The Confessions of a Recovering Yachtie
Making the decision to leave the yachting industry and put down roots ashore is one of the hardest things us crew members face at some stage in our careers. Men and women who share their experiences, strengths and hopes with each other, may solve their common problem and help each other recover from yachting to live a regular life on land. These are my confessions.
Saying a permanent bon voyage to the yachting industry was incredibly difficult for me. It was a decision albeit, that I had made on my own accord, but that didn’t make it any easier.
As a 22-year old South African living in England, the yachting industry fell into my lap on vacation in the South of France. Fresh out of university I decided to get the necessary qualifications, packed my one suitcase allowance, and not looking back moved to Antibes to search for work. In the blink of an eye seven years had passed, and I had worked my way up from a ‘green’ stewardess who stashed Dramamine pills in her skort pocket ‘just in case’, to a Chief Stewardess who could manage an interior team (and a yacht pounding through rough seas), whilst keeping her guests happy regardless of whatever obstacles presented themselves.
Some of my most treasured memories will forever be from my time on the magnificent white boats. No one can completely understand what it is like to be yacht crew unless you have lived it, and it’s almost like we belong to a special club even after we have left the industry. When you meet a fellow member, there is this mutual sense of understanding what one another have been through.
These emotions could be due to the extreme high’s and the extreme lows of working on superyachts. It does make the transition from yachts to land a tough one, I personally bawled my eyes out saying my final farewells to my last boss. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a hot and dusty day in a shipyard in Ensenada, Mexico. In what seemed like a surreal trance, I walked through the interior one last time, smelling her distinct and familiar smell, sniffling my way through the main salon and up to the sky lounge. I was leaving my home, the place I had lived and worked for five years. I was so excited for my future, yet entirely heart-broken to say goodbye to my boss, my crew, and this boat that had become such a huge part of me.
No one can fully prepare yacht crew for the realities of life on land. Paying rent or mortgage loans, bills for everything from water to electricity (the horror!), to health and car insurance, not to mention food. It all adds up so quickly it’s enough to get anyone’s head spinning.
But, such is life, and as we all do, somehow, we soldier through, figure it out, and learn to survive in our new-found space of existence. Certain things for me however, will probably never change. So here is my list of confessions as a recovering yachtie…
- Fingerprints. I see fingerprints, everywhere. They are in my nightmares. Mark my words I will never own a glass table, or even one with stainless steel legs. My very first chief stewardess (a lovely Australian girl called Twila) taught me how to identify dirty mirrors. This literally destroyed me. No longer can I sit at a five-star restaurant perched alongside the ocean and enjoy the view over my glass of rosé because their glass windows are covered in sticky salt air that look like they haven’t seen soap or a chamois in at least five years. Truly heart-breaking stuff. My apartment has floor to ceiling sliding glass doors, and weirdly I think I’m the only one who whips out the Sprayway Glass Cleaner to clean the outside of her balcony doors. (Side note: If you haven’t used Sprayway you’re missing out, they don’t call it “The World’s Best” for nothing.)
- Ironing. I don’t even know how to begin this so I’m just going to confess. I spent $750 on an iron. Yes, I did and I don’t have any regrets. Every yacht I worked on had a LauraStar onboard. The sexy, sleek, Swiss-designed piece of equipment that makes life in a laundry room so much more enjoyable. These irons are a steam unit built in to an ironing board, with an industrial iron. They reduce ironing time to virtually nothing, and allow the end-product to be flawless. There was no way I could live life without one after using them on yachts for so long. The big units we had onboard start at $1,500, so really compromising and buying the little compact unit that LauraStar conveniently came out with just before I left yachts was very economical.
- Laundry. I love when things are neat and tidy, and presented in an organized manner. My laundry is no exception to the rule. My walk-in closet is color coordinated by garment type. Everything is folded correctly and kept in its rightful place. My shoes neatly aligned. I’ve seen posts on social media that say only wizards know how to fold fitted sheets properly, and quite frankly I find that offensive and slightly confusing. It’s actually very simple, and logical. My towels all hang neatly in thirds and the correct side face the correct way, their labels are hidden. I like things to be done right. Don’t even get me started on my guest bathroom.
- Cleaning. This I could talk about forever. Cleaning my home is therapeutic (just like the ironing), and something that I absolutely must dedicate at least one day a week to doing. May I just point out that I am rather proud of this achievement. One day a week is not much after you’ve spent seven years expecting yourself or an interior crew member to clean every area of the boat every day. This is not to say that I am not obsessive compulsively cleaning elements of my home every single day, but a deep, thorough cleaning needs to occur at least once a week for me to stay sane, feel organized and be happy in my home.
- Shoes. You want to wear them inside, are you kidding me? Absolutely not. Do you ever take time to consider where you have been walking in those shoes? And now you want to come inside my clean home where I walk barefoot. That’s gross, and a firm no from me.
- "The crew mess syndrome." After years of reprimanding crew members for leaving dirty cups in the sink, do you think I’d be able to relax and do that myself in my own home? I was the one enforcing those rules, so naturally I was the one setting the example. By nature, I am a very neat and tidy person. If I manage to wash a plate and leave it to dry on my clean dish drying-towel from Bed, Bath and Beyond for a few hours, I start to wonder if I’m not the most 'chill' person in town. After lounging on my comfy couch, I will still always fluff and neatly position my throw pillows. My throw blankets always immaculately folded into thirds, and draped carefully over the top corner of my couch to be aesthetically pleasing.
- Stemware. I am in love with real crystal. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get over that. I have managed to resort to the more day-to-day crockery (it still looks great though), but my glasses are all Riedel. So are my decanters. And guess what, everything tastes better out of them. They are surprisingly affordable and even available at your nearest Target. Trust me, they’re worth it, there is a major difference sipping a glass of Veuve out of a thin crystal champagne flute than out of a chunky-stemmed, thickly-cut glass alternative.
- The Chief Stew OCD. Obsessive compulsive disorder is a real-life thing that good humans suffer from, and I live with it every day. Granted I am learning to relax in some regards, and that feels great, but there are certain things that will always drive me up the walls. For example, why did the attendant put the toilet paper onto the holder the wrong way in this beautiful hotel bathroom? How do these friends of mine live with spattered tooth-paste all over their bathroom sink? And if you think I don’t put every single beer, soda can, bottle in my fridge with their labels facing forwards, you are sorely mistaken. Shout out to the bars who do restock their fridges this way, your efforts are recognized and appreciated!
- I miss the chief engineer, I miss him so much. Somethings broken? Call the engineering department. The other day I was trying to set up my new Amazon Echo Dot, and after much frustration I gave up. I’ve had male friends come over to help me install my cable, set up my internet, jump start my car, hang mirrors on walls, you name it. Not my proudest moments.
- Food. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t you miss having a personal chef prepare incredible lunches and dinners for you every day? At 29 I found myself standing in the galley, I mean kitchen, of my new home, and really didn’t have much of a clue about anything. Of course, I had every Le Creuset pot and All-Clad pan you could ever dream of, but I had no idea what I was doing with them, or which ones you should use for what dishes. That was an interesting learning experience. To this day I can only probably cook ten different meals, but I do make a mean baked cod!
- My final confession is a funny one. It took me about two years to finally get over the fear of putting any item down on an open shelf or counter top. My brain would immediately go into panic mode, "What if the boat rolls and it falls off?" For seven years everything was on non-skid, stuck in place with museum gel, bungee corded down, behind a fiddle bar on a shelf, or closed away tightly in a strategically packed cupboard which had an extra push lock to stop the doors from flying open. Open shelves at home that are particularly high up were a real challenge for me, and I’d find myself stressing, and then laughing as I remembered that this is terra firma, and we aren’t going to hit any rough seas today.
So, to my yachtie friends, this list of confessions is for you. If you are making the move from life on the water, to life on land - I wish you fair winds and following seas! It isn’t an easy adjustment, and old habits die hard, if at all, but you can do it, and us ex-yachties are here for you!
I am so glad I finally made the transition, and I absolutely love my life today. I get weekends! Remember those little things called Saturdays and Sundays? Yeah, they’re beautiful. Not to mention Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, getting to see friends and family, and travel to places that aren’t necessarily on a coastline. People ask me if I miss yachting, and my answer is "every single day." I miss being on the water so much, but when I am greeted at my front door every day by my two little Yorkies, Piper and Simon, I quickly remember why I left. As I said, my memories onboard superyachts will be ones I treasure always, but for now I’m underway with the next chapter of this crazy thing called life, and it’s a proving to be a very fun and exciting journey so far.
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