As always, the best blog topics are the controversial ones and this one discusses the real challenges of time for time rotation, not just the huge amount of benefits that are usually focussed on.
I recently posted on LinkedIn and got a ton of interesting perspectives so I’ve tried to arrange these into some semblance of order.
This blog isn’t about a list of the pros and cons – e.g. you lack sea time compared to a full time role. Most of that is fairly obvious. This is about the more subtle challenges which people don’t necessarily expect. It ISN’T intended to suggest time for time rotation on a superyacht is bad. It is excellent for many crew. It’s purely to provide some insight for people who will have rotation in the future.
I speak to lots of crew and generally time for time rotation is spoken of in awed tones like it’s a magic bullet which will resolve all issues at home. It really isn’t and I suspect a significant chunk of senior superyacht crew have given precious little thought to the challenges they may face until it actually happens. Being prepared and discussing this in advance with your partner will make managing it easier.
We (the royal we haha, I did very little) recently had a baby who is now one. I also have an 11-year- old, but he was born pre-Quay Crew. For a long time I have thought of rotation as a very easy, cushy option – six months off, paid for 12 months. Sounds like the dream for many crew members and for lots it is. But the arrival of our new born baby and discussions with various Captains has opened my eyes to it a little.
- Having children, especially a baby, is extremely challenging. You miss out on so much as they change so quickly. Sadly, whilst FaceTime is great, it really is no substitute. Forming a bond is a lot harder when you are here and then gone again.
- It’s even more challenging for your partner. A new born baby is super tough, before you factor in that your partner won’t be there for huge chunks of it. If you are based somewhere with no grandparents on the doorstep, it’s even tougher. I’ve heard of a few partners at home struggling with mental health issues over the last couple of years whilst their partner is away. That places huge amounts of pressure on everyone. This sort of situation is where the difference between a 2:2 and a 3:3 is really noticeable. That extra four weeks really goes slow when your partner is unhappy at home.
- There appears to be a phenomenon that means what you are happy with changes over time. So initially when you get rotation you are over the moon to have six months with your kids. Then three months away is too long and you must have a 2:2 rotation. Then after a few years that is too much and you actually don’t want to go away at all. I don’t think this point applies to all! Some Captains / HODs clearly love being away from the family and work is the break ha ha.
- The dynamic can really change. The partner at home has a settled good routine and then you come home and change everything. Whether that is child related or just interfering with your partner’s yoga class every morning which means you wake at 6am and you don’t want to on your time off so moan incessantly.
- Sometimes you get home and feel like a spare part. Where do you fit into this lifestyle? There’s a lack of purpose to your days, the children are older and get on without you and the partner has a life which doesn’t include you.
- Sometimes there are steep expectations. Now you are home you are expected to do a lot more and lessen the load. Do both school runs, prep dinner and assist with homework. Perfectly reasonable expectations but can be hard to deal with if you have come off a stressful rotation.
- Some yachts are incredibly stressful and it easily takes a week or two to decompress. But you are expected to be on top form the day you get back when, actually, what you need is some space plus peace and quiet. This can be very hard to explain sometimes.
- The kids, especially if young can struggle with saying goodbye for big chunks at a time. Just as they settle into a new routine, it all changes again as you go off on leave, and your partner is left to pick up the pieces.
- For some Captains and HODs, being home can just be a bit dull compared to work. There’s not the mental stimulation, no impromptu wake boarding and beers after work in Antigua with the crew and normal life just seems a bit of a drag.
Time for time rotation troubles even without children
- What to do with your time? You have 60 to 90 days to fill and nothing much to do. For some, your spending can go off the charts.
- If you don’t have children and your partner works, then actually you are the one twiddling your thumbs at home with nothing to do for large chunks of the time. Plus, your partner probably only gets around 20-30 days off a year. That’s not a lot of holiday when you have 180 ish days to fill and no doubt want a relaxing holiday every rotation home.
- Alternatively, your partner doesn’t work, lives off your high salary so you have quality time together on rotations off. But that is fraught with flaws too, not least you have someone at home with 365 days off, is very bored for a huge chunk of this and no job to fill their time. One obvious hobby that gets taken up with enthusiasm is spending money.
- The dogs suffer from separation anxiety! Believe it or not, more than one person has said this to me. I strongly suspect mine does too, whenever I’m away for more than a few days ha ha.
- Depending on your home base, you may need to live a slightly transient lifestyle to avoid paying shed loads of tax. Staying in another hotel room or Air BnB for a month at a time can get expensive. Plus, as someone who has ‘lived’ abroad for months and months at a time, there is a lot to be said for actually being at home and properly relaxing on your sofa.
- Alcohol can sometimes start creeping into daily routines to fill up the time. Obviously this isn’t a great path to go down.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but hopefully it helps to open the eyes for some of you who will be on time for time rotation soon. Of course, rotation offers many benefits, none of which we have touched upon here, but it doesn’t automatically mean all problems and issues just disappear. Life and relationships still take a lot of work. Best of luck everyone.