Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon
Part of our job as crew is traveling the world. This means visiting the places our guests and owners deem the most beautiful, fun or idyllic for cruising.
But where does that leave us as crew? When we have guests on board, we merely view these places from the inside of our portholes, the aft deck, or, if we are the luckiest of deck crew, from the dinghy dock as we drop our guests (or trash) ashore. We make quick judgments of a place based simply on the sea-state of the anchorage, the look of the shoreline, or the amount of other yachts in the bay or marina.
After a recent conversation I had with our stewardess, during which she asked me whether I think it’s acceptable to cross Sardinia off her travel list even though she hadn’t been ashore, I got to thinking – what defines our experience, as crew, of visiting the places our boats take us to?
I made it my mission to find out from my fellow crewmates how we make the most of these situations, and how we spend the time that we are lucky enough to have off in such places. On my boat, we are lucky in that we have quite a lot of time between guest trips, and we always make sure that we give everybody an opportunity to explore the area we are in. Sometimes this means just nipping into town for a local dinner; sometimes it means taking a day on the weekend, hiring a car and driving from Naples to the Amalfi Coast for an adventure together as a crew.
I have friends who said their No. 1 day-off activity is diving in the local area. Another’s biggest fulfillment comes from going on a long run to view the area by foot. Similarly, I met a guy recently who sails everywhere with his road bike on board, and he said he makes a conscious effort to explore on his two wheels.
Some are lucky enough to have tenders that are allowed to be used by crew, so they can adventure in a similar, yet slightly less glamorous, way as their guests. Our deckhand experiences her love of life at sea by cliff-jumping wherever she is.
No matter which shoes we put on, or whether we choose wheels instead, it became apparent to me that exploring the areas we find ourselves in is a high priority on our lists of things to do on our days off. I think only one person told me they would prefer to just catch up on sleep and watch movies.
Personally, my favorite way of exploring the places I am lucky enough to land up in is with my two hands and my taste buds. It’s all in the local cuisine and in speaking with the locals in whatever words I am able to pick up in their language that allows me to feel that I have really experienced a place, even if only for a couple of hours.
Be it pasta and pizza in Italy, sangria and paella in Spain, fried chicken and oysters in Charleston, Bahama Mamas in the turquoise paradise or fresh croissants in St. Barts, my experiences are measured by the taste of the region.
Another tradition that a couple of people shared with me is drinking the authentic coffee of an area, be it straight from the source in the Dominican Republic, the excruciatingly sweet espresso shot in southern Italy, or the vast array of options, flavors and sizes at Starbucks in the States.
A world of culture and tradition is out there on every island we visit, at every bay in which we anchor, in every country we check into, and we are all responsible for taking it upon ourselves to experience it in the way best suited to our personalities. Our jobs take us there – we just have to remember that, no matter how exhausted we may be when we eventually get a day off, exploring and enjoying is also part of our job.
Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef and stew for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.