This is the second part of a two part blog, detailing my experience of my first 24 hours working on a super yacht. I hope you find informative and provides a useful insight into life on a yacht.
I would like to say I awake to the sound of my alarm, but my sleep is disturbed by shutting doors in the crew area as others retire to their cabin. I am also woken each time I turn over, the bed being just wider than me, so turning becomes more of an art than ever before and I learn to sleep in an almost pencil-like formation, my days of “star fishing” in bed are now behind me.
The morning arrives, I wake before my alarm, draw my porthole curtain and lie in bed watching a couple of mullet fish cruising between our yacht and the next one. My relaxing is a mistake as I hear my roommate get up and lock the bathroom door. My planned shower, toilet and shave have been thrown as I realise that waiting for him will make me late, so I opt to dress and eat breakfast (note to self … establish showering times and get in the shower first tomorrow!)
A delicious breakfast with a selection of cereals, yoghurts and fresh fruit awaits. I then collect my radio and meet the Captain and deck crew on the bridge for a morning briefing of the day ahead.
I am given a tour of the whole yacht, something I have dreamt of since a small boy seeing these yachts in the South of France during a family holiday. The interior in the guest areas is a massive step up from the humble and compact crew areas. It is filled with high-class bespoke furniture, elaborate mirrors, glistening marble flooring, baths and beautiful wooden staircases. I feel I am on a photo shoot for an interior design magazine or elaborate film set; the style, taste and quality are like nothing I have witnessed before. I am shown into the main guest cabin complete with massive bed, walk-in dressing room, and an enormous ensuite with two large showers and a beautiful bath surrounded in white marble. Off the master bedroom is the sitting area where there is a discreet wall mounted button which when pressed creates a deep electrical buzzing noise before light begins to appear between the yacht’s walls. As the side wall of the yacht lowers the buzzing stops and the wall is completely lowered to create a private balcony where the owner and guests can sit outside in complete privacy.
After seeing how the other half live I return to normality and my life as a deck hand. Today’s job, I have been informed, is to wash the yacht…
Being a normal male, cleaning to an A1 standard did not come naturally, but as I was to learn quickly, this had to change. Prior to this I envisaged a “wash down” to be easy, akin to washing a car with a quick sponge and rinse. Not so. I was shown the process by the lead deck hand and taught that the yacht has to first be rinsed with fresh water to remove the salt or dirt to avoid scratching the paintwork. Next it is washed with a brush and mitten everywhere including doorways, deckhands (the ceilings on the outside decks) and even the gutters. The soapy water then has to be rinsed off before the water has time to dry otherwise it will leave unacceptable marks (no mean feat in temperatures of 28 degrees+). Finally, despite being in glorious sunshine, the whole yacht has to be dried with a shammy in stages to prevent water marks being left on the stainless steel or paintwork when it evaporates. I am told this process will take two to three days to complete and am dutifully given a mitten and told to start on the sun deck. I clarify where this “sun deck” is and negotiate my way up to the top deck.
I soon note the seemingly simple process of washing down a yacht may not be quite as simple as I hoped. I find I am continually making mistakes. I started drying the stainless steel before the deckhand, used a mitten to wash the side instead of a brush, left items on the deck that could mark the teak and wrang the shammy too hard before storing it. All these basic mistakes proved to me that even with A Levels and a degree, there is only really one way to learn, and that is by practice and experience. The reality of what this work entailed was rapidly sinking in and my illusions of driving tenders and jet skis for the rich and famous were rapidly fading. The crew were lovely but seemed to have missed the part of their training called ‘positive feedback’ and I was bombarded with criticism. I found this time hard, having come from a profession where I was advising people and being asked for my advice. I was continually making simple mistakes just washing an ornate object. It was a steep learning curve and I was just not used to being told what to do anymore. This had to change as I had much to learn.
The washing down routine was interrupted by very welcome breaks mid-morning, lunch time and mid-afternoon. Lunch was an incredible selection of dishes and salads laid out by the chefs which proved a real highlight from the days work. Also raiding the sweet and chocolate cupboard was another delight, without doubt replacing more calories than were burnt in the days activities.
The whole day was spent washing the yacht. It proved a good work out and having come from an office-based job I was loving the physical exertion. However the mundane nature of the job and the regular mistakes I was making was taking its toll and I finished the day with some serious question marks as to whether I had made the right career move.
After clearing away all the cleaning equipment, I returned to the crew area to tuck into another delicious meal. Afterwards I opted for a run around Genoa as I felt it important to spend at least a small part of the day off the yacht and relished the personal space whilst exploring the city. I returned from my run, showered and relaxed in the crew mess whilst watching a television program. The effects of the fresh air and physical work made my eyes feel heavy and my body pleasantly achy and I decided to head to bed early for what I knew was going to be a sound nights sleep.
Looking back, those first 24 hours were a total reality shock. All my questions on what working on a yacht would be like were answered and I must say there were many positives. Although my bed was small it was comfortable and the physical work certainly meant I slept well. The ensuite, although shared and small, worked really well after we developed a routine between us. The food was incredible. Furthermore, the endless supply of fragrant toiletries and products was a great luxury and I never tired of choosing them. As a crew member I was certainly very well looked after, living in this relatively confined space with 16 other people.
Those 24 hours were also a complete eye opener to the nature of the work and a far cry from the photos that I had seen on a friend’s Facebook entries some four months earlier. The work was at times mundane, repetitive and had to be done in a specific way and to a very high standard. I had to learn to accept being told what to do and to take on board regular feedback from the mistakes made.
However, as with any new job, those initial weeks where you feel rather a spare part and a hindrance and question why you left your comfortable existence, slowly fade as you take on more responsibility and work becomes second nature.
There were times in those initial two weeks where I seriously considered returning home, back to the comfortable surroundings and a world where I was in control and knew my trade. However pride, stubbornness and a fear of failure kept me there and made me work hard. I knew there would be better times and I was right to believe this.
Never could I have known where these two weeks experience would lead me. Without a doubt this was my springboard to launch me into the world of super yachts. It provided me with all the essential skills I needed for my CV and I was so fortunate to be part of a yacht that trained me so well with such a competent crew.
Little did I know, as I stepped off this yacht at the end of my time, that in just four weeks I would be stepping onto another yacht to become my home for over two years and take me to some of the most incredible places on earth.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” Zig Ziglar
Blog post written by Ben Proctor, author of “Work on a Super Yacht: The Beginners Guide” and creator of www.workonasuperyacht.co.uk. Both aimed at helping potential new crew learn about working on a super yacht and how to secure their dream job