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What yacht crew wish owners would know to better enjoy their yacht

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When someone buys a yacht, they buy much more than a boat. They buy a dream — all the fun, relaxation, glamour, excitement and adventure they have imagined.

Yacht owners expect the best, and professional crew want to deliver it. But to be successful, crew need to know the owner’s standards and expectations. Clarity and communication are the keys to making it work the way they want it.

The No. 1 complaint owners about their yachting experience is related to crew. The worst-case scenario is that they sell their boat and get out of yachting. Good crew don’t want that to happen. So here are the top things that good crew want yacht owners to know so they can enjoy their yachts a long time.

  • Crew want a system that tells them every little detail of how the owner likes things done. When things don’t go right, they want the issue described to them and they want to know what the owner would like changed. Crew get very good at predicting an owner’s behavior, but they will never be able to read an owner’s mind.

Owners’ needs vary depending on the size of the yacht, the travel itinerary, the number of guests on board and the number of crew employed. A system should be set up that provides all the information and tools crew need to provide a consistent level of service.

A captain is hired to manage and run a boat, not to babysit the crew. As a close-knit group, crew need structure. If owners choose to hire freelance crew every time they use the boat, it puts a lot of pressure on the captain, and it’s hard to expect loyalty and consistency.

But if a system is set up well, at least crew will know exactly what is expected in terms of service. If owners want confident, capable crew who take the initiative to consistently provide top-of- the-line guest service, they should expect to offer a professional wage and benefits.

  • Most crew want a professional relationship with owners, and that includes setting clear boundaries. It’s up to the owner to determine what sort of distance they want to keep to be sure that crew respect them and the authority of their captain.

Living and working all together in such a small space makes it easy for boundary lines to become blurred. Many captains appreciate a more structured hierarchy that lets relationships and trust build over time. If crew overstep their boundaries, they damage the captain’s authority.

Owners should help keep things straight by letting crew know what they expect.

  • Owners want consistency and loyalty, and so do crew. They need a well-defined and predictable environment, and they need to know what their responsibilities and permissions are at every stage of the operation. Owners have to tell crew how they like their boat to operate. As professionals, crew will do their best to keep the boss’s best interests in mind, and to treat the boat and its belongings respectfully, whether owners are onboard or away.
  • Crew want owners to know that “Below Deck” is a television show, not real life. Professional crew work hard. When owners are not around, crew are still working. Many boats work 5-6 days a week to make sure that all of the projects get done and that everything runs smoothly. The crew live onboard, and the captain will let them finish work early or catch some extra time off here and there. There are regularly scheduled work hours, and crew expect to take care of the boat, rain or shine.
  • More than anything, crew want owners to love their home at sea and their crew. Crew are willing to spend their hard-earned money on training and education to make sure they know how to do their jobs just right, but training isn’t enough. It doesn’t mean anything unless owners understand and appreciate the effort.
  • Crew want owners to realize that they make a lot of sacrifices in personal space, long hours, and holidays away from their families. They appreciate all that is provided for them by their employer. They do this work because they love it. As professionals, they are willing to work hard, play hard, and be the best that they can be. That’s what crew would like owners to know.

Having issues with crew are part of the package when someone buys a yacht. But they are manageable with a clear set of expectations and open communication. What sets the good owners apart is how they and their captain address and resolve issues from the start.

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 www.yachtstewsolutions.com. Comments are welcome below.

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