go home. There is the constant pressure of responsibility, day and night. Many owners don’t see this. In fact they often feel like the crew is on holiday on their yacht, especially when they are not there. I am sure many ex-yachties, who are now parents will agree that raising kids, especially in the first 5 years, feels like being on an endless charter with extremely demanding and uncooperative guest! Of course you love these ‘guests’ to bits and you’d do anything for them. However, you will also have the concerns of your dayjob and the family financials. As 99% of yachtowners own and run business(es) and have children, some of them struggle to empathise and sympathise with the crew who are working 15-17 hours a day. It’s all about perspective I guess.

Once again, I believe that there is a lack of relevant training for Pocket Superyacht crew that, for example, covers these aspects of the job. That’s why I developed an online course on Teachable that you can find by searching for ‘How to find work on Pocket Superyachts’. In the course we cover ‘Mindset of truly professional yachtcrew’ as part of a extensive curriculum.