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How to keep crew on a boring yacht.

Q: Anonymous Captain, 41:

“I’m a captain with a great crew that’s getting restless. We run a private yacht, with decent elderly owners who rarely come onboard- and when they do, it’s basic milk-run stuff, anchored in Cala de Volpe or off Cap Ferrat for weeks on end. We never leave the Western Med, and I’ve already lost one fantastic crew member to the lure of a world-travelling yacht, and I just sense that others are poised to follow. I understand- they’re young, and still in the stage of their career where they want excitement and travel, not just a decent boss and a good paycheck. But I don’t want them to leave- we’re a solid unit and I’ve worked hard to put this team together over the past year. How do I encourage them to stay?”

A: The Crew Coach:

This is a brilliant question, and every ‘milk run’ or ‘chained to the dock’ captain reading this will no doubt be glad you asked it. How do you encourage young crew to stay on a ‘boring boat’?

1. MAKE THEM NOT WANT TO LEAVE

Certain incentives can help guide crew towards staying on the yacht. Renegotiating salaries or an attractive end of year bonus with the owner may help crew retention, and if that’s not possible then consider other arrangements, such as rotation, longer holidays, great health cover, or complementary financial advice.

Favourable training arrangements can also be a powerful incentive for those young crew who want a career in yachting and realise that your yacht gives them both the time off and/or funding for training that most yachts won’t. You may only be delaying their departure with this step, but it’s a valuable one nonetheless. You also get better skilled crew into the bargain for as long as they stay. Even if there is no budget for this you can create your own training program – I’m sure you have a lot of experience you can pass on to them if you think about it creatively!

From a leadership perspective, you being the best leader possible will also help encourage people to stay if they’re considering leaving. Showing recognition and appreciation, kindness and thoughtfulness towards your crew will definitely make them wonder if they’re giving up a really good thing if they leave! If you’d like help with your leadership skills please get in touch as we offer a fantastic Career & Leadership program that is designed to help you dial up crew loyalty to the max.

2. ACCEPT YOUR LOSSES

Unfortunately, this may well be a band-aid solution, as once crew are restless for adventure it can be pretty hard putting that genie back in the bottle. You probably have to accept that you will lose crew this year, and you must let them go gracefully so that they feel welcome to come back and work for you again when they’ve had their fill of 20 hour days and filling Madame’s bathtub with cream on a crazy charter yacht in the Caribbean. Which may well be quite soon.

3. PREVENT IT HAPPENING AGAIN

When you do lose crew, you need to be quite strategic about who you hire to replace them. It’s tempting to fall back on the types of people you normally hire – which to me sounds like they’re typically young, hardworking, and adventure-seeking. You’ve really liked these people in the past, they fit with your personality, and you’ve managed to form a solid team with them. But let’s not forget, you’ve only formed a solid team for a short while – one year in total – before they’re all getting restless. To be brutally honest, unless you want this whole cycle to repeat again in spring of next year, you’re going to have to change your hiring approach.

4. KNOW WHO TO HIRE

If your yacht is France-based year round, you want to be looking for crew who are a little older or more experienced on yachts, so they understand the value of a quiet, well-paid yacht owned by decent people, and the ability to have – gasp – a life ashore as well. (Some might say it’s the holy grail!)

Couples also tend to be more stable as they often have shared goals such as mortgages, while crew with partners and/or children are also going to view your yacht as a great fit due to the stability and quiet schedule.

Crew who own property in the area may well seize on the opportunity to spend some time living ashore, and those crew who like to go home to see family and friends a lot will also value the opportunity to find a yacht that allows them to do that.

Your type of yacht has an enormous amount to offer to crew who have had their fill of dancing at Abracadabra’s until dawn, or would just like to stay close enough to the UK so they can fly home regularly to see their niece or nephew grow up.

This type of crew might take some adjusting to for you, as you seem to like a young and fun crew. But do you like re-hiring every year after pouring all your energy into making them a solid team? Training crew up so they can run off to a more interesting yacht 12 months later is going to get frustrating pretty fast.

5. ATTRACT THE RIGHT CANDIDATES

So tailor your job ads and explain to the crew agents that you require excellent longevity and a great attitude in exchange for the many benefits that the quiet program and good pay offer. And don’t be shy to ask questions about the candidate’s long-term plans in the interview, including what their five year goals are, where they feel they are in their yachting career, and why they’re happy to work on a quiet yacht.

Let us know how you get on!

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