Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon
Honestly, some of the people I have met over the past four years of working on boats are beyond bizarre. Some, on the other hand, are out-of-this-world amazing. Being yacht crew, we seem to accumulate Facebook friends at a rate of knots. Some we genuinely can call friends, some are people we barely remember from a Sunday fun-day beach party mid-season in St. Maarten, and others are those wacky charter guests who insist on staying in touch. For me, the people I meet and the encounters I have on a daily basis are definitely highlights of working in this crazy industry.
A smile to fellow chefs in the frozen food aisle in a supermarket while provisioning has resulted in solid friendships. I’ve witnessed deck crew sharing their tips on wash-down products over beers, and immediately a “bromance” is formed. I’ve been for dinner with my provisioner in the BVI, babysat the kids of our mailbox lady in St. Thomas, and downward dogged with the marina manager in Nassau.
I’ve met people I would never have met in the “real” world, and have been exposed to a million diverse aspects of life and cultural differences through my experiences with others – guests, crew and residents of the various islands, states and countries we’ve visited. A lady who died her hair blue in the sink of the pristine white master bathroom mid-charter; a man who yelled at me angrily because the deck was too hot on his bare English feet; a family who were too privileged to eat on our yacht – we really do meet them all.
I’ve had crew who sip on Tabasco for fun, watched guests refuse to swim in the beautiful Caribbean Sea in fear of being eaten alive by sharks, and met islanders who spend their days picking up trash to preserve their pristine countries.
Elaborate encounters and magical meetings make up this incredible industry. Over the years, we have had guests who sent us out for Michelin star dinners, others who treated us to handmade shoes, and an owner who lent us his helicopter in the hills of Los Angeles to get engaged.
Ultimately, guests make me laugh, they make me curious and they also have been known to make me appreciate what I have (and don’t have). Clearly, given that I’m the one working for them and they are paying crazy money for this hospitality, we are on completely different pages. From bottles of Cristal being sprayed all over the aft deck to shots from a $650 bottle of tequila flown directly from Mexico, nothing is surprising anymore.
Though we are each individual, and here for our own reasons, we also, as crew, have a common culture. When you bring all of our backgrounds and roots together into a community of yachtsmen, there is a union of folly.
To a certain extent, we eventually all rub off on each other and fall under that giant umbrella that defines us each as “yachties.” No matter who we are, where we are from or what our background, we pick up South African slang, we forget the value of our home currency and we refer to things “up forward” instead of in front of us. We pick up a universal accent, and we can spot each other from a mile off.
At the end of the day, we are all wanderers, living on the sea for one common reason: We love this nomadic lifestyle, visiting paradisiacal places and sharing it with the people we pick up along the way, and, we are lucky enough to call it our job. As a result, no matter where we go or what we do, we know we will always have friends and great stories to tell.
Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef and stew for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.