To even the most casual observer, the last few years have experienced a significant uptick in advice and commentary no one asked for being loudly thrust into forums and threads, arriving like a sailboat in the middle of the Sahara: of dubious utility, and difficult to return. This increase in ranting has been building to a crest with the writers here at The GA, and in the end we just went off. About going off.
Enough with the fucking rants. Message received. You know everything, everyone else is an idiot, if only the world would listen to you there would be fewer problems, other than having an abundance of santicomonious assholes who know where the caps lock key is and have a great deal of time on their hands.
Oh look, another opinion on what other people should put on other people’s own CVs. Because you said so. And more advice from an older someone on how to be a younger someone, how handy. Thank you for this unsolicited input on productivity, person who apparently spends the majority of their time in online forums. We’re all ears, please, bestow more of your knowledge on how to get a job, or do things the right way, or just simply not annoy you. Better yet, would you be so kind as to reduce a complex, nuanced issue, to a trite, angry response? Those are the best.
Put a sock in it. Stow it in your salty sea locker. Fold it neatly into thirds, tuck it in a envelope, add a return address, and insert it into your backside. Here’s an idea. Write your rant down, in all its ‘Power of Grayskull’ glory. Then count to ten and ask yourself, if I said this in French would I still sound like an asshole? If your answer is yes then delete it and weigh yourself immediately; you’ll be at least 5 pounds lighter. If you find yourself saying ‘no’ then be warned: you are probably lying and your anger is going to give you hemmorhoids in exchange for your friends. Yes, that is an unfair trade. No, put the keyboard down, don’t write a rant about it. Try something else, like going for a run. Maybe a two week one. In the Sahara.
In the third such incident this month, a yacht has collided with a tanker 250 NM southwest of the Azores archipelago. With the collision having been live broadcast over Periscope, in this case the most ironically named app, there is little doubt as to the primary cause of the collision: the crew were performing a crossing ceremony. All of them.
Reports from MRCC Ponta Delgada indicate that there have been no immediate injuries or environmental damage, though the yacht crew have made allegations of assault, claiming that immediately following the incident the captain of the tanker boarded their vessel (whose bows had become wedged in the bulwarks of the tanker) and roundly smacked all present for being daft.
“Aye. That’s exactly what I did.” Says Declan McCluckuck, Scottish master of the M/V Square Go. “They’s was being a bunch of bleedin’ eejits, and helmed their honkin’ white boat right into our side. Or more directly, didn’t helm they farkin’ boat. So I clouted the lot of ’em. And if they want to talk about it I’d be happy to have another gum bump.”
Reviewing the video it is hard to blame the captain for his ire. A recording that has made it’s way online shows fifteen crew members, the full complement for the voyage, gathered on the foredeck and facing a variety of directions that don’t include forward, but do include: aft, into a bucket full of rotten fish, at their phones as they take pictures, nowhere as their eyes are full of an unnamed liquid, and down at the deck, presumably wishing the ceremony is over.
Officially a maritime tradition used to induct sailors crossing the equator for the first time, recent years have seen yachts whose cruising grounds never take them that far south, increasingly applying the ceremony to crossings of other bodies of water. The Atlantic has become the favourite occasion to mark by hazing junior crew members, but there have also been reports of ceremonies marking Gulf Stream crossings, France-to-Spain Crossings, and even some who choose to celebrate sailor’s ‘First Time Out of Sight of Land’ by dumping food on them whilst tied to a fixed object. With the increase in at-sea (or at-lake) inductions, incidents of collisions and groundings have also risen.
Reached for comment by phone, an IMO representative remained silent, though when pressed on the matter, admitted she was shaking her head.
Editors Note: Number 6 is a joke, in case that wasn’t clear. We have no sponsored content.
The situation: A guy browsing through Facebook at lunch break, fingers moving faster than they have all day. Job listing, drunk photo, friend caught a fish, drunk photo, job listing, it’s just another day being an international man of yachtery. When suddenly he finds a cheerful face smiling back up at him. It’s. A. Woman. She is looking for a job on boats, and has posted a profile shot with her aspirations and details.
He doesn’t know her, but is immediately attracted to her. How can he convey this adequately through the impersonal connection of FB, and on a professional post no less? There must be a way.
He tags a friend, a buddy, a pal. He gives the equivalent of an elbow at the bar to scope someone out with him. Except this elbow is his mate’s name written in bold under the object of his attraction’s face and he’s effectively shouting ‘look at ‘er!’ In the waiting room of a crew agent’s office. Nice one. But you aren’t done.
Back home maybe you’re known as what one might call a ‘lad.’ People say it all the time. ‘Oh that [name withheld], he’s a bit much sometimes isn’t he? Bit of a lad.’ And being a lad, whether you know when to stop or not isn’t the point, because you’re going to play through anyway.
So when your mate asks you to leave him alone with the random tagging on people’s posts looking for work, because this isn’t the place to be getting all ‘wudja have a butchers at this one,’ you don’t just drop it. No, not you. What you do is ask him if you can buy her. On her Facebook post.
That breaks one of life’s most underrated, but universally applicable rules: Don’t ask if you can buy people. Not ever. Not in private, not at a strip club, not in football club transfer negotiations, not at a charity auction, not as a joke, not in the hypothetical. Not ever. We can absolutely, beyond any doubt, tell you that if you never say those words again you will not be missing out. Just go ahead and strike a line through that one, you’ll get by just fine.
We know. You thought it would be funny, and that it wouldn’t matter. The brief version of the above: It wasn’t, and it does.
You know what’s lamer than being in a business that still has people’s photos on their CVs? Being in a business where some think it’s ok to ask if they can buy someone on a posted version of said photo. Lets at least make that the last of that.
This has been a Public Service Announcement from The General Alarm.
The cruel, frustrating, sandy-haired, ass-on-a-security-camera joke continues: single, reasonably fit, and available young people who don’t go to church or ascribe to traditional interpretations of sin, spending significant amounts of time together in enamouring locales with little likelihood of a casual hook-up escalating into a complicated relationship, all turned on with nowhere to go. Which is why the list of ‘love’ spots that yacht crew make best use of is as long as a dark seawall at 4:15 in the morning.
“The hot tub, the foredeck, the cockpit of a neighbouring sailboat we thought was unattended but in fact was very attended, the beach, a freshly painted bench, the hood of a stationary car, the hood of a moving car, the coat check, a sleeping great dane, a phone booth though those are getting hard to find, the dairy section, against a wall, in a bus shelter, a swing set, in the middle of a quiet road, and occasionally a hotel room though only when I can pay double the usual price to use it for a fraction of the time.” Lists Sven Morbod, deckhand on a yacht and lover on the run, when asked where he goes to make the magic happen. “Pretty much anywhere with a surface that can support the passionate embrace of two people who don’t know each others’ names and aren’t planing on finding out.”
Ada Lacroix, bosun on a sailboat that ascribes to the industry standard view of sex (fine if you can get it just not onboard with anyone who hasn’t had a full safety familiarization, looked the captain in the eye, and done at least one trip as crew), rattles off a list even more impressive – and frankly more creative – than Sven’s. Suffice to say it came as a surprise that one (or three) could safely access the cab of a crane after hours. For the record: you can’t. Not safely.
“Oh yeah, my butt is all over DVR surveillance systems globally,” Joan says with undisguised pride. “If there were some sort of bum-recognitition software in use on the security cameras that have caught me in the act, Interpol would have me down as an international woman of masstery. Holla.” She says, matter-of-factly.
“Having an active sex life on a yacht is like living with your parents, except only if your parents cared way more about security than who, or what, you rumbaed with.”
And it was ever thus. For decades yacht crew have found the shadier sides of palm trees, the shallower parts of nighttime swims, the un-splintering planks of discarded pallets, and sometimes just had it out right in the middle of the dock in an un-selfconscious, rhythmic, near-horizontal version of a streetfight the police don’t want any part of. Because those crew can’t go home. Or stop.
“And you know what? I really don’t mind that I can’t take anyone back onboard,” Admits Sven. “Yes it would be a lot easier on my knees to be able to use my bunk, but it’s pretty crowded in there in case you haven’t noticed. When I masturbate it sounds like David Grohl is giving me drum lessons.” We pause here for awhile, collecting our breath and listening to the Foo Fighters play ‘My Hero’ on Sven’s phone. “You know what I mean?”
“So really it’s ok,” Sven continues, looking thoughtful. “We’re young and I sort of feel like it’s all part of the adventure. I don’t know if you’ve really lived until you’ve woken up in a marina parking lot wearing just a ripped t-shirt, and realized you’re occupying the last available spot and the bumper of your captain’s truck is slowly edging over top of you. If that isn’t living well, you can go ahead and water-cannon that riot thanks, I’m going to keep on loving on the run.” He gets up to continue searching for his jeans, pauses before leaving, and asks if Ada is on YachtChat.
“I would have loved to have gone to such a thing. But I didn’t get an invitation. Because it didn’t happen.” Says Ria Le Chanje, a yachting professional who works in the crewing sector but was unwilling to state exactly where due to fears that stating the obvious may be deemed a firing offence. The obvious being?
“That in large part yachting remains an archaic, patriarchal culture with generally poor representation of non-white crew members, and separate, harder avenues for women and non-white men attempting to work around those ingrained barriers. And effectively nothing is being done about it.” Ms. Le Chanje says with emphasis, and then glances over both shoulders and under the table, and checks she didn’t bum dial anyone on her phone, and wonders out loud if an unaccompanied dog in our vicinity can talk, and who his master is, and if maybe we should speak in some sort of code.
And thusly passes another year in which no symposium occurred, or forum, or conference, or sit-down, or round table, or town-hall, or serious article, or leaked email chain, or Facebook group, or industry-wide memorandum, or cautious mention after a heated thumb war between friends, or anonymous note on the crew mess board, or you get the idea, it didn’t happen.
If industry-wide equality were a yacht not only would it’s keel not be laid yet, it wouldn’t have made it to the planning stages. It wouldn’t even be a project the shipyards aren’t able to comment on due to confidentiality. No, if equality onboard yachts were represented as a boat it would still just be a rather nice drawing of a tastefully futuristic, well-balanced motor yacht, sketched on a napkin by a Burger King employee at the corner of 17th st. and US 1, and done between shifts then thrown away before anyone could see it, gone into the bin with the rest of the refuse of excess.
Why is this issue still in Burger King?
“Two reasons,” Say anyone who has considered this honestly, “Those who would benefit most from change on this front are not, generally, in a position to effectively promote it. And, on a related note, those who would like to see that change happen for it’s own sake, who believe in equality because it benefits everyone, think that, sadly, any significant adaptation is unlikely to occur. And that all one achieves by raising the issue is alienation of many who like the business just fine the way it is. And that business, and those friendships, matter more than pushing the issue. So round and round we go.”
“Yep, I’d say thats about it.” Agrees Le Chanje. “Additionally, on most of the boats I worked on, when I asked why the industry is so visibly lopsided, I was told it’s because that’s the way the owners like it. The funny thing is I’ve never heard an owner say that, or found anyone who personally had either. And if they actually did say that, why would you work for such a program?”
She adds that similarly when she asked why there were so few female captains and officers on large yachts, she was generally told there was nothing stopping them. “Which I think totally misses the point. For a women to break through layers of built-in stigma takes more than just a passive, ‘have a go lass.’ It takes actively helping women who show an interest in those avenues, and mentorship, and encouragement, and outreach, and all the things that men on boats get by default through the normal processes of training the next generation of yacht crew.” She stops and eyes the dog for a moment before adding, with feeling, “And don’t give me that shit that women are just going to leave to have babies. Many of us won’t, and those who do can work a rotation, or find single-port jobs just like all the dads out there. Why the hell not? Just try it and see.”
There’s so much work to do. Its almost like there should be a conference or something, with accepted best practices being raised, and the inauguration of programs to help correct this divide, and to bring an industry that so badly wants to be taken seriously into the modern day working world, where making things fair isn’t just a step in the painting process.
Edited to amend ‘paternalistic,’ to ‘patriarchal,’ in the first sentence of the third paragraph. 12-Mar
“Instead I just skipped everything and went straight to the drinking part. And I can’t even say that’s all that unusual,” She exclaims, before concluding the problem here is she just shouldn’t write lists, and having said that tries to eat her post-it.
Studies have shown that 9 out of 10 plans made by yacht crew for a day off come to nought. Every day, around the world, hundreds of rental cars sit uncollected, mothers await calls at home, kale goes unblended, photos un-uploaded, banking unattended, and money climbs out of the wallets and drawers of ‘feeling-it’ crew to cavort its way across the bar where it’s traded for mean-smelling liquid in small glasses.
So Laura is not alone, but this seems to be doing little to assuage her guilt. She has repeated 6 times in the last 5 minutes that tomorrow (Sunday) she is not drinking ‘NEthing’ (her spelling, as written on a napkin, or – more accurately – carved onto the table through a napkin while holding the pen like an ice pick. Following that she orders another bottle of pink wine without asking if anyone else is joining her.
“But dammit I deserve it.” She says, unprompted by anyone challenging whether or not she does. “It’s hard work out there you know. Bloody survivor and shit. Everyone’s a boss but no one’s boss you know? No. You don’t. Because you just write stupid articles you make up you wanker.” We both sit in silence for awhile until she eventually apologizes.
Many industry experts agree this is the single largest hurdle to living a rewarding life while working on boats: not ending it with cirrhosis of the liver and the frightening conviction that you have forgotten how to enjoy things sober.
“It’s a challenge, no two ways about it,” Says yacht life coach Joe Dyemond. “To live between a rotating selection of some of the nicest vacation destinations in the world, with plenty of disposable income, a tan to cover up your lack of health, and more drinking buddies than you can shake a yard-glass at, and not just end up in the pub every night? If this were an experiment and yacht crew were the rats, they would be the group that ate all the cheese and got too fat to fit through the maze.” Here Joe stops and replays this analogy in his head, and then cautiously nods to show he’s going to leave it as is.
Finding alternative activities that don’t involve plan-destroying levels of drinking is the key, as Mr. Dyemond outlined for The General Alarm. “Fitness is great, obsessive cleaning is good too, as long as it’s done with other people and no one shouts. I’m told being in a stable relationship can really help, but I’m taking people’s word for it on that one. Actually I’m pretty much doing that in general. I still haven’t mastered any of this myself. That’s why I’m a life coach.” A server interrupts us and Joe orders two shots of fireball and a couple more pints.
“Any questions?” Asks the captain as he brings to a close a meeting in which he’s banned headphones on deck, introduced a mandatory 10:00 PM curfew, and said he will fine crew he catches smoking regardless of their location when they are doing it (his exact words: “You can be in the ass-end of Kruger National Park having just escaped a pack of stampeding water buffalo, crying like you did the first time you watched My Girl, grateful to still be alive, and pondering whether anything really matters if a large mammal can crush your skull like an egg on any given Tuesday a thousand miles from everything you ever planned on doing, but if I catch you with a cigarette in your hands, mouth, or recently stubbed out on the ground in your general vicinity, you my dears are going to cough up 100 U.S. dollars on the spot or pack your bags. And I mean cough.’ He also said no more crew wine.
There were no questions. But as Captain Dugres strode out of the mess, confident he had gotten his message across – which he paraphrased for The General Alarm as being: “This ain’t a country club, and I’m not fucking golfing”- his phone began to light up with incoming messages. From crew agents. Checking references. For his crew. Because they were looking for new jobs.
“I really don’t think I was that hard on them.” He says as he turns his phone to silent.
“All I ask is for eighteen people who are hard-working, alert, sober, non-smoking, well-presented, visible-tattoo free, preferably white with a middle-upper class background and have a college degree that they aren’t especially attached to using. Is that too much?” He sighs and turns his phone face down as it strobes away with emailed queries, a circuitously lit beacon of his own crew members’ distress.
“It’s also a real help if everyone on here has no particular need to go home very often, but aren’t emotionally unbalanced by this lack of close familial love or attachment. That’s important.”
We’re in the middle of asking if he’s ever worked with any one person who fulfilled these requirements, much less eighteen, when we’re interrupted by a neatly folded piece of paper being slid under his office door. The captain glances at it and rolls his eyes.
“That’ll be the chief.” Says Dugres, appraising the paper from his chair without moving to retrieve it. “I’m pretty sure he starts every morning off by printing a resignation letter with that day’s date on it and then goes around looking for a reason to sign. I get an average of about three a week from him.”
Before we can comment another piece of paper slides under the door, on top of the first. And another, and another. This reporter begins to wonder if these submissions will make a wedge of resignation letters that will trap us in a rather small room with a captain who is rapidly becoming the only remaining crew member on a vessel the size of a small office building. Dugres stops talking as the letters continue to be jammed in the narrow gap between the sill and the door. He glances at his phone, rubs his forehead, sighs, and says:
“Maybe I should have let them keep the wine.”
“At first I thought something was wrong with my radio.” Says Chuck Finn, deckhand on a large yacht, one capable of world cruising but that sticks to just a very small section of it. “I had one of the engineers check it out and he said it works fine, despite being completely trashed. I know I’m on the right channel, and the volume is up. I just don’t seem to be hearing the calls. Anyway, have you ever been to Panama?” Asked as the bosun calls him on the deck channel for the fourth time in the two minutes our interview has been underway. When this is pointed out he says he thinks it was for someone else, that if it was important they’ll find him, and then repeats his questions about this reporter’s travel history.
While it’s unclear whether or not he’s aware of it, Chuck Finn is suffering from an ailment known as ‘auditory selectivity.’ Defined as a physical inability to hear because one has stopped caring, the malady is gaining new interest in how it affects human management theory, though it has long been recognized as an important factor in marriage therapy. In his case it appears to mostly be driven by an aggravated desire to hit the road.
“I hear there’s a trail that runs right across the backbone of Papua New Guinea.” He says, continuing something of a stream of consciousness world tour over the sound of his name being shouted on the decks both above and below where we’re seated. “Have you heard of that one? It’s called the Kodiak or something like that. I think that would be pretty fun. I’m going to ask for time off in April and if they don’t give it to me.” Here he mimics the noise of air escaping a balloon. One that can always be refilled.
Asked if he thinks his captain will grant him the leave he shrugs. “Both him and the chief officer keep telling me I’ve got it pretty sweet on here and would be a fool to blow it off. Which may be true, but you know what?” We do not know what, which is fine as he doesn’t pause to check. “They weren’t deckhands on here. You know what they were up to in their 20’s? Captain was a wind-surf instructor in the south of France living out of a panel van. And the CO was a surf lifeguard at Bondi beach who admitted to me when he was drunk that his nickname was ‘noshow’. So.” Here he gets up and leads us down a side-deck as a search party approaches.
“I don’t think they’re really talking to me.” He continues as the coast clears, referring to his operational superiors. “To be honest, I think they’re talking more to their old selves, though they won’t admit it. And really, it doesn’t matter. Because neither of us are listening.” A laughing high-five as the sun burns towards the horizon, he ignores the radio squawking his name, and asks what we know about the Shetland Islands.