The Johnny Depp Foundation For A Better Life has released an unprecedented study, summarizing findings gained after thousands of hours spent observing yacht crew working and living onboard over the past decade. Their principle conclusion, while not unexpected, has created a stir in industry circles.
The study was conducted across 58 vessels, with over 500 crewmembers being observed. With varying levels of permission to conduct the research – ranging from open invitations to absolute denial of access – a combination of researchers posing as guests, researchers posing as crew, and guests and crew posing as researchers were used.
“We found that the equivalent social environment which comes closest – on a comparative basis – to that of the life of yacht crew, is that of a prison.” Says Johnny Depp, founder of the foundation and general Good Liver. “It’s a really nice prison, that goes interesting places, and looks great on social media updates – as opposed to real prison which carries a general stigma – but it is still a prison.” He says, punctuating his point by gesturing with his cigarette holder.
The study notes that many behaviors traditionally associated with prison life are also found onboard yachts such as counting down days till freedom, fighting over which channel the television is on in a communal space, constant complaining about the food, and the forming of gangs and alliances of mutual benefit for survival.
“The forming of gangs was a particular observation that stood out and made myself and the other researchers say, “Hey this is pretty fucked up.” Mr. Depp states in unvarnished language. “There was a distinctive pattern to the progression of a newly arrived crew member – with neutral allegiance – to one who aligned themselves within an existing social construct, i.e. ‘Deckies’, ‘Engos’ or ‘Stews’. In each of these primary divisions there were additional sub-groupings such as ‘young kids’ and ‘oldies’, or ‘couples’ and ‘singles’.” Depp went on to explain that which allegiance played a primary role in an individual crewmember’s actions was found to be highly variable, often switching daily and sometimes multiple times within an hour. This was noted especially in the raucous social environment observed when crew went out for drinks immediately following the end of a charter. “The similarities between the behavior of the crew and that of prisoners during a cell-block riot was marked.” Said Depp’s lead researcher, Tomas Gummbs, looking noticeably twitchy and still bearing a number of facial scars gained in his field research. “The only substantial differences were the inter-mixing of genders not commonly seen in a prison, and an absence of homemade weaponry. Apart from that a number of key metrics were identical between these two situations, including the profanity-to-word-count in utterances made during the event; number of injuries per person per hour (I/P/Hr) increasing the longer the event was allowed to continue, and the event generally culminating with an authoritarian intervention by senior officers.”
Depp and his researchers attribute the pressures of onboard life to the forming of hierarchical ‘groups within groups’. The study concludes that regardless of having entered into a contract voluntarily – which sees them being compensated for their work and time onboard the vessel – the daily lives of crew are effectively not their own, leading to tensions similar to that of serving time in the big house.
“Here’s the kicker man.” Depp throws down.” It doesn’t matter that the incarceration is voluntary, because before too long there are significant social, financial and emotional ties holding a crewmember in place onboard. These bonds have the capacity to restrict freedom as surely as bars, and quite possibly longer. Remember, brother, in this case good behavior doesn’t get you out early.”
As a long time yacht owner himself, the inevitable question arises of how he justifies implicit participation in this dynamic. After stroking his moustache for some time Depp thoughtfully replies. “I think life in general is a prison, man. Commuting every day to a job you have to keep because of your mortgage isn’t exactly freedom, is it? Being onboard at least offers crew variety, convenience, and a healthy dose of escapism. The food really isn’t all that bad, consensual shagging is an option if you find someone who’s up for it, and you don’t have to worry about getting shanked.”