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Stew Cues: Enjoy the beauty of becoming

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Another year has come and gone. The holidays are over and the confetti (if there was any) from New Years celebrations has settled. It was a rough year for many, and unimaginably tragic for others. Between the pandemic, the election, and the racial-justice movement, it has been a big, messy, unforgettable year, with more than its fair share of darkness. Many have had to dig deep within to find the tools to get by, but hope springs eternal and there is light on the other side. The many trials and losses have created endless possibilities for change.

Two of the hardest-hit industries are travel and hospitality. Flights are drastically cut back, many hotels and restaurants are closed permanently, event and art venues stand empty, and travel restrictions are in place all over the world. New health and safety guidelines are in place and the already strict standards followed on yachts have been ramped up. Dining out and seeing friends whenever and wherever one wants can no longer be taken for granted.

Yachting has survived, for the most part. Job availability, crew placement, and wages are fluctuating. Marinas and shipyards are busy. Even though charter destinations are limited, yacht sales are up, and the industry is shifting to accommodate different needs. Turns out yachts can be a safe-haven in the COVID storm. Enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, extended turnaround times, regular testing, and isolating crew before they join a boat help ensure that yachts are safe places to be.

Yachting is based on “doing”, and the restlessness that “keeping busy” creates has slowed down or in some cases, stopped. The future is ambiguous, and to ride out uncertain times, smart crew use down-time for personal development. Restricted movement and the inability to connect has freed-up massive power to regenerate talents and new energy for creativity.

For instance, many shore-side excursions are unavailable now, so the shining stars of the crew world are offering enhanced experiences and top-level service skills to replace what can no longer be done ashore. Forward-thinking crew demonstrate motivation by learning new skills, building better resumes, and using social media to monitor the job scene and stay on point.

Perhaps who one is becoming or what one is going to do next has not revealed itself yet. But if the pandemic has taught the world anything, it is to see how much of the hectic, overscheduled parts of life are not necessary after all. Being forced to go inward and think about what really matters to one personally has helped some to connect with something bigger than the self. Maybe the “new normal” means losing that old self and regenerating the new by using fresh energy to pay it forward in the community and in the world.

One thing that remains unchanged is the value of being in service to others, no matter how dark the day may seem. As Victor Hugo said, “Whatever causes night in our souls may leave stars.” The journey through darkness is always a journey toward light. When nothing is certain, anything is possible. If you came here to serve, you came here for now. Enjoy the beauty of becoming.

Alene Keenan spent more than 20 years working on yachts, 15 of them as chief stew. She has been sharing her expertise in the monthly Stew Cues column for more than 12 years on The-Triton.com as well as in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht”. Shore-side, she created the interior department curriculum for MPT in Fort Lauderdale. She now teaches subject-specific interior courses online through alenekeenan.com. Comments on this column are welcome below.

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