They are big, shiny, loaded to the teeth with creature comforts, can take you around the world in utmost comfort and are the ultimate status symbols. I am talking about private yachts, these floating mansions are in what billionaires relax, party, network, and occasionally travel. But behind every yacht is a crew that caters to every need of the demanding owners and their guests. Tatiana Vaz Pereira shares her insights of working in a superyacht
I believe the reason why we’re being so well paid on yachts is not so much the hard work, but the lack of privacy and personal life. It is very tough being away from friends, families, and boyfriends while working on a yacht. My family never knows when I’m coming back and thinks I am always enjoying myself because I post pictures on Facebook of exotic locations, my friends think I forgot them because I have such “a great life”, and I am constantly worrying if my partner will be able to handle monogamy while I am away — that’s why most people end up getting together with someone from the industry and captains now ask for someone who is not on a relationship… (I got rejected on several job interviews for that reason, and left two jobs because in my mind, at the time, that was the only way of saving a long-distance relationship.)
It is also really hard to pursue our interests. For instance, I like singing. Working on yachts, I’ve never been so long in a place where I could be in a band or have singing lessons. The only times I did it I had to give up yachting. I also had longer periods in a place and understanding captains that encouraged me to get together with my musician friends, but it is always difficult to commit to a band when we can be setting sail anytime. The locations where we are also have nothing for us to do on our spare time (like cinema, theatre, etc), so we end up either doing very outdoorsy stuff or enjoying drinking and nightlife. At the beginning of one’s career, it’s exciting, but it can get really lonely once we realize there’s more to life than hanging out in clubs.
When the guests are not on board we have an 8-4 work routine — it gets more intense right after they’re gone, or just before they arrive. There is always someone on the watch (looking after the boat), but we get to go for runs, meet friends if we have anywhere we are, and even play with the boat’s toys if we want. We can live ashore if we’re allowed, which happens mostly when we’re stationed somewhere for a season. Sometimes we rent a place to be able to have some privacy, which reduces one of the best benefits of working on yachts: not paying rent or food.
When there are guests on board, our work day goes from at least 12 to 16 and sometimes 18 hours, depending on the size of the crew and on how well organized everything is. I was a solo stewardess on a 40m yacht and, even with a butler, maintaining all of it with the owners on board was very hard!
I’ve worked on boats with pretty cool crew members and not so good owners — it feels as if the bond among us gets closer if we have to endure difficult guests –, and I’ve worked on boats with good owners and difficult crews. If the crew is helpful and understanding, anything difficult is regarded with a sense of humor. If we have bossy colleagues who have confidence problems and need to create trouble all the time, it gets extremely difficult, just like any other job in a normal company. The difference is that you can’t just go out of the office at the end of the day, you LIVE with your colleagues AND your bosses! So I think one needs to be very focused and balanced emotionally to work on a boat, and perhaps generally kind.
I’ve had situations on a charter where the guests were so nice I genuinely didn’t want them to leave. The guests are usually more appreciative of our work than the owners, maybe because they’re not used to that kind of service and/or don’t know how much money we make — still, we make way less than most of them, otherwise we could afford our own holiday on a yacht. For an idea of the level of service we’re required on a superyacht, I can mention a small detail: we fold the first sheet of the toilet paper rolls in origami.
I have an appreciation for the opportunity of being so well paid. I am a journalist and a writer, and what lead me to pursue yachting was a relationship with a captain (that ended partly due to our circumstances), and then the fact that on yachts I make 3 times more money than doing what I love. It is difficult and leads me to change my mind a bunch of times, take a permanent job on a yacht that I ended up not keeping, refusing good offers because I wasn’t sure, and so on.
In every boat job I’ve had I believe I was extremely dedicated because I do respect someone who is willing to pay so much money for someone else to clean their toilet, iron their underwear, pamper and keep them safe (every yacht crew member is required to do a special safety training course). I’ve had captains telling me I was too smart to stay for a long time in the industry and I understand but disagree. The only reason why I’m not still working on boats is impatience. It’s not intellectually stimulating, but if one can find peace of mind to deal with that for a while, it’s a great opportunity to visit beautiful places and save some good money. I’ve met from lawyers to engineers, teachers and students in a gap year working on boats, and they all agree on this. It’s a stepping stone for better material life.
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