Bon Voyage! (part 2 of 2)



When not removing offending follicles from fiberglass flooring, I would maintain the ships systems as needed.  Oil changes, lubrication, black and grey water systems, water makers, light bulbs, and then any needed repairs.

The water makers are reverse osmosis water generators. They employ extremely high pressure pumps to push water molecules through a membrane designed to allow only particles the size of a water molecule and smaller through.  This includes viruses and thus requires the newly gathered water to be bathed in UV light to sterilize it.

Neptune-water-maker-HorizontalReverse Osmosis water system by Pacific Marine

I recall a particularly interesting repair of a failed vacuum pump on the air conditioning control system.  This was a unit with a plastic and metal case housing a small rubber diaphragm designed to oscillate, thereby creating a vacuum which controlled some aspect of the cooling system that I no longer recall.  I do however recall the repair. It was just the sort of task that I enjoy.  It was a small device about the size of my fist made of dozens of parts, some moving. I discovered the rubber diaphragm was worn out and no longer made a good seal.  I removed the diaphram and fashioned a duplicate out of a piece of leather from a glove and reinstalled it.  Once again cool air flowed throughout the boat.  Very Macgiver, and very satisfying to all of us.

Most days my duties were fairly simple. A light cleaning, a project area needing maintenance or detailing, assisting in the galley or attending some other area that needed maintenance or repair. Days were kept to an 8 hour workday generally, and the labor was manageable. Additionally, yachts are built with multiple fuel tanks, and they each carry significant amounts of fuel. As the generators ran or the boat was moved these tanks would ship their fuel to the engine room and eventually the boat would be off balance as fuel was taken from one of the 8 tanks aboard.

To maintain balance, fuel had to be transferred from one tank to another in an effort to level the boat from bow to stern and port to starboard. On this particular yacht these efforts were accomplished through the manipulation of manually operated electronic controls, requiring that I sit at the bridge monitoring a digital display while opening valves and running a pump, all controlled by switches on the bridge. Occasionally it was beneficial for me to step ashore to view her from various angles to make certain my work was effective in balancing the boat.

Carrie and I enjoyed our time aboard, we were initially given privileges to use the water toys (a pair of jet skis) and the use of the hot tub. Work progressed day by day and became routine.

The captain came to us one morning and informed us the owners had changed their policy and we could no longer play with the water toys. We were a little disappointed, but this wasn’t a big deal and we continue to  enjoy our labors. He also informed us that he and the chef were going to go to Florida for a few days and the boat was ours to maintain until they returned. Which they did a few blissful days later.

I admittedly suffered a shortcoming on this boat.  I was given the task of taking down  the flags in the evening. This I was instructed to do daily at 5 p.m, on the nose. Sometimes, (too frequently) I was so involved with my labors that I worked straight through that 5 p.m. mark and the flags would continue to wait for an additional thirty to ninety minutes. Rarely, I forgot to take down the flags all together and had headed off the boat for an evening of fun, but that did happened as well.  My bad…  On my return, I would occasionally receive a disappointed communique from the captain with the flag draped across my path. It was a priority that I did not embrace as my own, to my detriment.

By this point I had recognized that the captain enjoyed staying in his cabin playing Nintendo most days, obviously determining that it was my position to be the laborer, and his to be the captain. I accepted this a little begrudgingly, having worked on a number of similarly sized yachts, I readily recognized the inequity of this arrangement. On board the other smallish yachts on which I had worked, the captains would pitch in with the daily duties as most recognized that with such a small number of crew aboard these hundred foot yachts, efforts frequently required all hands on deck, including the captain’s, in order to complete the level of work necessary to keep the boat ship shape. So these daily bouts with Nintendo, followed by an occasional reprimand soured me a little. But I kept that to myself.

Also aboard this particular ship was a hierarchy we refer to as a ‘Captain and Admiral’ situation. We had heard of such arrangements, but this was our only experience with such a hierarchy. In an on-board/maritime chain of command, the captain was officially the head of the ship, the leader, the last word. On some ships, the captain will have a wife or a girlfriend aboard. Occasionally this wife or girlfriend can be overbearing and she actually will command the captain and crew. Sometimes quite openly. This charter yacht was one of those boats. Captain M was truly the captain, but Chef B was the Admiral, and she was obviously in charge.

603M/Y Camille, 114′ Hattaras

During our interview, while applying for this position, we had informed the captain and the chef, aka Admiral, that we were relatively new to the yachting industry and would request any direction they might be willing to give so as to perform to their desired level. They assured us they loved to train new people and would have no problem communicating appropriately. We soon found out that the Admiral delivered her communications rather aggressively and in a very demeaning manner. While the captain was indirect and passive in his communiques.  I began to avoid the Admiral, not an easy thing to do on a small boat. When we did have our tete-a-tete she was frequently condescending, I attempted to defuse this aggressive behavior by acquiescing and expressing my gratitude for her very kind directions. To no avail. She became more and more aggressive and demeaning until she was openly hostile. I just wasn’t going to get along with this gal.

We had been aboard for a few months, and while positioned beneath the overpass with all its dust and grime, I noted faxed resumes coming across the ship’s fax machine applying for the deckhand position…, My position…

I brought this to the captain’s attention and asked him if he was intending to replace me, he flatly denied seeking my replacement assuring me my position was secure, and he said he didn’t know why they kept sending him resumes, it was just a mistake on the crew agencies part he stated.

Carrie and I continued to work very hard. We were good at our jobs, aside from the flag issue, everything was done satisfactorily, as far as we knew. I could not get along with the captain’s girlfriend however, and this was to be the source of our downfall on this boat.

A couple short weeks after I had seen the resume on the fax machine the captain called me onto the bridge and informed me that he was letting us go, citing my inability to remove the flag at precisely 5pm daily as the grounds for this dismissal. I was dismayed. We were to leave the boat immediately. He also informed me that they would not be returning us to the States, but they would be casting us ashore there on Paradise Island. “get your things and get off the boat”.  I was surprised at this blunt removal of our position aboard and my mood quickly went from dismay to bitterness. Granted, the conditions aboard were socially uncomfortable, but I did not foresee the end of our employment so abruptly. I reminded the captain that maritime law required he return us to our originating port which was on the Florida coast. He quickly changed his tune and agreed to return us appropriately. I was angry by this point and Carrie was very sad and hurt. We left the boat, headed for the airport, and returned to Florida where we spent a few days staying with my sister. We determined in those few days that our yachting time should come to an end, this last experience being distasteful enough to momentarily sour us on the industry.

We adjusted our plans to return to Montana a few months earlier than we’d originally intended, having earned the amount of money we’d desired and we’d had some terrific experiences, but we felt it was time to head home. As with such things, looking back to this event, some 16 years behind us now, the timing of our departure could not have been any better.

Also looking back at our time on the ocean, we are overjoyed with the experience, the skills we’d adopted and honed, and significantly, we had made some wonderful friends. Good-hearted people who we remain in contact with to this day.  Yachting was a wonderful and growing experience for us and we’ve applied those skills effectively and gainfully in our lives over the past 16 years.

But more about that later…




Bon Voyage! (part 1 of 2)



Towards the end of our yachting time my wife and I were stationed aboard a 115′ Hatteras charter yacht.   We enjoyed and were adept at the duties of attending to the owners and guests needs, and also had the pleasure of a short tour of some out islands in the Bahamas.

Bahamian out islands provide a  slow paced  drowsy  lifestyle .  Drifting, bobbing,  riding the swells.  Whether docked or at anchor, the more remote Bahama destinations provided a uniquely relaxed environment .

Once our Charter was complete, It became time for us to ply the trade a bit more commercially.  That is to say, we were back to the daily grind of no guests aboard and plenty to do.

We found ourselves stationed once again on Paradise Island, near Atlantis Resort. As the tenancy of our yacht was only the captain and crew (4 of us),  we were directed to a less impressive (and less expensive) location for our dockage. We found a position in a channel beneath an active overpass. The current was strong here at times as it came in and out with the tide.  We missed being in the thick of things in Atlantis Marina.  This locale was more like parking in the alley. Add to that fact that the overpass was under heavy construction providing us with plenty of concrete dust to deal with on a daily basis.

I realize I shouldn’t play it down. After all, we were still on Paradise Island, on a yacht, in the Bahamas.  But it was definitely storage parking as yachting goes.

Carrie and I then spent the weeks to follow cleaning and repairing systems. There was plenty of work. The ship had to be detailed every day as the dust and tire debris from the overpass (which was, as I said, under construction) would float down on us coating the boat in a fine layer of white concrete dust Every Day.  Washdown became the daily morning routine.

Drag out the hose, brush, and a bucket of soapy water.

Spray down a section of the boat, brush it lightly, and rinse.

Repeat for the entire top and sides, then detail with a rag, and then wash all the windows.

Every day.

It wasn’t hard work, but it was routine and laborious.

Comparatively, when we were docked in the Marina with guests on board, a much abbreviated version of this effort was employed, generally skipping the full scrub and finishing most surfaces with a quick wipe.

Windows were always an effort, but it was a task I was up to.

Yacht washdown

All the yachts I worked on required an extreme level of cleanliness far beyond any I have experienced before or since. If an owner were to use the head, that bathroom had to be detailed and the toilet paper neatly folded in a fan immediately afterward, Every time.

If an owner walked through the salon and left footprints on the carpet, the carpet had to be re patterned with a vacuum or raked out, thereby providing virgin territory for the next high end pedestrian.

I recall one fine day while owners were aboard, I had walked down the narrow gangway outside the main Saloon. Inadvertantly I’d bumped the glass with my freshly sunblocked elbow.  The owners noted the single smudge and requested all the windows be rewashed as a result. Of course this was done, with a smile.

Another time, owners and guests were topside enjoying cocktails and chatter when word came down that a hair had been spotted on the deck. A human hair… egads…

I was called on to remove the renegade hair.  At first I thought I was being pranked, but the captain assured me this was to be my duty.

“Alright”, I said.

Determined to keep my sense of self worth, I grabbed a bucket, soap, brush, and a hose and headed up to the top deck where the soiree was ongoing, to attend to the rogue strand.

I arrived to the grins of the revelers who had no doubt expected to see a deckhand, performing under the control of his master, bow to pick up a hair, and leave.

I made my introductions, smiling broadly, and proceeded to politely ask those in attendance to raise their feet as I sprayed water, scrubbed, and rinsed the deck. Much to their delight.

When I had finished I said my goodbyes and bid them to call if I could assist them further. They didnt.

And that’s yachting for you, the owners priorities necessarily become your own.  If they don’t, yachting may not be for you.

(to be continued)