A Yacht Crew’s 13-Step Guide To Surviving St. Maarten

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  1. Do not, under any circumstances, go to St. Maarten.
  2. If you absolutely cannot avoid going to St. Maarten, do not leave the boat.
  3. If you cannot avoid leaving the boat, only do so on a weekday, at lunch, in disguise, ideally as a nun, or stray dog. Barring that a chicken costume will have to do.
  4. If you must venture into the open during hours other than these, do not, under any circumstances, drink.
  5. If drinking is unavoidable (i.e.; due to a rare medical necessity such as having come off of a busy charter, or unexpected reunion/birthday/Friday) only drink in moderation.
  6. If you cannot drink in moderation, tie yourself securely to a large friend, and inflate your lifejacket. Whatever you do, do not go over the hill.
  7. If you go over the hill, close your eyes and don’t open them until you you hear someone say, “Welcome back to Isle Del Sol, what boat are you on, and where are your pants?”
  8. If the answers to these questions are beyond your reach – or are very complicated – tell the security guard your favourite movie as an answer to both queries, and hope for the best (Gone With The Wind, or Basic Instinct could work – Titanic, or The Passion Of The Christ may require further explanation.
  9. Once inside the marina, do not fall in the water while attempting to get back onboard your workplace/home.
  10. If you fall in the water follow the steps below until assistance arrives.6990271_orig
  11. Once your life has been saved and the mate has installed you in your bunk, forget everything that happened. This will be the easiest step.
  12. Remain onboard, without going near any windows, portholes, friends, enemies, recording devices, or mirrors, until you depart.
  13. When you next consider going to St. Maarten, return to Step 1.

10 Life Hacks For Yacht Crew

Print Ad by DM9-JaymeSyfu Makami, Philipines

Print Ad by DM9-JaymeSyfu Makami, Philipines

  1. Never clean up after yourself. That way you never have to clean up after yourself.
  2. If you’re an engineer; wear a look that says, ‘I eat people who ask me questions.’ That way most people won’t ask you questions. And those who do you can eat.
  3. Marry the Captain.
  4. Say you’re going provisioning and then never come back.
  5. If you’re the Captain always come in to work late and leave early. This will keep the crew on their toes as they’ll be surprised when you’re there.
  6. Stay on one boat for years and years and never progress so you can get your early-midlife crisis out of the way and move quickly on to your mid-mid-life crisis.
  7. Saw your tooth brush in half so you have more room in your cabin for cameras and sunglasses.
  8. Always mention previous boats you worked on in a favourable light as compared with the one you’re on now. This will piss people off.
  9. Get smashed early and often. This will make even the most mundane of tasks the next day a huge challenge.
  10. When you’ve had enough don’t move on to a new job or career, just stay on one boat and be bitter, it will save you an airfare.

9.5 Reasons For Yacht Crew To Push Through The Last Trip Of A Long Season

AP Photo - Rene Perez

AP Photo – Rene Perez

As anyone who’s worked a job where busy season coincides with summer knows; August is ancient Greek for ‘bone-tired and over it’; though many shorten this to ‘I have fucking had it.’ It’s a hard month but at least it only has 31 days. And is stonkingly hot. And comes on the tale end of July, which is Greek for ‘I’ll give you something to cry about.’ Need a reason to climb out of your bunk? Or not get in it? Here are 9. And a half.

  1. You made it this far. Giving up now would be like having climbed the mountain (of guest sheets), fought the (Russian) bear, forded the river (of expensive wine) and solved the riddle (of Italian jetski regs) only to give up just as you’re about to be rewarded with your tribal name (like He-Who-Internalizes-Great-Frustration, or She-Who-Laughs-Hysterically).
  2. Everyone says you won’t make it. Like everyone. They come into our offices (yes The General Alarm has offices, globally and in many other places) just to tell us, “Hey, you know that person reading your list right now? Never going to make it through this season. Not ever. They just don’t have what it takes. They’re probably crying right now. You should give them a tissue. And a hug.” Here. Now get back out there slugger, and prove this idiot who is sitting in our offices uninvited, eating all our mints, that they’re wrong. (Just so you know, I hit them in the face for you. No, open-handed. But I didn’t warn them, and my hands are pretty cold).
  3. If this was a marathon, you’d be lost, and there wouldn’t be any other runners, or spectators, or actually any race at all. You’d have just started out for what you thought was a Sunday stroll and are now sweaty and really tired and your feet hurt and it’s either Friday or Monday you aren’t really sure. But as everyone knows, the best thing to do when lost is stay in one place. And scream for help.
  4. You have no way of getting ashore dry. Definitely not with your laptop and luggage. Push through until you don’t have to pay the deckhand €1000 to run you to the dock in the tender at 2:00 AM.
  5. You don’t know where you are. Which makes it hard to work out where you’re going.
  6. You miss your friends. You miss your family. But they think you’re happy, because your Facebook posts say so and show photos that only happy people take. If you leave now you’ll have to tell your mama you were sad, and that the good life wasn’t good. This in turn will make your mama sad. Don’t make your mama sad.
  7. Your memoirs are going to suck if you don’t at least try to hook up with Kelly at the end of the season. After going on and on for an entire chapter about how you basically stalked her around the boat for three months, if you don’t do this you will never enjoy 104 weeks at the top of the NY Times bestseller list. Get with Kelly for your future.
  8. You think the basic premise of yachting is lame, and the business in general is pointless. So is everything if you pull it apart enough. Deal.
  9. You think you might kill someone if you stay. Legitimately. As in you’ve made a plan on graph paper and thought about how you’ll dispose of the body and have practiced looking surprised when someone says, “Hey have you seen that dickhead Brock? He’s late for his shift and there’s a three foot wide trail of blood down the crew corridor.” If you leave you won’t get to make good on all those hours in front of the mirror, and that would be a waste.

The half: You signed a contract and want a good reference. Yeah, well, it’s true. 

Why Do We Still Use The Term ‘Stewardess’?

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By the end of the 1970’s most airlines had phased out the term stewardess in favour of the gender-neutral flight attendant. The 1970’s. The majority of yacht stewardesses currently employed weren’t even born then, but yet when they arrive on the water – in the 21st century – they are still given an outlandishly outdated job title. Matess? Chefess? Deckhandess? Ridiculous right? Stewardess? Completely accepted. Why in the hell?

Answering that question honestly takes us a few fathoms down into the heart of what remains a business trapped in old ways; led by a mixed group of old people with old thinking, new people with old thinking, and well-intentioned new and old people who just don’t see it changing anytime soon. The status quo floats along, with a vague hope that improvements will seep in slowly over time. But again; airlines in the 1970’s: flight attendants. Yachts in 2015: stewardesses.

There will be those who say it’s just a term. And this is true. What is also true is that it is the only gender-specific job title in an industry that continues to struggle hugely to take any sort of meaningful steps towards gender equality in it’s senior positions. Those three letters of the suffix ‘ess’ bely an unspoken understanding that problems such as sexual discrimination, harassment, and career limitations on yachts have not been fixed so much as simply pushed beneath the surface to roll along like a badly bent propeller; unseen, but felt by all.

Is changing one job title likely to change a business? Unfortunately not. But at The General Alarm we don’t think that continuing to use an outdated term simply because we always have, and because those whom it bothers don’t have all that much of a voice, is good enough either. So. What should do you think we use instead?

Signs You May Have Outgrown Yachting

dog_in_coat

We grow, and while jobs can too, a career at sea can only stretch so far before it starts to feel a little tight around the neck. Feeling the chafe? Time to get a new shirt, maybe a v-neck, something off the shoulder or just anything other than this damned wooly turtleneck that feels like a really weak guy trying to strangle you all day*? Here are a few signs you may have outgrown working on the water:

1) You’ve started hitting your head on things you never used to, like your hand, or other people’s heads, or walls repeatedly.

2) You have no idea where your lifejacket is and you don’t give a shit.

3) On your CV you’ve had to stop listing some of the earliest boats you worked on because the crew agent said nine-page resumes aren’t cool – no matter how many sides you print on – and no one wants to hear about your years serving the Onassis family anyway.

4) You have more friends who have left yachting than you have friends currently in it.

5) In your time on boats you’ve been through the following phases: Party phase. Loved-up phase. Broken-up phase (party phase II). Job-ladder climbing phase. Nowhere-(appealing)-left-to-go phase. There’s only one phase left. Hint: It isn’t a repeat of any of the previous phases on a new boat. Hint #2: It isn’t on a boat.

6) You’re sick of Jaeger.

7) Your tone when replying to the question of, ‘what do you do?’, has moved from slightly-bewildered-but-super-stoked to being more in the key of ‘I work for the city’.

8) Your cabin mate tells you that you have started regularly speaking in your sleep, repeating the words ‘shadow-boat’ and ‘rotation’ continuously through the night.

9) You’ve reread this post.

*Credit to the late, great, Mitch Hedberg for that uncannily accurate assessment of what wearing a turtleneck feels like.

What You Should Not Have To Do To Earn Your Wages As An Employee

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We know, this shit’s obvious. It’s all written out in your contract. You should not be discriminated against, you should be on time, you should not be asked to work more than the required hours in a given period, you should be alert and drug-free when reporting for work, etcetera, etcetera. Is that what we’re getting at here? Not really. What we are moved to talk about today is the more basic matter of what is not being sold when you accept a wage as an employee.

You are a biological miracle who defied genuinely impossible odds to arrive here in this place doing this thing for the very briefest of possible moments in time. With that being said, as a biological miracle with no time to waste, you do not have to take shit from other biological miracles who think their miracle is more miraculous than yours. You do not. Does this mean you should bounce your highly-evolved ass every time someone throws shade your way at work? No, because a biological miracle has got to do what a biological miracle has got to do. There’re bills to pay, and new biological miracles to feed, and it is well known that you don’t experience personal growth if all you do is run. But this aside – call it the practical reality of living an ordinary impossibility – you still deserve a reminder that when someone pays you a wage they aren’t buying the right to imply, indicate or tell you that your miracle doesn’t matter. That isn’t for sale.

And if, for whatever reason, you find yourself having to stand there and take that sort of shit for awhile, in the name of whatever greater good you are trying to get done (up to and including simple survival), then hold on all the tighter. You take that thing that isn’t for sale, your singularity, and you put it in a fire-proof, bomb-proof, asshole-proof box in the very center of your body. And you weld that box shut from the inside and paint it to look like a kidney, and you keep it safe and only tell the good folks, the other miracles who don’t want to take your miracle away, that it is still there, shining, untarnished by time, abuse, and the wearing grittiness of living even so brief a life. You let them know that you didn’t lose it, you didn’t sell it, you still have it. And apart from getting to share that fact with someone, you may well be rewarded with a glimpse inside these others’ own kidney-painted, asshole-proof boxes too.

So, yes, do follow your employers code of conduct, don’t accept unsafe working conditions. Do make sure your workspace is tidy and task lists complete at the end of each day, don’t tolerate harassment in any form. Do what you should, don’t accept what you shouldn’t. But above all else, don’t forget that you are a walking, talking, impossibility. And if – by some remote chance because there are so few of you out there – you think you may at times have been one of those assholes who tried to make someone feel a little less than the truly astounding thing that they are, then consider how many times I just wrote the word ‘miracle’. Ponder what that says about my limitations as a writer, and also the importance of your responsibility as a manager of fellow miracles; to treat them gently, and to keep some perspective when you are on the verge of yelling at one of them because the printer is out of toner. That is a miracle you are speaking to. About a printer. Good chat.

5 ‘Yacht’ Questions Crew Should Avoid

bored converse1

The following are conversation fillers that yacht crew use when speaking to other yacht crew in the frequency range of ‘often to way-too-often’ (O~WTO) because of a lack of: imagination, interest, sobriety, sleep, ability to concentrate, or having anything in common with the person with whom they are conversing.

Make it your personal challenge when next speaking to someone you: don’t care about, are seeing double of, can’t hear, or don’t ever expect to see again ever, to not ask the following:

  1. What’s your itinerary?
    There’s a reason the word ‘itinerary’ is generally used to refer to a typed, rigid, contract of conveyance of your person from one location to another. It is dry, boring and devoid of the joie-de-viva-las-vegas that your life should have. The only thing worse than asking this question is being under the illusion that you can accurately answer it. Also bad is having to ask it twice. It’s the funny thing about this particular question; no one ever listens to the answer.
  2. What size is it? (Referencing a yacht in this case, though a risky query in general)
    When it comes to the size of yacht other crew work on, any question that starts with: how big, how many meters, how long, how many feet, etc. comes across as you asking for a measurement that you are planning on using to build yourself a box of preconception with. Yeah, we get it, you input this crucial dimension into your algorithmic-answer-predictor (patent pending) to render the rest of the conversation meaningless. From that one number you already know everything you ever wanted to know about that person’s life. Further mouth-move-make-sound equals time-waste. Nice one Robochat.
  3. Are you private or charter?
    There’s a theme to this. If you are using short forms of questions that when fully sounded out are boring, than you are trying to (badly) hide that fact. For example this query, when expanded, is actually: Is the yacht on which you are employed registered with flag state as a Private or Commercial vessel with the respective privileges and encumbrances so entailed? Rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? Unless you are an ISM manager or a Port State inspector there is no reason to ask such a morbidly boring question, and even they should keep it to business hours (crisis situations excepted of course).
  4. Who is your owner?
    There are a couple of problems with this one. It’s the undisputed winner of the ‘Most-annoying-question-crew-get-asked-by-non-crew’ competition year-on-year for the last four decades. And yet crew will, in a desperate moment of dead air, occasionally jab each other with it. But beyond this, it is – again – a short form of a longer question. Expanded: Who is the owner of the yacht you work on? If you happen to have a good reason for needing to know this (the only example we can think of is a terrorist has strapped a bomb to your entire extended family and the password to defuse it is the name of the owner of the yacht the crewmember you are speaking to works on) than at least resist the laziness to shorten it to: “Who is your owner?” Resist it in the same way you resist the laziness to think of yourself as simply being ‘owned’. You do resist that right? Right?
  5. What do you do onboard?
    This actually isn’t that bad of a question. It’s simply the on-the-water equivalent of, “Sooooo, what do you do for work?” Except that since yachts are as much a living space as they are a workspace, a person who is asked this should feel free to answer it with complete and open honesty. “I run naked to the laundry to get my favorite underwear from the dryer on the chance that no one else is up yet.” Is perfectly acceptable. “I stare out the porthole and try to remember the last time I smiled”, while a piercingly sad answer, may well be accurate. Be honest. Always be honest.

    So lets agree that this particular question can still be asked, but crew so-asked will all try to answer it with more than simply: I’m the Chief Engineer. At least try: I’m the Chief Tool-Counter-And-Recoverer-Of-Missing-Tools-And-Giver-Of-Lectures-To-People-Who-Took-Those-Tools. That’ll also look better on your CV.

Have a question you’d like to add to the list? Send it in as a ‘comment’…