Both Onboard: Blessing or Burden?


We’ve all been aboard boats with couples, or worked on a yacht when two of the crew fell for one and another, resulting in secret cabin rendezvous, a suspicious spring in the first mate’s step and tell-tale smiles across the crew mess table.

Hell, I’m sure everyone reading this blog has been invited to at least one yachtie wedding (held in a suitably stunning place and drawing guests from every corner of the globe). If I’d have to name one industry where people are most likely to get together on the job, yachting would decidedly be it (perhaps Antarctic researching may come in a close second ;).

“It’s a natural occurrence,” says Capt. Rich. “You’re buddies and you live together. People will wind up together after spending so much time working so closely.”(1) During the season days are long, tiresome and stressful. In between crew you keep each other’s spirits up. Sometimes, those little in-jokes and job-related giggles are what keeps us going.

You create a strong connection and at times this closeness can turn into a spark and, before you know it, the chief stew’s taken an interest in how oil filters are changed, or you’ll find the deckie helping the stewardess fold fitted sheets.

Two friends of mine met on a busy charter yacht and, 6 years and 3 boats later, are still a happy onboard duo. I should add that they not only work on the same boat but also work alongside each other on deck: Max as the first mate and Sophie as a deckhand. A recipe for disaster, one might think, but in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.

Sophie believes being able to work together comes down to people’s characters: “Some are able to make it work while others just ‘set on fire’! Only certain personalities have what it takes to perform under pressure, which makes it easier to work together. Being adaptable and easy-going also makes day-to-day life in constricted spaces a lot more pleasant for the rest of the crew!”

It was also during a busy summer season that I took a shine to the Italian deckhand while stewardessing on a big Perini. After the season, we spent a few years working on separate boats until eventually getting another job together: him as captain, me as cook/stew. What followed was a season with a lot of behind-closed-doors hissed conversations and one too many arguments so we decided to both alleviate the lives of our fellow crew and ‘save’ our relationship by having me move ashore. As Sophie mentioned, yachting together is not for every couple. It was definitely not for us.

So the answer to the question whether it’s a blessing or a burden to take on yachting as a twosome, or to work in the company of a couple, is as varied as people are different. As each person functions distinctly, each couple display different dynamics.

The real question here is why something which is so common and natural in our line of work, is still such a controversial topic. It’s common knowledge that getting a job as a couple is tricky and, to add insult to injury, every boat seems to have its own policy. Usually, a pronounced yea or nay when it comes to couple-hood.

Sophie agrees that she and her partner got lucky and also finds that captains who have worked with their partners are more understanding about onboard relationships. “You need to remain professional if you want to be accepted by the rest of the crew. No crew mess- cuddles and, most importantly, you must remain fair-minded and act as individuals, not as part of a mini-team!”

Some voiced ‘cons’ are captains being afraid that if they lose one, they lose the other, couples acting cliquish and crew having to be shuffled around to accommodate the two. However, the couples I’ve worked with have proved real longevity and had a stabilising effect on some of the (single) crew.

With the predicted need of 14,000 super yacht crew in the next five years, maybe it’s time to welcome yachting’s lovebirds onboard. A strict no-couples policy is not only a little dated, but it could also mean you might miss out on two super-star team players that end up outstaying the rest of the crew!



Written by: Danielle Berclouw

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