Working on a Charter Yacht: Day One, 19 Hours Later

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Saturday 19th August 2017, Day 1 working on a charter yacht. Ever wondered what a day in the life of yacht crew looks like? Join us this week as we log one week working on a charter yacht in Croatia.

I worked on yachts in the Adriatic for five years and this is my first year not working at sea or in hospitality. I have loved the change and diving into my new career at Total Croatia News, being able to combine all of my loves – sharing my passion for the sea and Croatia through writing. However, and don’t tell my boss, there is a part of me that will always yearn to be at sea, so when the opportunity to hostess for a week on a yacht came up, I jumped at the chance. Oh, and it just happens to with my husband.

I got up at 6 am, to get myself organised meet the yacht by 9 am, which is the time the guests disembark. For those not in the know, Saturday is the ‘turnaround’ day for 99% of charter yachts in Croatia. All guests disembark at 9 am and the crew have until 5 pm to scrub the boat from top to bottom and have it looking brand spanking new for the next group of excited holidaymakers.

I won’t go into the full details of boat preparation just yet, as this is a topic in its own right. But just imagine the process of turning this…

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Into this.

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Mario Jelavic Photography

And that is just one element, there is still changing and organising linen, stocking all food and drinks, washing and scrubbing the boat, the final polish… Let’s just say, I came aboard early thinking – ‘we got this’, I mean technically I was an extra pair of hands, but I should have known better. There is always something that comes up, the day disappears and 5 pm arrives before you know it. Or, the guests decide to charge aboard at 4.30 pm. But I will go cover that (frustrating matter) when I do the turnaround article.

So, 5 pm, our guests arrive – an extended family, parents, children their partners and friends. There are enough suitcases and luggage for twenty people, to travel for four months in all-weather conditions… We pull out at 5 pm and set sail towards Bobovišće bay on the island of Brač. We thought we would be fine to get a ‘good spot’ because we were ahead of the pack (all boats pull out around 5 pm). As we were sailing, I looked around at all the masts on the water and realised all the hype is true, this year tourism, including nautical tourism, is far crazier than any previous years.

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This doesn’t show the madness, I just loved the contrast – A ferry, gulet and a local fisherman

Credit: Tash Pericic, This doesn’t show the madness, but I love the contrast, A ferry, gulet and fishing boat … just part of the traffic at sea.

But ok, we were underway – excitement, bodies, luggage, questions, drinks, snacks, it was all going on. It doesn’t worry me, even after a year out of the job, I slipped right back into the role, like stepping into a favourite pair of jeans – maybe a little worn and aged, but it always feels right.

Natural steps take over like a well-practised cha-cha-cha – get their names, drinks, what time will dinner be, explain a little about the boat… Move this way, move that way, get a feel for the people and the rhythm and… we’re almost dancing (not quite, the real dance happens after day 3, but this story is yet to come).

Dinner was to be at 8.30, which of course means 9 pm in yacht terms – not because of our chef (who is fab), but because people always underestimate time on a boat. By the time we found a spot (we had to move on from Bobovišće because it was already jam-packed full of boats), anchored and the guests jumped in for their first swim in the Adriatic, it was already 8.30 pm. So, to the crew’s dismay, dinner would be a late one (not ideal when you have already been working for more than 12 hours).

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Dinner was a relatively relaxed affair and finished around 10.30 pm. Once dessert and coffee were all cleared away, the Captain sat down with the guests to go through a few basic maintenance points and boat etiquette before moving into talking about the itinerary.

There are four main types of people who come aboard in terms of the itinerary:

  • Arrive with an A4 folder of their printed and planned itinerary, down to the last minute
  • Have a basic idea of the area and highlights, want to hear suggestions
  • No idea and happy to take recommendations from a Captain who has been sailing the area for more than 15 years
  • No idea, but talk as if they know

Then there are a few sub-categories

  • One chief who speaks for the whole group (may or may not have had experience a) in Croatia and b) sailing – this is irrelevant
  • Split Group: different ideas, i.e. some want just nature, others want to see the towns and highlights
  • Two chiefs who try to out-chief each other and make the decision
  • Too many cooks in the kitchen – aka, everyone is a chief
  • Everyone is relaxed and make a decision as a whole (ideal).

The Captain’s job is to navigate through all of this, understanding their wants and needs and doing his (or her) best to suggest an itinerary that will please everyone. This whole process finished around 11 pm; then one by one, everyone started going to bed, the last stragglers stayed up until after midnight. By the time I washed (hand-washed, no dishwasher on-board) all the glasses, cleaned the dining area and prepped everything for the next morning it was 12.40 pm. My husband and I sat together for 10 mins, in near silence – both exhausted – before I said good night and went to our cabin while he slept outside (on watch) because of predicted storms. Quick note – see folks, working with your husband aboard a yacht is not as romantic as you may have thought.

I crawled into bed at 12.45 and was passed out by 12.46.

I told my team I would be online from time-to-time and would probably be able to write and publish at least one article a day. Who was I kidding, at least on the first day anyway (sorry boss)!

There you have it, day 1 on a charter yacht in a nutshell. Awake for 19 hours, physically working for around 16. A typical day in the life for all who work on a yacht. Let’s see what the rest of the week has in store.

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