COVID creates new crew role: Risk assessment

Oct 15, 2021 by Ciara Farrow

Keeping guests safe and happy these days calls for some creative COVID strategies.

As professional yacht crew, we are trained to wear many hats. Sometimes we find ourselves filling in as nannies to entertain our guests’ children. Oftentimes, we are the entertainers and photographers for everyone aboard — putting on costumes, staging karaoke and game nights, and planning memorable parties.

Other times we are the event planners for the owner of the boat, pulling off large events with world-class guest lists including celebrities, business owners, and political and thought leaders. We collaborate on creative themes, coordinate with an array of entertainment and catering vendors, and pull off top-notch, Instagram-worthy soirees.

No matter the size of the vessel or the event, we are foremost committed to the safety of all passengers aboard. As we begin to reopen our gangways to larger gatherings and adapt globally to what events look like in a post-COVID world, we find ourselves adding another hat to our yacht wardrobes: the COVID risk assessment team.

As the shoreside purser and event coordinator for M/Y Gene Chaser, a 55-meter scientific research vessel, the biggest challenges I now face when planning events for my boss, Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, is how to efficiently onboard our guests safely and quickly, and how to make the experience of COVID-testing everyone who steps on our vessel as seamless and painless as possible — all while maintaining the safety of our crew and guests as our top priority.

One upcoming event on our vessel to celebrate Dr. Rothberg’s company Hyperfine going public has a guests list of up to 600 people. As the head of the COVID Risk & Onboarding Team, I have spent countless hours working with lead scientist Isaac Bean to come up with different plans of action. There’s no universal playbook for this, and each event is unique. In a world that seems to be just winging it, we too are left to figure it out as we go.

The key is to look at every event as a COVID-testing experiment. We must continue to ask ourselves: what worked, what didn’t work, how do we make testing our guests better for both the guests and crew alike, and is the owner comfortable with guests bringing negative PCR tests as an eligible proof of entry? Do all guests need to be vaccinated? Or does the boss have more peace of mind knowing that we are personally doing the tests ourselves, dockside and onsite?

For those who test guests dockside, as we do on Gene Chaser — whether crew are doing the testing themselves or outsourcing to professionals — I have found the Number One factor in successful COVID-testing is how you keep the guests occupied during the waiting time for rapid results. Hint: It usually consists of champagne.

Perhaps in the future we will find access to courses on COVID risk management for yachting at a maritime school, but until then we must put on our COVID caps and work together as a crew to strategize COVID safety game plans that fit each unique program on the high seas.

Shoreside Purser Ciara Farrow holds a GUEST IAMI Purser certification through The Crew Academy. She has worked on a number of yachts worldwide, including Scientific R/V Gene Chaser.



About Ciara Farrow

Ciara Farrow is a regular Triton News contributor.

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