Crew Compass: by Chef/Stew Lauren Loudon
On a New Year’s charter a few years back, we had guests who very kindly insisted the crew join them for a post-dinner drink at the dining table to share with them an annual New Year’s Eve tradition. We were each given paper and a pen, and asked to write down 10 things we want to achieve in our lifetime. Basically, they wanted us to write out items on our bucket list while they did the same.
After a few minutes of nothing but the sound of pens scribbling, paper rustling and toes tapping on the teak deck, we had an additional few minutes to step back, evaluate our lists and choose the three items that we were most realistically able to achieve in the coming year. Having made a careful selection, it was time to go around the table and each share our three. It was encouraging and uplifting to listen to the others’ goals, and to compare those of our charter guests, who were clearly already successfully living their dreams, to those of our crew.
We sat for hours that night discussing our ambitions for the coming year, and it really inspired me. It was different from making a mental list of resolutions at midnight Dec. 31 – a list that, let’s be real, none of us ever really stick to. It was a way of saying out loud what we were actually going to achieve in the upcoming 365 days, and these were significant must-do items, far from the usual aspirations: eat better, workout more, be a better person and all the other nonsense we silently vow in the early days of January.
My three top goals that year were:
- Get over my fear of confined spaces, so I could get my Open Water diving certificate.
- Learn another language – I already speak fluent French and wanted to add a third to the list.
- Cross the Atlantic.
It was a time that uplifted all of us, and set us all out some solid goals for the upcoming year. There were ideas floating around that I’d never even thought about. People were inspiring each other as we sat and shared our ideas and spoke of what we deemed achievable goals for our near future.
It’s something I now do every year, though that particular year was the only time I’ve actually been able to sit down and really discuss it with anyone. I just haven’t had the luxury of time on my side during what is usually our busiest guest trip of the year (the sacrifices of yachting!). As 2017 rolled in and the clock struck midnight, I was sitting on the boom of the sailboat I work on, watching the firework display in St Barth. I stopped thinking for a second about the mound of dishes piled in my galley after a seven-course tasting dinner and shifted my thoughts to my “big three” for the coming year.
Though I got my Open Water in January 2016 and began learning basic Spanish, I’d had to roll over “Cross the Atlantic” for the next year. I’d moved “Write a book” to a higher number on my list, and my third was “Visit a new country.”
I’m pleased to say I accomplished all three this year: I’ve crossed the Atlantic (twice!), I wrote the content of a book on my first crossing, and scratched two new countries – Bermuda and Croatia – off my scratch map.
That’s when I stopped and realized, in what other job would I have the opportunity to consistently check off such amazing experiences from my bucket list – bearing in mind that some of the things crossed off were entirely just part of my job?! I caught up with the same charter guest last month and shared experiences that I’d been lucky enough to realize since our charter together. He spoke of envy that I’d been able to tick off one of his top 5 must-do items: cross the Atlantic.
Sometimes, though it seems that our owners and guests have it all, even they can be wistful for the amazing lives that we, as crew, are lucky enough to live on a daily basis. When we are wishing we were elsewhere in the rut of a busy charter or chaotic season, let’s just remember the daily experiences we have by living and working on a luxury yacht!
Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef and stew for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.