When Galaxy was sold at the end of 2013, Humphries had already decided to end her 12-year yachting career and post as chief stewardess to start a family. The new owner, pleased with the experienced existing crew he had inherited, wanted Humphries to keep some level of involvement with his yacht and requested she take the lead of upgrading the interior furnishings during the winter yard period at Monaco Marine. But as the owner realised more could be done to the yacht, Humphries’ role grew to that of complete interior project manager.
In the past, Humphries has worked on new builds and refits, though not with this level of responsibility; but there is one factor of a refit that differs hugely from working in a shipyard on a new build, she believes. “New builds are started from scratch whereas refits involve the modification of something that already exists. When you’re in a shipyard on a new build, the yard provides their own project manager who oversees and takes responsibility for works, quality control and the management of external companies - they are liable for any mistakes. With an independent refit, mistakes are yours to bear. It really took my focus as the coordinator to be able to ensure that all the contractors had clear guidelines, communicated efficiently and worked together. Sometimes one company would want to push one direction and another company wanted to push another, so I really had to keep on top of everyone to make sure that individual efforts were defined and flowed together, not to waste time and not to waste money.”
Another lesson Humphries learned from the Galaxy refit was to trust her own intuition as an experienced chief stewardess and member of the superyacht industry. “I learned to follow my own instincts first. While a refit team has a common goal, people have differing methods of achieving it, so I learned to follow my gut instincts to arrive at decisions that would best suit the owner’s requirements and needs as the priority. At the same time, I had to be open minded to people’s recommendations because at the end of the day my role was to coordinate professionals and listen and try to identify the best ideas as they came in.”
“I think there’s still a bit of a stumbling block for chief stewardesses who are looking for a new career after yachting."
“Regarding working with an owner,” she adds, “I found that the best approach was to determine a clear brief, be adaptable but also decisive, to express my genuine opinions and not to mess around and be too polite as it can waste time and the focus can get lost. You are employed to do a job after all. When a decision from the owner was needed, I approached him in an organised way and presented two or three really good options that he could easily choose between, which in that short time frame really worked well.”
Humphries’ experience raises the question: is project management a viable option for chief stewardesses leaving the at-sea world of the superyacht industry? From an owner’s point of view, it certainly is. “If owners recognised a senior member of their crew who had strong team management skills and a good work ethic and were willing to take a chance on them by involving them in a project, they could get a lot more out of their crew – with the captain’s support of course.” However, problems do arise when it comes to the career transition from yachting into other professions. “I think there’s still a bit of a stumbling block for chief stewardesses who are looking for a new career after yachting. The challenge is still there; how do you make the transition into another professional field? I really benefited form having the support of a great owner and though I have met his expectations there is still no professional category that I really fall into.”
Humphries is now land-based and looking forward to welcoming a new addition to the family, but hopes to step back into the world of interior design and project management in the future. With so many stories coming from this industry of problems in the refit yard, however, Humphries can hope that her positive experience with Galaxy will stand her in good stead for the future.