Crew Compass: Crew friendships require space to have a bad day

Mar 1, 2019 by Lauren Loudon

Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

Finding the balance between being friends and colleagues is a sketchy topic when yachting is concerned. I’ve written previously about the challenges couples may face when working together on board, but the difficulties that come with mixing work and play in friendships should also be spoken about.

The most prominent factor about our work life is that we get to see the best and worst in our crew members, our colleagues, our team. We see each other under pressure, under extreme exhaustion and under all kinds of stress. We witness homesickness, hangovers and hurt. At the same time, there’s the sincere joy of visiting new places and meeting new people, there’s the family connection that we get from the experiences we share, there’s also the overwhelming feelings of love as we are there for each other through these times.

The scales can be tipped in either direction during different times in the season: Busy charters generally bring out the intense emotions with negative effects, while casual repositioning, smooth sailing or scheduled transits bring feelings of calm, a moment to unwind and nothing but bonding time.

The inevitability of this industry ensures that both sides of the scales get their time in the limelight in almost everybody, unless the crew is full of A-list actors and actresses able to mask their sentiments at any given moment.

In my personal experience, living with people 24/7 is hard.

I am a person who wears my heart visibly on my sleeve – wide open for anybody and everybody to see. I laugh, joke and giggle to my heart’s content when I’m in that mood, and I cry, snap and moan when the scales are tipped the other way, whether because of stress, exhaustion or personal uneasiness.

Sometimes my preferred method of dealing with anything is keeping myself to myself while I meditate on my issue, while I focus on my stress. Sometimes I slowly deal with whatever is at hand. But most important of all is being able to share these feelings with my crew. And even more imperative yet is the ability for everybody to understand that this is just me and my way of dealing with whatever it is, to know that these may be just my personal feelings and not a direct attack on anybody.

I know I’m not alone. We are all human. We all see the world through our two eyes and feel the world spinning around us inside our beating heart. We miss our families, we skip holidays as we slave away working to fulfill the dreams of others, and our inner emotions build as the intensity of the season increases. The best part of that? We are all in this together. We all feel it. The only difference is that we each deal with it in our own personal way.

“Is she mad at me?” … “Have I done something?” … “What’s up with him?” can spread like wildfire around the boat when any crew member says something a little off to another crew member. Rumors begin, stories escalate and images arise. The biggest issue I’ve had to face with crew was with a specific person who believed deep inside that everything was a personal attack against her. No matter who it was – any guest, family member or crew member – who showed any sign of unhappiness, it was automatically an emotional attack against this specific person.

It created a sour taste on board, with everybody treading on eggshells, bottling up their issues and caffeinating  to avoid any possibility of weariness in case of saying the wrong thing.

As I stated before in the column about couples living and working  together, the thing I’ve learned over the years on board is the importance of communication, openness and honesty among crew. Friendships are a bonus amid colleagues, but on a boat, if you can’t mix your friendships and work relationships, there is likely to be an issue of uneasiness on the whole vessel.

No matter what size the boat, our workplace is small and there is no space for pettiness. We must all understand that our personalities and traits can change depending on our current situation, and in order for there to be a pleasant environment for all on board, we must not take actions personally when our friends, captains and crew are displaying different versions of themselves.

Understanding our peers will get us far, patience will get us further, and acceptance of these varying motions will bind us all the way.

Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.