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Crew Compass: Friendships in yachting can be like ships passing in the night

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Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

Constantly meeting new people, traveling the world and eating great food – it’s undeniable that the perks of the yachting industry come in abundance. That, indeed, is why we are all here. But a realization I had this summer threw me off a little, and I would like to elaborate on it.

For somebody as sociable as myself, the missing piece that would make yachting a perfectly complete jigsaw is a close circle of friends. By “close,” I mean in proximity, not in terms of an emotional attachment. My old friends from home understand that I’m never around and, much to my regret, their life continues on without me around just as it would if I were there – though obviously less fun, I like to think.

My friends from yachting also understand that our seasons may involve completely different itineraries and our cruising areas will quite possibly not coincide, and that also often means long stints of not seeing each other. Our talking patterns and catch-ups will also be limited during busy seasons because of our busy schedules, possible time differences and, of course, the vital need for sleep in any spare time we have.

On a boat with just myself and three other crew members, who all happen to be men, I often find myself longing for my friends – be it those at home or those floating around the ocean somewhere, who are probably also wishing for an extra large gin and tonic, a catch-up and a friendly face that isn’t the crew on board. 

Phone calls and video conversations are great ways to keep up to date with people, but nothing comes close to physically sitting down together and catching up over food or coffee, or at the beach.

Keeping friendships strong with intermittent communication, and even more infrequent interaction, is definitely difficult. It’s a challenge that people from all walks of life are faced with. But in this case, and putting our land-based friends aside, I’m talking specifically about yachting friendships here and the reality of what we are faced with. 

I’d done a freelance gig on a yacht a while back in Fort Lauderdale and I later ended up running into one of the deck crew almost everywhere for a time. The spark that ignited the desire to write about this topic now is the fact that, four years later, I found myself anchored next to that same person in Capri this summer. We were both on completely new jobs and hadn’t seen each other in those fours years – in fact, still haven’t seen each other – but follow each other’s adventures on social media and ended up catching up on a screen while we were, unknowingly, just meters away from each other.

Similarly, cruising around Sardinia a couple of weeks after that, I was speaking to a close friend who’d told me she was also anchored in a bay on the Costa Smeralda. I asked the captain to look out for her yacht on the AIS and discovered that while underway, we were going to pass by them in a short while. I made sure that I had five minutes to step outside at that moment, and there we were, waving to each other off the bow of our boats while simultaneously chatting on the phone.

In that moment, I realized both the reality and the hilarity of the friendships we have in yachting. We might see each other on a dock for one night and then not again for two years. We may meet at a beach bar somewhere and become the best of friends or we may have done our STCW together, yet never see each other in person again. 

The relationships we make are sometimes a challenge to nurture because of the nature of our movements, but the reality is that we are all in the same boat and understand that sometimes we can’t be together in person. However, we also know that when we are, it will be worth the wait. 

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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