I wanted to comment about the crew time off issue in the February survey [“Tough to give time off when plans change,” page C1]. It seems that we have a problem that many yachts are increasing their weeks of usage each year, or the boat is having to be on standby for the owner “coming aboard within a few hours” for many weeks of the year.
I say problem not to insult the owner, as he should be able to use his yacht as much as he wishes. I say it in regard to thinking that we can manage the boat exactly the same way, yet have it on standby for more and more weeks each year.
This formal standby is, of course, causing the down time of the vessel to be less, which causes difficulties in regard to fulfilling crew time off requirements.
It is completely understandable to have some of the captain’s ideas turned down by the owner or his representative, but all parties involved in the management of an extremely busy yacht have the obligation to come up with some solution to the problem of crew time off.
As an example, if the agreement is that each crew member has six weeks of vacation after a year employed and you have 15 crew, the simple math is that you have to find a way to give up to 90 weeks of vacation each year (assuming you have good crew longevity) to fulfill the crew agreement.
So, for a yacht that almost always has to be on standby, how are you going to solve this 90 weeks? You cannot ignore the problem and start taking away agreed-upon crew vacations and expect the crew to stay. Not giving crew vacation time and instead paying them the extra weeks of salary is not the solution because the crew will still be burnt out and will depart the vessel earlier than they would have if they had time off. Start to think of ways to confront the issue.
Rotations are a viable option and there are some clever ways to formulate some rotations for some or all crew if you think outside of the box. You could have some delivery crew to let some full-time people off. Ask for one additional crew member if you have the extra bunk. You could put your yacht on a ship instead of taking it across the Atlantic on its own bottom and give almost all crew vacation time during the crossing.
Make sure that you ask other captains what they do and write those ideas down. Think of a combination of solutions that will work for both you and the owner. Just make sure that when you approach the owner, you have all your ducks in a row and have more than one option to present. You may not solve the issue immediately, but don’t give up and keep trying to find new solutions.
One way to find an answer lies in the simple math of laying out the weeks. Each year, how many weeks do you have guests aboard, how many weeks are you on formal standby, how many weeks are you under way delivering the boat somewhere, how many weeks of vacation do you have to give, how many weeks of shipyard are you predicting, etc.
Walk all of this out with the owner who demands lots of weeks of usage and/or standby and you could then shine a light on the impossibility of the situation. Then bring up the possible solutions to the problem while still giving the owner the weeks of use he wants. If he says no to every solution, at least the owner is aware there is an issue. You could possibly ask him to ease off on the formal standby weeks to solve the whole issue.
Of course, all of these problems go away if owners just planned their sail and sailed their plan with a reasonable schedule. I have worked for very wealthy people who gave us the boat’s itinerary a year in advance, so I know it is possible. But sadly, I think that boat has mostly sailed.
Capt. Michael Schueler