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PBIBS17: 14 yachts compete in Top Notch Tabletop challenge

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Photos and story by Dorie Cox

Melanie Wilkinson used to joke about what interior yacht crew were really doing all day. She worked as a deckhand for six years and joked with the guys working outside.

That was, until she became a stew.

“I thought that I knew what the girls did inside,” Wilkinson said. “But now after doing this, I have to go out and tell the boys, ‘We were wrong on everything’.”

Wilkinson has learned how challenging the job can be as part of the current team on M/Y Kisses, a 175-foot Feadship with Chief Stew Krisli Melesh and 2d Stew Bernadette Zwart. The three created a safari-themed table setting to compete in the Top-Notch Tabletop Challenge photographed during the Palm Beach International Boat Show yesterday.

The crew are one of 14 yachts that will be judged by the public on Facebook. All the tables and some of the interior teams’ decorating tips will be featured on TopNotchTabletop.com.

Keeping track of flatware, napkins, and other setting items is just one of the time-consuming and meticulous tasks interior staff do.

“We keep inventories with photos of everything,” Zwart said. “Most are gifts, and we keep track of which guests gave the gifts. We always put those out when those guests are on board.”

The record-keeping pays off.

“It works beautifully,” she said. “They notice and say, ‘We gave those to you’.”

Chief Stew Ania Broszkievicz and Haylee Maddon find satisfaction with their hard work on M/Y Allegria, a 152-foot Hakvoort. They know that meticulous records are vital for their classic setting.

“How much can we hide on the boat?” Broszkievicz said as she pointed to several walls. “It looks plain, but those are cupboards.”

On charter the interior staff sets different settings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“But we know where every plate is and there is no time to look,” Maddon said.

On M/Y Lady Joy, a 157-foot Christensen, Chief Stew Daniela Breban and 3d Stew Shannon Jones created a coral-centered display using the owner’s favorite items.

“She loves shells and corals,” Breban said.

But every piece they work with is fragile or expensive and needs to be properly stored.

“We have special sponges, boxes and cupboards to store these delicate items,” Breban said.

Winners will be announced at the Triton Expo on April 5 at Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Ft. Lauderdale.

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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