This blog is slightly random and has multiple purposes…
1: To educate green crew about how tough yachting is.
2: To give them a couple of ideas to help them cope a little better.
3: Hopefully it is slightly amusing!
I am a big fan of the film 500 Days of Summer. It’s a witty, intelligent rom com. You may or may not be aware of it so I have thoughtfully provided a link to the scene I am referencing. Incidentally it’s a great scene.
Tom, the hero of the piece is meeting the girl he loves, Summer, at a party she is hosting. En route he is blissfully imagining the party unfolding and him ending up in the arms of Summer. His unrealistic expectations meet a rather harsh reality unfortunately and it doesn’t go as planned. Why am I referencing this?
Because last year that scene reminded me very much of junior crew joining a yacht and how they leave the yacht too. Tom has some very unrealistic expectations and when he sees the reality of the situation he storms off in a huff without saying goodbye (I realise this is a slight controversial interpretation of the film so I’m happy to discuss it in the comments!). Sadly many yachties new to the industry bail from a yacht in an unprofessional manner when it isn’t all roses, often at an inopportune time eg the day before a charter.
We are about to enter that time of year when hundreds if not thousands of crew flock to Antibes, Palma and various other yachting hubs looking for their first job and bringing with them hugely unrealistic expectations. Hopefully this blog might mean a few more green crew stick it out when the going gets tough.
Working on a yacht isn’t all champagne in the jacuzzi on the sun deck and watersports despite what some crew’s social media accounts portray. So what should you expect when you join a yacht?
- Long hours (the hourly wage is actually pretty poor).
- Minimal time off, potentially for months at a time. You often wont get an entire weekend off to yourself ever once the season starts.
- Hard physical work.
- Mundane work which you may well not see the point of.
- Sharing a small cabin with someone whose habits may not be that savoury
- There will be a strong possibility that there will be people you don’t get on with. They may even be in your team and you actively dislike them but will have to work and live beside them and get on with them for the sake of harmony on board.
- A management style that may grate with you or you aren’t used to.
- Missing out on birthdays, weddings etc.
- Having no social life for a few months.
The following are my tips on how to get through the tough times.
- If you join expecting it to be seriously tough then when it is, you are better equipped to cope.Maintaining a positive attitude as much as possible will also make your life easier. Constantly whinging about the negatives will bring you down and the people around you. This may get you sacked so don’t do it. Be that positive presence on a yacht which boosts morale, not drains it. You will be a lot happier if you take that approach too.
- Put in place a support structure at home. Someone whom you have given strict instructions to. These instructions should include be sympathetic but strong. Acknowledge my hardships but don’t encourage me to wallow in pity. Remind me why I have left home and remind me what I would be doing job wise if I wasn’t on an incredible yacht in the Med. Remind me of the incredible opportunity I have. Tell me I am doing the right thing and it will get easier. Do not call your mum if she is going to tell you that you can leave anytime, or she will pay your flight home. That isn’t what you need or want to hear. So choose your crutch carefully.
- About 10 years ago I was quite ill. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say I was in and out of hospital a few times. After one trip I was feeling particularly sorry for myself but I was also very aware I had just seen young children who were far more ill than me and being far braver. So I came home and looked online for some inspiration. I stumbled across the poem ‘Invictus’ which means unconquerable. Invictus is much more in the public domain now than it was then but here is the link (click here) to the full poem and the authors back story if you are unfamiliar with it. The last two lines particularly stuck a chord with me and I often thought of them when I was feeling sorry for myself and they inevitably picked me up. ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. So find an inspirational quote, story or person which means something to you and print it off and pin it up to your bathroom mirror, or inside a cupboard so you see it every day. It sounds a bit cheesy but it will definitely make a difference and make you stronger.
- This is a really hard one but try not to drink to excess. Alcohol is a depressant and whilst it provides temporary relief you will feel worse for a couple of days afterwards.
- Create a fitness routine and try and keep to it. You can do a lot on the foredeck and it doesn’t have to take long. It could be a bodyweight routine, skipping or kettlebells. But exercising will reduce the stress and pressure you are feeling.
Finally if you really aren’t coping and leaving isn’t an option then the following two options provide support if you are in a bad place mentally.
- One of the most up to date services to use is ‘Big White Wall’ (BWW) it is an anonymous online service that is manned by mental health professionals and offers self-help programmes and one-to-one counselling. Normally there is a charge to access the BWW, but the Seafarers’ Hospital Society is funding free access to the service for seafarers accessing the service in the UK, while in port or onshore. If not in the UK there is a small monthly subscription. The programme gives crew the tools and guidance they need to help themselves, this can be done via courses, face-to-face counselling from trained professionals via skype or even community support on the BBW’s online chat room.
- Another option is to become a member of International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) who offer a 24 hour helpline which seafarers can call and discuss any concerns they have. This helpline has seen 37% more calls in the last 2 years related to mental health.
Best of luck in your first season guys and hopefully this helps.