Yacht runs full speed into turn-around, guests, crew schedules

Mar 31, 2015 by Peter Herm

I am on a flight returning from a week on my boat in an unnamed island group in the Caribbean. (Un-named only because I am writing a scathing story about why I will never return there. Another story for another time.)

As always, my family and I had a great time and learned more about crew/owner relations. No one will ever accuse our boat of being a dock queen, but a boat in motion creates crew challenges.

We have been running our unchartered boat hard. Over the last 120 days, guests have been on board for 62 nights and more than 3,000 miles cruised. The three owners have been eager to use the boat whenever possible.

This is a good sign. But with partners new to yacht ownership, there is a learning curve as to what is acceptable usage vs. appropriate crew time off.

My views are apparently outdated, reaching back many years ago to the time we went from Maine to Alaska and back with seven crew and the generators ran non-stop for 18 months.

While staring into blue skies and waters this week, the captain and I discussed our cruising plans for the next nine months. The captain made a prescient comment, which I appreciated.

“You are the boss and we are here to serve you. But remember, we are a tool for your enjoyment. Like any tool, we need maintenance and time off.

“We missed Christmas banging into 15-foot head seas going to Grenada and New Years was 12 guests followed by another week of eight kids demanding JetSkis. We love our jobs … but we need a break; a little time off is due.“

Sometimes I forget that pre-guest arrival and post-guest departure is lots of work for the crew. I also do not fully grasp the mental and emotional cost of five or six people living in close proximity who need time apart and off their floating home.

As an owner, I look at any time in tropical paradise as heaven and forget that for crew it is work!

In trying to plan the next few months, I asked the captain: “What would be an acceptable guest time on board over a normal year?” His response was quick and concise: “two weeks per month.”

I pointed out that may come as 12 weeks in a row (with 72 hours between use?) and then zero weeks of usage for three months. He smiled, then grumbled; there was not a definitive answer. Our conversation was cut short by the mate and a mahi, but we will continue when I see him further north in a couple of weeks.

This delicate balance is critical to low crew turnover, which ultimately creates happy guests. The challenge we have is that my partners are loving boating. We fill every open slot with usage, taking the captain’s “give me 48 hours between cruises, please” literally.

(This is all actually a good thing for the industry, as I predicted when we bought this almost a year ago that they would each have their own boats in due time. Due time is just coming faster than any of us thought.)

The discussion brings up interesting questions I would love to have comments on from Triton readers:

  1. What is the “acceptable” usage of an owner-used (not chartered) boat?
  2. What should be the duration between one cruise and the next?
  3. Where do you find a great chef who is not crazy?

I realize the above questions are subjective based upon an owner’s service level requirements, cruising area, crew level, the boat, etc. But any comments would be appreciated.

Our partnership is on the hunt for a second 30m-plus boat. No matter how you slice it, there is too much demand for the supply of fun, relaxation and business entertainment venue for three guys with only one boat, so I guess we will have two and double the craziness.

I want to find a balance between keeping the crew happy (critical) and using the boat as much as humanly possible.

Peter Herm is the pen name for a real yacht owner who is an entrepreneur based on the East Coast of the U.S. It comes from Pieter Harmensz, original owner of the oldest known stock certificate in 1606, issued for a Dutch company with the largest shipping fleet in the world. Comments on this column are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.