If I only knew what I know now when I started working on board boats, I wouldn’t have fallen into bouts of depression and left the industry.
In all honesty, though, I wouldn’t have changed my experience because it has lead me to search for solutions that have changed my entire life and benefited my career.
The truth is that the healthier you are personally, the better life will be in general. This is a list of my must-do’s to be your most vibrant while working on board a super yacht.
- Limit alcohol. It can be easy and habit forming to head to the bar straight after work every night. I know this story well. At the start of my career, it was routine to have a few drinks after work with the crew. It was a way to bond with each other, get off the boat, let off some steam and relax after work.
However, I started to find that, with time, I was less motivated to workout and more sluggish during the day. It also triggered me to make poor eating choices, which didn’t support my idea of being healthy. So I made a conscious effort to only join in a few days a week and suggested other ideas where we could all hang out together.
- Make sleep a priority. I used to fight going to sleep early. Sometimes I’d just feel like I didn’t want to miss out on anything or it was hard to wind down, even though I felt exhausted. Then I learned something: Even if you’re not sleeping but your eyes are closed and the room is dark, you benefit. Your body rests and you will fall asleep.
I also learned that if I made an effort to go to bed between 9 and 10 p.m., I would feel 100 percent better than if I went to bed even one hour later. The degree of energy, happiness and balance I felt was exponentially greater.
- Refine your diet. I’ve experimented with my diet more than anyone cares to know. I’ve done this because for a long time I’ve known that what I put in my body changes the quality of my day. In my opinion, there is no greater truth than you are what you eat.
I came into yachting as a vegan and settled on eating vegetarian to make it easier to find my first job. I then quickly started eating like everyone else on board (meat, caffeine and junk food). I did this to fit in more than any other reason, and at first I felt fine. But soon I started to feel consistently more tired and depressed.
It can be tough having specific food requirements on board but eventually, I found a way to work them in with the chef. The biggest secret to seeing healthier food choices in the crew mess is for you is to be consistent with your diet. If you’re not, more than likely, the chef will go back to doing what is easiest for them, not what is healthy for you.
- Fitness first. I make fitness a priority because when I do, I find a way to make it happen even in the toughest situations. No doubt, it can be a challenge to find ways to work out when I’m busy and traveling, but when I do I feel so accomplished.
It also gets me in the state of mind to accomplish whatever else I need to do, whether it’s challenging or not. I like to be the person who pulls into a port and goes for a run and looks for healthy and adventurous things to do. It doesn’t always have to be about drinking.
- Water. Probably nothing has changed the way I feel during the day more than the ritual of drinking enough water. The most important part of this ritual has been to start my day with drinking one liter of fresh water, first thing when I wake up. This re-hydrates me from eight hours of sleep, gets my digestion working properly and even wakes me up.
I feel so good doing this, I can’t imagine putting anything else in my body first thing in the morning anymore. It used to be coffee but think about it: When you wake up in the morning and you’re thirsty, are you experiencing a deficiency in coffee or water? I try to drink 3 liters throughout the day to feel my best.
- Have good social relationships. I’ve been on boats where everyone has gotten along swimmingly, and I’ve been with crew who fall into clicks so that lunches are awkwardly silent, at best. Let me tell you, your life on board will change if you can be with a crew you get along with.
No, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but having respect for each other and doing your part to keep the energy light on board is worth the extra mile it takes to make it happen. Life on board is not always roses but I’ve made a commitment to myself that I will do my part in having a harmonious crew. And if I screw up, I apologize and move forward.
- Get a hobby. In the beginning of my career, I put aside almost everything that I loved that didn’t revolve around the crew or the boat. At first, I wanted to find my place on board and become part of the crew so I was more of a follower than a leader. Eventually, that lead to a big burn out and it started to affect my happiness on board.
When I realized the consequences of this, even when I was on a very busy boat, doing back-to-back charters, on any downtime I would take a yoga class or do some creative writing to stay sane. Everyone needs something to focus on that takes them away from the boat and the other crew. I found that when I did this, I felt a new sense of energy about the boat and being with the crew.
Follow some of these guidelines to get grounded and feel great, so that when you find yourself working on board a busy boat, amidst crew drama and you barely have time to breathe, you will have an anchor to your own happiness.
Angela Orecchio is a chief stew and certified health coach. This column was edited from entries in her blog, The Yachtie Glow (www.angelaorecchio.com), which offers tips for crew on how to be healthy, fit and happy on board. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.