All crew are in same boat for the holidays away from family

Dec 12, 2016 by Rob Gannon

The holiday season is upon us again and it can be a challenging time to some who are separated from family and friends. For those of us who grew up celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with family gatherings and good cheer, it can be quite an adjustment to be out on our own and especially for those for whom yachting is new.

Here are a few suggestions to help.

For those on yachts, the Christmas week charter can either be dreaded with feelings of resentment or embraced with appreciation. We get to choose here, and we know which way is the better way. We just have to accept and then do our best. Christmas day can be acknowledged among crew before duties kick in; maybe just a little time to have a nice moment to share.

It’s good to remember that everyone onboard is separated from home and family, so everyone is dealing with the same kind of emotions. It then becomes a work day, so to keep any potential blues at bay, stay busy. Get into the work at hand, keep moving and stay focused on the issues and tasks at hand. Staying busy and productive all day will help toward a good night sleep. It will feel better to go to bed tired and ready to sleep on Christmas night than lying awake wishing you were somewhere else with someone else.

How about if there is no family to miss? I worked as captain on a Christmas week charter with a mate who was really alone. His parents had passed on, he was single with no children and wasn’t close to his adult sibling. He still missed the holidays of his youth so this time of year still challenged him.

He chose a completely different approach. Now this may not sound very appealing to some, but he said it worked for him so I’ll just throw it out there: he ignored the holidays. I know, doesn’t sound like much fun, but he explained that it felt better to him than longing for something he couldn’t have. He made the decision to just stop observing this particular holiday. I didn’t judge, I was just glad he found what worked for him.

So that approach is kind of interesting but it’s not my favorite, for sure. My favorite way to deal with being alone around the holidays is to spend time volunteering. For those crew on a yacht that is in port, look for opportunities to be of service to the less fortunate.

I can say from experience, rather than feeling alone and lamenting our circumstances, getting out and helping others is about the best thing one can do. For one, it takes the focus off of ourselves and our misplaced self-pity. It also offers a wonderful opportunity to brighten someone else’s day. The act of serving food to the hungry is really a powerful experience. Any major port has multiple opportunities to do this. Ft. Lauderdale has a number of shelters, food banks and co-ops. Give one a call. If they’re all set for help, call another one.

Someone said to me once that she thought of volunteering at a homeless shelter, but feared it might make her more depressed. I can say that was not my experience. I saw people who could still smile and laugh, were still thankful and grateful, and still had a twinkle in their eye despite their tough circumstances. It offers up some valuable perspective.

So if you’re separated from family and loved ones around this time of year, ward off those blues by staying active. If you can’t be active at work and instead have Christmas day off, get some aerobic exercise. Like any time of year, activity and action serves us well. And speaking of serving, consider being of service to the less fortunate among us. Take the time to dish out some food, maybe clean some pots and pans. It’s good work for the soul.

Enjoy the voyage.

Capt. Rob Gannon is a 30-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach ( Comments are welcome at