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Crew Compass: Cruising brings joy in places we had not expected

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Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

Being offered a new job is always an exciting time and, as I’ve mentioned previously, there are different factors to consider that make a specific boat the “right” one. These vary according to each person – some chase higher salaries, some seek specific numbers in crew, some look for the ultimate itinerary. An opportunity for growth is an important factor for some, while others search for comfort and ease.

After almost six years of sailing the seas, I’m no longer looking for the nonstop exhilaration that comes with back-to-back charters for most of the year. Nor am I in the running to climb any particular ladders, given my position in the galley. In all honesty, a few months ago I wasn’t even sure I was actually looking for another yacht job.

But when something came along that ticked a lot of those boxes that would quantify a boat as being the “right” one, at least temporarily, I gave it a chance. A relief job for the summer, with my husband, exploring new places. Yes, yes and yes. Noncommittal was the first draw, and the mention of Greece was what ultimately tipped the scales toward taking the position.

Joining the yacht in Turkey was interesting to me, as it was a place I had never even contemplated visiting. I had no expectations, but Istanbul certainly was an experience in itself. Cruising the Bosphorus with Europe on one side and Asia on the other felt surreal. Hearing the call to prayer travel so gracefully across the water was spine-tingling.

Cold temperatures and layers of foul weather gear wasn’t something I’d ever really experienced in yachting. Neither had I been on a yacht docked in a city with quite the vastness of Turkey’s largest city, straddling two continents.

As we headed south – and I bravely removed a layer – we reached gorgeous quaint villages on the central east coast that gave a completely different perspective of the same country.

Swiftly sailing farther south, I switched my long pants for the familiar skort, and entering Greece was a dream come true. My first step ashore was onto a small fishing dock on the island of Samos, where we had to clear customs. I was immediately wowed by the charm.  

My love affair with land was very brief, as it usually is when guests are on board, but I made sure to soak it all up for the moments I was there.

Anchoring off the famous Santorini was a treat, but docking in Mykonos for a night was even better. A morning wander to the fresh market turned into just a casual stroll because of the Orthodox Easter celebrations that I hadn’t anticipated, but being opened to a new light, seeing the beauty I’ve so often seen on photographs, brought the thrill back to my job.

Day after day, island after island, I took photos from the deck outside my galley door, and I revelled in the views. Something I will never tire of is staring at land from an anchorage. While shorelines and islands can often be indistinguishable from afar, I love being close enough to see the character of each country or area. The square white houses so typically Greek suddenly stuck out in the distance, while domed churches sat perfectly upon the hills.

Of course, there was that small feeling of frustration and envy as I stared outside and wished to be wandering the streets and driving the roads in the way our guests were, before being shaken back to reality. But docking in Syros as the guests disappeared for a whole day gave me that opportunity. It was a stroll I can barely put into words. I saw it all. I shed a tear. I smiled. I fell in love.

Doorway in Greece

What I saw was this: a perfectly contrasted building. A derelict doorway with a smashed-out window, painted bright yellow and set into a building in a shade of peach, paint peeling off the outside and weeds growing up the front. It caught my eye down a side street as I walked, so I stopped in front of it to look. I took a photograph and took a deep breath when I noticed that, to my left, just three doors down, was a man in his 70s sitting on his doorstep playing the ukulele while the sun was beaming overhead.

It shook me.

It made me realize that aside from the helpful shop assistants, the beautiful women in dresses on their scooters, the warm welcome from the marina staff, the picturesque churches and the marbled streets, there is beauty even in the imperfect.

The colors, the smiles and the breeze, all at once on that small Greek island. They brought an overwhelming reminder of how incredibly lucky we are to travel the world for a living.

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

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