By Dorie Cox
The work of interior yacht staff is misunderstood. That’s what several stews said during two tabletop setting competitions that took place on yachts in the the 58th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on Friday.
Stews on about 20 yachts designed their best displays for a regular feature of both the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach boat shows. Aqualuxe Outfitting holds the Top Notch Tabletop event and Liquid Yacht Wear hosts the Table Top Challenge.
Both events are judged by industry professionals to highlight work that is not often seen. What appears to be just a place to dine is really the culmination of a long chain of detail-oriented work, said Stew Leann Weckbacher of M/Y Lady Joy, a 157-foot Christensen.
“It’s Leann’s first show and she is so excited,” Chief Stew Radka Janeckova said. “It’s so nice to see that spirit.”
This show competition was Weckbacher’s chance to do her “own thing” and she followed an intricate system to create her design. First she consulted the yacht’s computer inventory that is managed by Janeckova.
“This all starts with organization,” Weckbacher said. “We inventory everything onboard.”
Weckbacher opened a cabinet to show three shelves of placemats with descriptive labels taped under each type. Eight varieties of mats range from green plastic to sea shell-rimmed jute. And this is just one cabinet onboard.
Weckbacher couldn’t hold her excitement to show her work as she walked through the salon toward her exterior table, pointing to hiding places along the way.
“You would be surprised to learn where all the storage is,” she said, as she pointed to walls and coffee tables. “This is all fragile, some is in foam from when it was stowed. That is so very important, because lots of things break.”
She explained that to begin a table design, she first must choose “what level of fancy.” That dictates the theme for which plates, flatware, glassware, napkins and decorations will fit her vision. Most all interior work has the owner or guests first in mind. These interior competitions offer stews the chance to add a personal touch, she said, and she enjoys spending the time to do it well.
“I have learned to express myself more,” Weckbacher said. “There is a little wiggle room to express yourself. First I work with the owner’s preference, then I add my pizazz.”
The stews on M/Y Cheers 46, a 140-foot Benetti, also spent a lot of time on preparation for the competitions. Chief Stew Nina Stojicic, Second Stew Jana Martinkova and Third Stew/Masseuse Kimberly Laplante held a briefing for the competition last night. They chose the tablecloth, placemats and tableware, and at 7 a.m. they implemented their plan.
With an ironing board set up in Laplante’s massage room, the stews worked as a team to flatten, fold and tuck two types of napkins into a tuxedo shape. At the same time, foremost on the stews’ duty list was to prepare for show visitors. Each either carried a dust cloth in hand or grabbed the vacuum as they multi-tasked.
Stews on M/Y B/W, a 120-foot Palmer Johnson, said the level of service they do requires dedication. Second Stew Tracy Chandler hopes that people realize interior staff work as hard as other crew.
“Some people think we just clean things one time and that’s it,” Chandler said. “They think we are just doing arts and crafts.”
Chief Stew Agnese Bosevica and Chandler’s table setting took more than three days to complete, and the centerpiece needs daily care.
“Every day, the asparagus dies,” Bosevica said of her flower vase made of full asparagus stalks.
“And every day we tweak and add more to the table,” Chandler said.
Both said not everyone gets the chance to see what they do; people usually just see the deck crew outside.
“We are hidden,”Bosevica said. “We are misunderstood. People don’t realize how much work it is to detail each thing we do.”
Weckbacher loves what she does, and she thinks the tabletop competitions are important for the industry to realize the value of interior staff. She hopes others can understand her efforts, including her family in Orlando. Before Weckbacher was hired in yachting, they didn’t really know how hard the job can be, she said.
“My family considers my attention to detail as crazy,” she said. “This job can be hard to explain.”