In the spirit of the Coke-Pepsi party game, we’ve tossed a few questions at yacht captains and crew to see how yachties see yachting.
Our first discovery is that this survey received the most responses of any we’ve ever done, edging out our recent cell phone survey. More than 220 captains and crew took part this month.
The key to this survey, of course, is not to think too much about the questions and to simply choose, even when it really doesn’t matter. The vast majority of our respondents did just that. About 10 percent, though, skipped a handful of questions they just couldn’t decide on (Western Med or Eastern Med, for example, had the highest number of skips).
In every case, choosing between the two will depend on some other criteria, and in many cases, our respondents wanted both, so we shouldn’t read these answers as the only conditions for happiness in yachting. That’s a whole other survey.
We started with a few questions about boats, and these answers didn’t really surprise us. Our respondents had a strong majority when it came to power vs. sail and charter vs. private., but were a little more torn on size and style.
Taken as a group, our respondents preferred smaller (less than 140 feet) power vessels of contemporary design in private service.
“Smaller is more manageable, less politics,” said the chef on a yacht 120-140 feet. “Charter is a larger paycheck but much larger headaches.”
“There’s just something about pushing the throttles forward and hearing turbos spool up that does it for me,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
“It just ain’t natural to go to sea without sails,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
“The classic look is superb,” said the chef on a yacht 180-200 feet. “Fads in yachts come and go but the classic always remains.”
“I have run a private 65-foot ketch for a real fun-loving owner and his friends,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “No schedules, no cranky charter guests. I just had a ball with the owner.”
“I actually work on a private boat that charters three or four times a year,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet. “It’s a perfect combo.”
“I like private and small because you tend to have more of a life and you can actually get to know the people and create a relationship with them,” said the stew on a yacht 80-100 feet.
“It is all about the people you work with, and the people you work for,” said the engineer on a yacht 100-120 feet.
“It’s not the boat but the situation: Do we like the family? Is the owner good to the crew?” said a captain of more than 25 years. “This is way more important than the platform we sail upon.”
“Sailing has many magic moments,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet. “It makes you feel more a part of the sea.”
“Classic has too much varnish; it’s better to polish stainless,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet. “Private as I travel around awaiting the boss for his four days a year onboard. Power because large sail is the same as power, all push buttons, but less pay. And large to satisfy my ego.”
“Always less than 100 feet so we can get dock space, and no crew drama,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years.
When it came to preferences over owners, our respondents again had strong feelings over half our questions and more torn on the other half.
Taken as a whole, our respondents preferred veteran yachtsmen from old money in a more reserved relationship.
“Reserved means a set schedule; friends means longer hours in the big picture because they may insist you eat with the family or hangout after, even though you have so much work to do and you’re so tired and want to be finished,” said the chef on a yacht 120-140 feet.
“Newbies tend to try to reinvent the business; I’ve done that too many times,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “With old money; they seem to know how things work.”
“My boss is a great guy who understands that boats are very expensive to run and maintain,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet. “He gives me no hassle, but things better be right when he is aboard.”
“Owner education becomes a bore; I prefer an owner with a clue,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “Male or female really doesn’t matter, and I don’t work for my friends. Keep it separate.”
“A real person who doesn’t look at the captain and crew as servants, but as partners in furthering their/our mutual interests,” said a captain of more than 30 years.
“On a small boat, you have no choice but to be friends,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “And I’m too old to sail with people I don’t care for.”
“My preferred owner understands the difference between my own importance toward maintaining and operating his yacht as well as the yacht’s importance to my livelihood,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet. “He also understands that his own relationship or priority toward this toy of his is not nearly as great as mine.”
“I’m friendly with the owner and would meet him for dinner in his hometown, but on the boat, it’s strictly professional,” said the first officer of a yacht 160-180 feet.
“Old money folks have nothing to prove so they tend to be kinder, more polite and lovely instead of indulging in bragging and other negative traits like conspicuous consumption,” said a first officer in yachting more than 10 years. “I prefer owners who are men as they do not tend to stress about the expenses of yachting while women tend to be suspicious or nervous about the cost.”
“Whether new or old money, veteran or industry newcomer, these are less important than his or her attitude and respect (when earned) for their crew,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “I will go that extra mile every time for the right owner.”
“I prefer a reserved owner,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet. “It is a professional work environment and I do not want nor like to blur the lines.”
“New money is always more fun,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “The owners are like, ‘ya, we did it. Let’s have a party.’ While old money treats people like a commodity. Keep them till they are used up then buy more.”
“The ideal owner is demanding but fair, and whilst he may know a good steak when he tastes it cares not for understanding cattle farming,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet.
“Old money female owners tend to be friendlier, less demanding and easier to please,” said a captain more than 30 years.
“New owner; no old habits or old feelings about old captains and crew,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “New money usually means grounded, knows how it is to be brought up normal. Male or female: Right now they are both the boss; no distinction between them. And not friends. I want to know where I stand.”
“He is self made, works his transom off and loves everything about yachting, boating, sailing, etc.,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
“I’m not their friend, I’m their employee,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “They are with us to relax on their yacht, not with me.”
“There is no perfect owner, but they must understand things break and boats are extremely expensive,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet. “I also insist they are respectful and treat the crew well.”
“Like to have fun and realize they own an asset that wastes money,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
When it came to preferred make-up of crew, we didn’t know what to expect. But again, our respondents had strong feelings on two of the categories, and were more mixed on the other two.
Our respondents preferred a smaller crew of mostly experienced men, and of just a few nationalities.
“Big crew equals big headaches; green crew equals babysitting,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “Crew nationalities don’t matter as much as crew personalities. I love women, but prefer working with men.”
“Preferred crew should all be professional,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “I will have to say some of the most professional and thorough workers I have worked with aboard any yacht have been women.”
“The newbies are so clueless, I marvel at how slowly they learn, how quickly they lose their motivation and how they seem to have no particular goals,” said a first officer in yachting more than 10 years. “I’d love to meet a deckie who wants to take the steps to be captain.”
“Not sure a newbie or youngster could save my life at sea, especially if they don’t have the same knowledge as a veteran and can’t speak a shared language,” said a chef in yachting more than 20 years.
“Small crew equals less politics and dramatics; newbies because I have the patience for it; two nationalities allows for a more cultured crew; male crew because men tend to be more practical (although the downfall with men is ego),“ said the first officer of a yacht 100-120 feet.
Of course, not everyone agreed.
“The single most important quality to me is responsibility,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years. “It doesn’t matter if they are male or female, Team players is what I want.”
“I like a mix of nationalities, a mix of experience, and a mix of males and females,” said a chief stew in yachting more than 15 years.
“Nationality or gender doesn’t matter just so you can wear multiple hats without qualms,” said the chef of a yacht 120-140 feet.
“We have a crew of four and prefer two lifers and two newbies full of fresh energy and wonder,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years.
“Mixture of nations makes it more interesting; mixture of sexes makes it happier,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 30 years.
“Prefer a female crew; less issues with alcohol and associated issues,” said the first officer of a yacht larger than 220 feet.
“Large as it is a challenge and probably the only one left in yachting; veterans because I don’t have to spend time explaining everything; with nationalities, I prefer everyone on the same sense-of-humor page; and female because they make better crew,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years.
Being under way
For the most part, our respondents prefer to be without guests or kids under way, not towing anything and not wearing their shoes.
And our fishing question was the closest to a 50-50 split in the entire survey.
“Cooking under way is always complicated; I prefer serving crew only,” said the chef of a yacht 120-140 feet. “Kids and pets only in port due to boredom, seasickness, and poop cleanup. Towing means an extra man on watch. I am never without shoes on duty. And I love fresh fish but best do the gutting, scaling, and bloody cleanup as far from my galley as possible.”
“The shoes question got me,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years. “I prefer to have shoes, but crew prefers barefoot. We compromise. Barefoot at the dock, shoes on under way. We travel a lot in poor weather, and when it is rough, toe damage is very easy to have happen.”
“Definitely shoes for safety,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “Way too many foot injuries when barefoot. Also, a good pair of deck shoes have much better traction than bare feet during wash downs. Fishing makes be bored, sea sick and hungry. There’s a very good reason I’m a yacht captain and not a fishing boat captain.”
“All deliveries should be done without owners or guests,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet. “It gives time for crew to relax while still working, to bond while sharing jobs, and to have time together without the stress of service.”
“Towing adds to stress, kids stress their parents so you’re never quite sure if they enjoyed their interrupted four-star meal, shoes make you less tired and fishing is a blast,” said the first officer of a yacht 100-120 feet.
“I am all about an easy trip,” said the stew on a yacht 80-100 feet. “The more things, people, the more work there is to do.”
“No guests under way because they typically can’t handle it,” said the first officer on a yacht 100-120 feet. “No kids because they’re hazardous, in more ways than one. Towing isn’t that bad but the thought of not having to pull in a 38-foot tender in 4- to 6-foot seas at night when you’re trying to anchor is nice. No shoes; just feels right. You can only fish so many times before it becomes mundane.“
“I enjoy kids and knowing we are changing their views of the world,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet. “Teaching them to snorkel and take underwater photos and wakeboard are all amazing opportunities.”
“Under way trans-ocean, no guests; under way coastal, with guests,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet. “And I love kids. They bring a trip alive.”
“Foot injuries are the most common injury on board, and feet are dirty; just look at the dark trail leading from the crew entrance,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet. “Enforcing a no-shoe policy is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.”
About the job
This group of questions was the most narrowly divided, and gave us the most surprises. It feels a little unfair to make generalizations based on such slight differences, but here’s what the simple majority opted for: Working without their spouse in a locally based program, full time and with a PC.
“My wife would never clean someone else’s head,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “Full time on a locally based boat as I’d be divorced if I got on a world cruiser. Besides, boats are my job, motorcycles are my passion and being home to ride them keeps me sane. Tried Apple products, don’t like them.”
“Family programs mixed with a little business suit me best,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years.
“I have never been on rotation but I bet I would like to have time off,” said the stew on a yacht 80-100 feet.
“I loved my Mac, but this PC was too good a deal to turn down,” said the chief stew on a yacht 160-180 feet.
“Unless the couple is objective enough, working without your spouse just seems to work better,” said the first officer on a yacht 100-120 feet. “But it would be nice to see and experience some of the beautiful places with your partner. Rotation would be great because I’d like to get more personal traveling in. Locally based because I’m in a relationship at the moment so it works. If I was single again I’d be all over world cruising. Mac; better customer service and user friendly. Plain and simple.”
“It is my life and I want to share it with my partner,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet. “PC works worldwide with most applications. Apple works with Apple.”
“We run in the Caribbean and Europe or U.S. East Coast,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet. “I would rather go worldwide as it’s more exciting. I have been lucky enough to work with my wife for 25 years.”
“I have worked with and without my partner, and I prefer the latter as I have a home to go to, hence the need for rotation,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “But I still prefer world cruising; I’m very much a water gypsy. Hate Macs.”
“Rotations are the surest way to get the maximum effort from tired crew members,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet. “Modern crew want to sell their services and skills, not their souls.”
“Rotation with the missus at home,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years.
“Non-live-aboard local programs are pretty sweet, but living on a boat certainly has its advantages, like saving money and having limited bills, free food, etc.,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
Perhaps the best part of yachting, and a part we rarely talk about, is the arriving at a destination. Once again, our respondents felt very strongly in two of these questions, and were more evenly split in the other two.
To summarize, they prefer to arrive at the dock at night, tie up side-to at the dock, and say farewell to their guests.
“Depending on location, either stern-to or alongside, but always at a marina,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
“I like to have a full day ahead of me when guests are departing,” said the chief stew of a yacht 160-180 feet. “I prefer to go side-to, especially if we are getting days off. It’s easier to get on and off the boat and requires less attention.”
“Docking any time around dinner is a disaster; get the guests off,” said the chef on a yacht 120-140 feet. “Stern-to takes less docking time and gives more privacy. On the hook is bad because you get knocked about all night with the genset running and someone on anchor watch.”
“I would much rather arrive in the morning so vision is better,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet. “I prefer side-to because our passerelle is difficult to set, and the owner likes to party on the aft deck. I prefer arrival of guests because the good-byes are always kind of sad. Our whole purpose is keeping the boss and his family safe and happy. The boat and crew just hum along while they are aboard.”
“If I’m arriving in the morning, it means I’ve run through the night when everyone else was asleep and the bridge was a peaceful place,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “It’s good to see guests come, but it’s better to see them go. Side-to means I’m probably not in the Med (been there, done that, have no desire to go back). But there’s no looky-loos walking past the boat and trying to board when we’re at anchor. And crew is generally not ashore getting drunk at night when you’re on the hook. The nights are more peaceful and the sky more beautiful away from the dock.”
“I prefer arrival from a passage without the owner and guests standing on the dock,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “We need time to make the boat presentable, and usually at least a full rested day.”
“Anchoring is becoming a lost art,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “It’s like being under way, but not having the threat of hitting anything.”
“Sometimes it would be nice to be at the dock,” said the chef on a yacht 180-200 feet.
“Morning is better so we can get the boat washed down and still have daylight,” said the stew of a yacht 80-100 feet. “Guests leaving means time to breathe and relax a minute. Side-to because the crew is in the stern, which means we won’t be disturbed as much. The dock is better for internet and people interaction.”
“Guests leaving so I can unwind, side-to means no passarell watch, and at the dock so I can go for a run,” said the first officer of a yacht 100-120 feet.
“Most of these make little difference to me,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “If we are out and moving, life is good.”
“At anchor, the chances of mischief are much reduced and fewer crew are required to get under way or drop anchor,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet.
“Prefer to be docked before dark,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet. “Far prefer side-to. Dock is better for our size and operation. The dog seems to agree with that decision.”
“Arriving at night probably means I’m going to get to go to bed after a passage,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “Arrive in the morning and it’s all go go go for the day’s chaos.”
This group of questions left our respondents pretty mixed. Most of them were within the 60-40 range, with only one stretching beyond – familiar place (34 percent) or new place (66 percent).
Taken together, our respondents would much rather see a new place, prefer the Western Med and the Caribbean, and want Alaska.
“New places are always fun to figure out,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years. “We cruise the Caribbean and northeast South America. Alaska is beautiful; English is spoken.”
“Not much matter on any destination,” said the chef/stew on a yacht 120-140 feet. “I don’t even expect shore leave except for provisioning or taking out the garbage. By then, I’m looking at bedtime.”
“Never been to Alaska yet; they can have Europe,” said a first officer in yachting more than 20 years. “Bahamas are very nice, more adventure going south.”
“The milk run gets old; I have no interest in being in the east or west Med,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “I love the beauty and tranquility of the Bahamian out islands. Never been to Alaska.”
“New places because I love change, Eastern Med because more destinations, Caribbean because there is more to look at, Alaska because there is more nature — unless there are narwhals in Northern Europe,” said the first officer of a yacht 100-120 feet. “I love narwhals.”
“Any and all adventure,” said a first officer in yachting more than 10 years. “It’s not always the destination, but the journey there.”
“Bahamas? Flat flat flat,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet. “Northern Europe for the culture. I love Alaska, also.”
“Why the old boring waters?” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet. “It has to be the less travelled, always.”
“The Caribbean is easy and if the guests want palms and beaches with a little luxury thrown in, what could be better?” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years. “It can be rough in the winter, though.”
“Love new places but prefer Western Med to Eastern,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “Bahamas are OK but the Caribbean has more choices. Never been to Alaska.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at email@example.com. We conduct our surveys online. All captains and crew are welcome to participate. If you haven’t been invited to take our surveys and would like to be, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to be added.