Thoughts about drugs and yachting

Mar 4, 2013 by Lucy Chabot Reed

This issue should never be the “elephant in the room.” Drugs are illegal on any vessel and if someone is beginning to show signs of abuse, they should be made aware of the obvious and a plan put in place to get some help.

We take so many courses like PSSR, Crisis Management and all that nonsense. What we don’t see is a way to deal with someone whose drinking or drug use is affecting them and those around them.
I know I’m complicit in many ways, but have found that, as captain, I should find a way to assist anyone who needs/wants it. There are no employee assistance programs in yachting. We’re supposed to operate as somewhat of a family, and if that’s the case, we should be responsible enough to help each other out.

I think more yachts should drug test and do it often, but it all comes from the top. If the captain condones the behavior, nothing will ever change. If the captain advises his crew “do cocaine because it gets out of your system quicker than marijuana in the event you get tested,” that’s a problem no one is likely to solve anytime soon.

Good crew who just want to work hard and travel will continue to be run out of the industry and the coke heads will continue to keep their stronghold on yachts.

Drugs are a reality in yachting, just as in life. Understanding why the individual takes drugs will determine how to deal with it. I have an open policy to discuss anything with my crew without reprimand unless it does continually happen and influence work.

As a start, all crew whether licensed or not should be subject to random testing. This, in conjunction with the new regulations regarding crew rest, accommodations, benefits, etc., would be a huge help to our industry.

Yacht crew, especially charter boats, work hard and long hours. When they get free time, a lot of them generally go off the deep end. My policy is that they will not return to the boat if they are impaired in any way due to drugs or alcohol.

Yacht crew get a bad rap on the use of drugs that is not consistent with reality. I don’t think drug use is any different in the yachting industry as compared to any other industry. Perhaps the yachting industry spends more effort in surveying and addressing it, but that does not mean it is any worse than other industries who perhaps never talk about it.

It is up to the captain to enforce and uphold a strict code of ethics when on or around a yacht/workplace. Drug use may be a sign of a crew member needing an outlet from the long work hours (or a much more deeper issue), stress and a form of escapism when being confined to a relatively small space for an extended period of time with the same people. This could be where senior crew/management need to look at other ways they can reward their crew, such as providing more of a balance to their working lives with local healthy entertainment when in port.

More drug tests should be done. It’s too accepted in the industry, but it’s hard when the owners bring them onboard as well and the captain looks the other way.

I’m not moralizing and believe in free will and responsible action, but illegal activities that impinge on the livelihood of others must not be condoned. If you want to booze, get high or generally act irresponsibly, stay away from my source of income.

The only place I have personally witnessed drug use was in a crew housing among new crew trying to get their first break in the Industry.

All crew should be subjected to regular drug testing. It is owed to the charterers or owner that the crew are fit to operate the vessel.

It’s more prominent than you think. Alarming, really. I hope the maritime consortium will provide more random testing, and harsher penalties so it will give the industry a professional image again.

I’m more concerned about drug use by guests. Having drugs on board, especially in a foreign country, can be a real problem for a U.S.-licensed captain.

Owners need to support captains in getting rid of drug users or alcohol abusers.

It’s easier to drink beer. It’s legal, stress free, cheaper, and regulated.

Smoking pot is now legal in many states. I believe that random drug tests and drug policies on most yachts should be revisited considering the new laws decriminalizing and legalizing the use of pot.

There’s never space for drug use in this industry. I make this clear at hiring to my crew and reinforce it with a drug test on their first day back after vacation.

What people do in their free time, off the boat, is up to them. Don’t risk the rest of the crew’s jobs, and the boat by bringing it on board.

I used to give new crew a simple briefing: You endanger my freedom and livelihood with drugs, I break your legs. Deal?

Random hair tests should be standard.

We in the industry need to cooperate and report to keep this problem to a minimum. It hurts the reputation of crew as a whole.

Crew doing drugs off duty may keep their heads on their shoulders and you could never tell. To me that’s not much of an issue. Problem is with others who bring drugs onboard and do it on duty. If you can’t wait for a charter to trip to be over to do drugs then you have an addiction problem, which becomes an issue on a lot of different levels

I’ve seen a lot of drug use by crew members of other boats. We’d go out to have a good time and they could only have one if they were on a combination of vodka, Redbull, nicotine, and coke. I can only imagine what they’re up to after they’ve been on charter for a few weeks and are exhausted.

If you decide to make this your career, then understand the laws and obey them. Simple.

The only transportation industry in the world that does not care about the abuse of recreational drugs is the yachting industry. I believe more people are abusing drugs in this industry than are clean. Yes, I believe that an overwhelming majority of crew are abusing recreational drugs to some extent. It is a disgrace.

All crew should be in a random drug testing program.

When I was younger I used drugs and alcohol excessively and I am not judging anybody. But I wish someone would have stepped in to help me. I wasted a lot of my life self-medicating. I know how difficult the yachting lifestyle is, but there are healthy ways to cope.

One of the healthiest things we can do as an industry is to be more reasonable with hours and working conditions. Soon it will be the law. The industry is out of control, in the work load and the travel schedule and the turn-around time for charters.

Many boats have zero-tolerance policies but very few test the crew to prevent and discourage the use of drugs.

I have found that when crew say that they never bring it onboard, just use it ashore, they will always lie and make an excuse to justify bringing it onboard. Zero tolerance is working for me, one and done.

Drug abuse affects everyone. People who cannot take responsibility for themselves have no business working on a yacht.

Impairment is farther reaching on a yacht. Lives and property are at stake, even at the dock.

Chemically altered crew are not safe to themselves and those around them. This includes prescriptions, “energy” drinks and many other things not listed as illegal substances.

Yachting is such a popularity contest. Crew are more likely to get fired for not being cool than for doing drugs.

This is not a 9-5 job. Drug use on board endangers everyone.

We have a clear policy onboard that demands that any type of Incapacity on the part of the individual be reported by the individual to the captain. I don’t care if they have a set of sore muscles from too much exercise or too much whiskey or drugs. If they don’t report and I suspect, they are taken out of the line up. If someone else on the crew knows and does not tell me, they are let go first for covering. I have done this.
Now perception on the part of a few ill informed idiots or the example of a couple of knuckleheads who follow the lead of the owner of the boat or their charter guests does not constitute a problem in my book.

I find it disturbing when a captain or senior officer engages in this behavior. As for the rest of the crew, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the job, what crew do in their free time is their business.

I think that drug use has always been part of the industry and it’s something that captains need to be aware of, particularly with younger crew and particularly in certain locations such as St. Maarten.

It is unfair that people who use and abuse drugs are allowed to work in the industry. There are plenty of people who don’t use drugs who deserve those jobs.

When the captain is a user, the crew are usually also users. Stuff flows downhill, especially with behavior issues and addictions.

I’ve never seen pot become a problem.

There are certain government services in certain countries that are looking for the opportunity to confiscate a yacht for fanatical gain. Finding drugs on a yacht is a beneficial situation for these types of authorities.


Click to read the original survey on drugs and yachting.


About Lucy Chabot Reed

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and founding editor of The Triton.

View all posts by Lucy Chabot Reed →

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