Yacht life can change in a flash, but this disaster ended with heartwarming bonds and memories to last a lifetime.
I remember exactly where I was when it happened. We were finishing up last-minute tasks before the usual owner’s weekend when, out of nowhere, a sudden afternoon downpour began. I was in the lower salon by myself, peeling a clementine, when BOOM! It was the loudest sound I had ever heard. I ran to the upper salon to find my husband, aka Capt. Brendan, and our third crew member. They were both as wide-eyed and panicked as I was.
We had no idea what had just happened. We quickly realized our yacht did not have power, although all the yachts around us did. Uh-oh! A crew member from a nearby boat confirmed it — she had seen the lightning strike.
Lucky for us, an engine repairman happened to be in the parking lot waiting out the rain before heading to our yacht to complete a simple repair, and we scrambled to find solutions.
With no power on the yacht, we had to stay at a hotel that night. The weekend owner’s trip obviously was scrapped, and we worked instead on coming up with a plan to get the yacht back in order. We didn’t know it then, but it would take weeks and weeks of hard work.
Our first adventure was getting the 90-foot yacht towed 125 miles from Washington, D.C., to Solomons, Maryland. With no power and no running water, we consoled ourselves along the way by making chocolate chip cookies on the grill. We were not in an ideal location to have a million-dollar refit done, but we worked with what we had.
We flew contractors in from Fort Lauderdale to work on the boat around the clock, staying together in the same hotel and sharing every meal. We quickly became local “celebrities” in the small town. When we went out to eat after work, still wearing our uniforms, people would point at us and ask questions. As a reality check, I often reminded everyone it was really the yacht they were interested in.
We worked from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days, only stopping to eat. There were groans and grumbles when Capt. Brendan would order us back to the yacht after dinner to finish up the day’s work, but we always went.
We had to change every single light on the boat, every appliance — literally, everything you could think of. The water heater, the air conditioning, all of the electronics on the bridge, and much of the wiring throughout the yacht. We even had to replace the TVs, iPads, and a MacBook computer that had been plugged into the outlets.
The worst part was that the yacht had just had a major refit a few months prior, and here we were, doing it all over again! In fact, once the work was complete, the owner didn’t believe it was all brand new since almost everything we replaced had also been brand new from the refit.
I will admit, as the sole stewardess and captain’s wife, I ran off the boat crying many times throughout this grueling process. It was no easy task. There was an ocean of receipts, and we had to keep track of every single little expense.
PHOTOS INCLUDE THE POWERLESS YACHT UNDER TOW, AS WELL AS CREW AND CONTRACTORS WORKING OR ENJOYING RARE TIME OFF IN THE VARIOUS STAGES OF THE REPAIR PROJECT.
I had the tedious task of opening every new light for the interior, 185 in total. We had to move all the old items from the yacht to a nearby storage unit for the insurance company. At one point, the old water heater went into my big toe and took off my big toenail … OWWW!
It was a debilitating amount of work at times, but we pushed through as a team. Against all odds, the yacht was officially back in service for the owner in just 10 weeks. But for us, the bonds created and memories made will last a lifetime.
JULIE EMMONS IS A FORMER GYMNASTICS COACH WITH A DEGREE IN EDUCATION. SHE JOINED HER HUSBAND IN YACHTING FOUR YEARS AGO AND IS CURRENTLY CHIEF STEW ON A 100-FOOT MOTOR YACHT.