The holiday season can be hard for those who can’t get time off work, or for those who are far from their families. For yacht crew, both are a given. Holidays on yachts are almost guaranteed to mean long days for crew, hard work and no chance for even a quick trip home. So how do captains manage to keep spirits high?
A diverse group of veteran captains joined Triton recently in a From the Bridge roundtable discussion via Zoom to talk about the challenges of holidays for yacht crew. The seven captains have decades of private and charter yacht experience between them, and crew rosters numbering up to 13. As a policy to encourage candid discussion, captains who participate in Triton’s From the Bridge discussions are not named.
How do you feel about working holidays?
“The owner said when he hired me — he made it abundantly clear — that I would never, ever have holidays off, or anytime his kids were off. Most people are up front about it, and it is the expectation of the industry.”
“It’s an industry standard. You just accept that you are working when everyone else is on vacation. In these peak seasons, be it Christmas or Thanksgiving or whatever the case, this is when those that can afford to charter want to do it, and your responsibility is to run that boat.”
“Holiday time is no different than any other season that we have. Summer, shipyard, winter, Fourth of July — you just go through it. That’s just part of the deal.
Are there incentives for holiday work?
“They often do expect it, but they’re not going to get it.”
“I would not promise crew anything. In fact, quite the contrary. I would expect them to expect to be on call for whatever the boat has to do. Holiday charters are very common — last minute, no warning, got to get the boat here or there. The show must go on, really.”
“The benefit of working a charter during holiday would be the benefit of tips. Doing a good job for people at the holidays, Christmas and New Years, people are usually very generous.”
Have you lost crew due to holidays?
“Yes, they have left for holiday. I get it. This is a job. At the end of the day, there are other jobs out there.”
“If someone wants time off during holidays, they may actually have to resign from the job because there is no way it’s going to happen. That’s what yachting is.”
“It gets to the point in this job where you have to assess whether the job is worth it. [If] you have family with a problem, you have an internal struggle: ‘If I stay here, in 10 years’ time will I regret my decision?’ If the answer is yes, then you’ve got to leave. That decision is extremely hard and it’s to be respected.”
If one crew does get a holiday off, how do the others feel?
“If someone needs that time off, no matter the case, I would expect the rest of my crew to understand why I gave that person the time off. We operate as a team.”
“The rest of the crew will get in that spirit and feel happy for that person. It is not a cause for resentment. If it does [cause resentment], the problem with that crew started way before that incident.”
Do you host a crew holiday celebration?
“If we can, we do. We really try to have a Christmas lunch or dinner for the crew.”
“We do a Secret Santa, everybody buys something and you don’t know what you’re going to get. That’s one way we settle down and have our own little Christmas on the boat as a group. It is probably after or before. We try to give some semblance of a normal Christmas.”
When was the last time you were home for holidays?
“I’ve had one Christmas off in 19 years. I was hoping to have my second one off last year, but it didn’t happen due to a last minute charter and crew change.”
“I hope for a week with the family. But my family understands it’s the job and the expectation. They know it comes first — it’s the bread and butter.”
What are your best holiday stories?
“Everyone has numerous stories, you could listen for hours and hours. To take these people to places they’ve never been before and do things they’ve never done? It’s all a good story. If you didn’t like it. you wouldn’t be doing it. The good far outweighs the bad, and that’s why we do it.”
“I did a Thanksgiving charter last year and we had a grandmother who was in a wheelchair. So, getting her passed off to the tender to take her to the beach, the college-age sons toting her around, and everyone is laughing — you know, they’re going to remember that vacation long after she’s passed. Those memories that get created are touchstones that stay with families for decades.”