Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan
Like everyone else these days, yacht owners, captains and crew worldwide are trying to find a way to make sense of what is going on in the world. Here in South Florida, most marinas are busy, and the fortunate crew who are still working are safe and well.
Most workers have been in total quarantine for weeks except to go out for provisions or other essential services. Crew are going out on break or after work for exercise. There is plenty of time and open expanses of trails empty for running or biking.
In some ways, it seems like business as usual. Yacht service companies and provisioners are still delivering. Marina office doors are locked, but staff are working inside coordinating services. Online commerce has picked up. Amazon is dropping off packages outside office doors every day, and restaurants and grocery stores are offering curbside pick-up or delivery.
On many boats, the entire crew has been let go. Businesses have had to make serious decisions. Although for most people uncertainty rules the day, various yachties are doing their part to move forward. There is considerable activity and communication on social media, and people are reaching out to help in any way they can. Some people, myself included, are designing new online courses or businesses to create new opportunities in this virtual reality.
Marien Sarriera is one of them. She was a graduate of the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale when she was introduced to yachting. Rather than go to California to continue her education, she took her STCW courses and, two weeks later, set off on her first yacht job.
Fourteen years later, she has created Yachts Mermaids, a platform that provides resources, tools and support for female crew. She started out with the Mermaids Kick-Starter Bible and has gone on to create the Yachts Mermaids Support Directory. It consists of a collection of experienced individuals and businesses offering online courses, mental health care, life coaching support, career advice, and spiritual guidance.
“It is changing the paradigm,” she says, “encouraging more women in yachting to create sustainable careers and healthy work/life balance at sea and beyond.”
She also has a radio show, Yachts Mermaids Uncensored, “a raw, to the point, hard-hitting show that addresses taboo issues which are overdue some airtime. Not for the overly sensitive.”
Sarriera says that there has never been a better time for women to stand together and support each other. She hopes to use her platform to help women access the help and support they need online whenever they need it. This support network of women is challenging current narratives and demanding response. Stress overload, mental health issues, sexual discrimination, salaries and benefits are just a few of the topics addressed. In her words, “It’s not just for stewardesses, and it isn’t just relevant to women. We all need guidance and support in our lives and YM is the bridge to that.”
In this time of social distancing, conflicting information and insecurity, Sarriera and other yachties who have created online businesses are breaking old belief systems and setting new standards for success.
No one knows what the “new normal” will be, but we all have within us the power to impact positive change and lead with confidence. There’s no better time to build our skills, take control of our lives, and be a beacon of light in the dark.
Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares more than 20 years experience as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht,” available at yachtstewsolutions.com and on Amazon. Comments are welcome below.