The Triton


New stews get a grip on overwhelm by being organized, prioritized


Being in “service mode” on a yacht can lead to stress, overwhelm and sometimes a few tears. There is a lot to learn in the beginning. Veteran stews can see the similarities among yachts and apply their knowledge to each unique service environment. However, for inexperienced stews, it’s tough to grasp exactly what is expected. The newness of the situation, attention to detail, sheer volume of work, and the long hours in service can seem overwhelming to anyone.

Most of us didn’t grow up with the kind of luxury items we find onboard, nor did we learn how to clean to such a high standard. It’s a lot to take in. In the midst of a busy season, stews might not receive as much on-the-job training as they’d like, compounding the situation. Skills will improve with repetition, but any stew who is struggling must ask for help to avoid harming surfaces and finishes. Be certain to understand your duties and which products and techniques to use.

The best way to combat overwhelm is to prioritize tasks. For instance, making the bed and tidying up cabins in the morning has to be done swiftly so rooms look nice when guests return from breakfast. Most likely, the bathroom will be used again, so it doesn’t make sense to clean just yet. Get ahead of the game by decluttering first. Collect laundry and any wet items while straightening up. Return random items to their proper places. Start the laundry, and when breakfast is finished and guests move into their morning routine, finish up any details.

Have a cleaning system and checklist for each room to help keep track of progress. Use the list to complete one task at a time. Stick to only the products and items needed. Keeping them together in a cleaning caddy is vital for saving time. Here are some tips:

Start at one point and then clean in a circle, going around the room.

Clean top to bottom to catch dust as it falls. To dust high areas, fasten a microfiber cloth to a mop handle using a clear hair fastener. This works for quickly dusting baseboards as well.

Plug the vacuum into the most central outlet to prevent having to double back, remove the plug and move it to another outlet. If your cord is too short, add an extension.

Wipe off the build-up on areas that are touched often, like door handles and light switch plates.

Get low and close to surfaces to see particles or dust that you may have missed.

Label spray bottles and refill them regularly.

A bare minimum of products in a cleaning caddy should include:

* disinfecting all-purpose cleaner that can also clean glass. Disposable disinfectant wipes are great for cleaning the toilet and cleaning under the rim fast.

* mild pH neutral cleaner for marble and wood

* floor cleaner

* non-abrasive scrub safe for occasional use on delicate surfaces

* an assortment of cloths: microfiber and lint-free cloths, sponges, terry towels, cotton jersey (tee shirt) rags for occasional polishing

* a chamois and squeegees to remove water and drying showers and tubs. Don’t use guest towels for this.

* disposable gloves. Protect your health, and avoid cross-contaminating surfaces.

* an assortment of brushes: soft makeup brushes for dusting delicate items and artwork, old toothbrushes for scrubbing grime out of corners, a scrub brush for larger areas.

* cotton buds have a ton of uses.  

* lint roller for picking up stray hairs and particles on pillowcases, in dressing areas, and even on the bathroom floor (careful not to cross-contaminate).

Keeping a superyacht spotlessly shining while keeping up with laundry when you have guests on takes a lot of intense work, but don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be. You are only human. Economize your time by staying organized and focused. Get a little faster every day. Keep things in perspective. Find some balance in your life. Stay healthy, get as much rest as you can, and have some fun.

Alene Keenan is lead instructor of yacht interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Ft. Lauderdale. She shares her experience from more than 20 years as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht”, available at and on Contact her at

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