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Crew’s gym time together is an exercise in team building

By Dorie Cox

Capt. Sally-Ann Konigkramer gave the crew of M/Y Sofia, a 137-foot Moonen, the day off recently. Instead of resting or taking time away from each other, the crew went to the gym together.

“It’s an outlet for all of us to get off the boat and burn it off,” Capt. Konigkramer said of the frustrations and challenges of life on a yacht. “I always am looking for new ideas of how to keep the crew morale up.”

This group has been together for a year and is diverse in both age — from 21 to 35 years old  — and ability. Capt. Konigkramer is a champion bodybuilder, powerlifter and triathlete; Chef Manoel Crisanto competes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; and most of the others work out to stay healthy.

“Everyone in the crew exercises one or two times a day,” Deckhand Grayson McMullen said. “It’s excellent. Other crew always ask us about what we’re doing. We love it.”

At the gym, the crew splits into two teams. Each group quickly devises a plan to lift, carry and run with a 6-foot long, 100-pound weight bag. Balancing the bag is a challenge with crew heights ranging from 5-foot-2-inch Chief Stew Nadine Heltberg to 6-foot-4-inch Crisanto.

The crew of M/Y Sofia exercise together on their day off, fostering teamwork that shows up onboard. From left, the crew are Deckhand Grayson McMullen, Chief Stew Nadine Heltberg, Eng. Shaun Brown, Capt. Sally-Ann Konigkramer, Stew Natasha Cook, Chef Manoel Crisanto and First Mate Ryan Monsein. Photo by Dorie Cox

This is where the team building comes in, Capt. Konigkramer said.

“Figure out how to work together,” said Dan Beja, the instructor who was working with the group at Military Muscle Gym in Davie, Fla.

“We put real pressure on them to become familiar with uncertainty and team challenges,” Jake Milkovich, gym co-founder and instructor, said. “Performing under these conditions is essential to their job. Like a military squad, yacht crew rely on each other. If one leg of a chair is out, the chair comes down.”

Gym co-founder Kelsey De Santis said accomplishing tasks together has big implications.

“It could mean the security of their vessels in rough waters or the survival of their most valuable assets — themselves and their occupants,” she said. “Our focus is to create stronger crews, better leaders and more engaging ways for groups to have a good time, all while serving an instrumental purpose.”

“This practice helps us to perform and communicate well when we’re under the physical duress of the job,” Capt. Konigkramer said.

There is no cheering when the first group returns with the weight bag and several are sick from the heat. The winners don’t gloat; they know how hard each person worked. It’s this empathy that teaches everyone to speak the same language and builds the team.

“We learn to share the load,” Capt. Konigkramer said.

She sees the teamwork in action on board Sofia.

“Once, we lost the main engine when we were leaving Fort Lauderdale,” the captain said. “There was a sailboat near and the bridge was closed. The crew relayed messages because it was noisy. They dropped the anchor and did their jobs. No one panicked, everyone was calm. It shows how they trust each other.

“This workout is the same as the boat,” she said. “Here [at the gym], there is no better person; we’re all the same as on the boat. If you’re not a team, it doesn’t work.”

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome below.

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Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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