Working on a Charter Yacht: Anything and Everything Can Happen

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Credit: Tash Pericic

Ever wondered what it’s like to work on a charter yacht? From Saturday 19th August 2017, Total Croatia Sailing has been logging days and events from a week working aboard a luxury charter yacht in Dalmatia.

Last Saturday I set sail aboard a luxury charter yacht to work as a hostess for the week. I didn’t just happen to get on the boat by chance, my husband is the Captain and I have worked on yachts sailing the Adriatic for the last five years. So, when the opportunity to come back aboard for the week arose, I jumped at the chance.

For the last week, I have been logging the days and I haven’t had to try too hard to come up with a different angle as every day has offered unique experiences. I could easily write a full chapter of each topic, but for now let me just share a few anecdotes (Read day 1, 2, 3 and 4 here).

Working on a yacht, you learn quickly to expect the unexpected because anything and everything can happen. Yesterday, just outside of Korcula town, as we anchored a fire broke out on-shore just a few hundred metres away from where we anchored.

Unfortunately, this has not been unusual this summer (see the breakdown of Fires in Croatia here); I watched helplessly for a few minutes before I had to get back to setting the table and serving lunch…

  • Working on a Yacht Lesson #1: It is always business as usual.

We can’t stop for anything. As the fire raged, I had to pretend like it didn’t upset me to see it. Earlier this season my husband lost his grandfather and he didn’t tell anyone but continued on. This isn’t unusual, we take ‘the guest comes first’ very seriously in the yachting world. The season is the livelihood for most along the Dalmatian coast, the notion of stopping or taking a week off just isn’t an option.

Later that night, Tramontana was blowing like crazy! We were anchored just out of Korcula town and our guests wanted to go into town for an hour walk. It was not an option to take them in our own tender as the sea was far too rough and they all would have got soaked. We called a water-taxi who arrived 20-mins later; however, the wind and currents were so strong that he had trouble pulling up alongside our yacht. In the meantime, it put the guests off leaving. Eventually, they got on the boat, minus one woman who wasn’t comfortable climbing down into the water-taxi and returning in such weather conditions.

  • Chartering a Yacht Lesson #14: If you are the person in charge, consider the experience of all the guests (wondering why #14? No particular reason, but I feel like there are a few lessons that come before this, which I will write at some stage).

So, one person missed out on seeing Korčula because she didn’t feel safe getting on the water-taxi; however, if we had been in port, everyone would have been more comfortable. Often, when people charter yachts they want to avoid going into port (which is understandable), but every now and then, situations arise where docking is the best solution for everyone – guests can get on and off the yacht at their leisure and the Captain can feel at ease.

After a sleepless night for the Captain who had to stay up on watch because of weather, we headed to Island Šćedro for the day. We managed to find a beautiful bay to anchor in and had it all to ourselves. The weather had calmed down and it was a perfect day; for the guests that is.

Since we were ‘parking’ up for the day, the Captain decided it was the perfect time to do maintenance on the engine. So, the generator was switched off and the guests got to enjoy lunch in absolute peace. He changed the oil, then discovered there was a malfunction with some of the fuel pumps. Thankfully, he had the time to check everything, as this could have spelled disaster. I will also say that not all captains are as proficient around the engine, mechanics, and electricity of a boat – there is a lot more to being captain than most anyone sees.

While he was working in the engine room, he sliced his toe in half. He quickly duct taped it up (it really needed stitches) and continued working on the engine to resolve the issue. The Captain was in the engine room for around 5 hours, which the guests didn’t notice because they were swimming, then enjoying lunch.

Mind you, I don’t think I would notice much else if this was my view…

  • Working on a yacht lesson #2: anything and everything can happen.

No matter how great a yacht is, there is always something that can go wrong – a boat is basically a hotel on the water with systems constantly under strain – engine, air-conditioning, pumps, generator… When you combine this with being victim to the elements, it is a recipe for disaster – or rather a series of near-disasters.

I have been on a yacht where the air-conditioning system caught fire below deck. Luckily it was noticed just in time. We have been thrown about at sea, lost (and retrieved) our tender, I have had a fridge door come loose and fall on my foot – causing it to instantly swell and go black, I have caught gastro from one of the guests and still had to take care of them, while pretending like I was fine (not pleasant at all).

Once, my husband split his chin open then fell asleep in his cabin and bled out to dangerous levels (then, naturally carried on). I have watched a deckhand slip on rocks and slice his knee open, heard about a chef falling between two boats and crushing his legs… all of this and so much more, yet, the show always goes on and 98% of the time, the guests go completely unaware.

Crew literally put themselves under enormous mental and physical strain to ensure the guests have a perfect holiday. Guests on tour don’t necessarily need to know all of these details, but people should know just how much work and passion goes into this job because when you risk your life and sanity and it goes unappreciated… well, you can just imagine how deflating this is.

Thankfully, in this case – ‘alls well that ends well’ – the fire in Korčula was put out as fast as it began thanks to the prompt response by local firemen, all issues got sorted in the engine room, the Captain bandaged his toe, the guests enjoyed a beautiful day on the island Šćedro and we got ready to do it all over again the next day. #yachtlife.

Credit: Tash Pericic

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