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Crew Compass: Time for yourself is crucial

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Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

Working on yachts is about as full-on as you get when it comes to a full-time job. Living at work means that even when we are technically off the clock, we are still listening out for alarms, keeping an eye on dock lines, watching weather patterns, cleaning up behind ourselves (and maybe even others) or working overtime on various projects. 

We may have weekend watch that requires us staying on board or have a boat show to prepare for. We may spend evenings planning menus or themed nights, or wake up early to passage plan, or be woken in the night to repair something that went wrong.

We spend long periods of time at sea or on charter or at anchor, which means that even when we are on our breaks or finished for the day, we cannot simply go for a walk or take a step away from work.

Not only does this often give us little opportunity to unwind our minds from our work lives, it also leaves little time for personal projects or anything outside of our immediate job.

I have previously written a column about making time for ourselves on board, be it for a little exercise, a hobby or simply some head space. Now I am looking more into the challenge of dealing with actual work outside of yachting. I’m talking about a side hustle, and one that has no conflict of interest.

Recently I have started to think of the future and what might come beyond yachting for me, or even just open doors for myself that will give me opportunities on the side. Having selected my projects and decided what I’d like to focus my time on, the next step is trying to find the time to do so.

Often the only time we are truly able to switch off and unwind from work is when we step on a plane and get away from our workplace. But for me, the situation is becoming a little different. 

Having recently finished a very busy season in the Med, I snuck in a “holiday” back to my hometown to work on these projects and start putting plans in place. This means that I hopped straight from a seemingly nonstop and never-ending summer to getting stuck in varying degrees of DIY at my house in typical autumnal English weather, darting between meetings and constantly carrying a notebook and pen to jot down the ideas that are forever ticking through my mind.

Managing my personal projects while on board is somewhat impossible – not only because of the high demand of the job, but also the time differences, physical distance and inability to be available at all times. So when the time comes that I am available to focus on land-based ventures, my heart is poured entirely into them – in the same way that it is when I am putting together meals on board.

Finding a balance for this is a challenge. Stepping back onto the yacht, and therefore away from my dedicated work on land, is always hard, and stepping away from the sea to shift focus is also not an easy feat. 

One of the main difficulties with this is that when I do eventually get some downtime to head off on a trip away from the boat, I find myself with my head down, grinding away at my other projects and personal business – therefore, never actually taking the real break and time off that is often needed after long charters, busy seasons and hectic shipyard periods.

When time away from the yacht is becoming more akin to a work holiday, and time at work is becoming more of a chance to unwind in the salty air, I think something is to be said.

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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