Captain Massimo Marras, Vulcan 46
Nowadays it is not uncommon to see couples working together on the same yacht, and it is not uncommon to see new couples forming among crewmembers of the same yacht. I have been working with my partner for eight years and we have been lucky up until now because it has never been a problem; but we know not everywhere is the same.
Crewmembers are traditionally employed as individuals. When captains, managers or recruiting agents have two individuals in front of them that are linked, it is possible that they can focus on the ‘benefits’ that the couple require, particularly in terms of accommodation and privacy, something difficult to find in a yacht. Furthermore, there is also about risk that if one of them will quit the job, the other one will follow.
But the success of a couple that are employed on board depends solely on the behaviour of the couple and the tolerance of the rest of the crew. A couple well integrated with the rest of the crew can perform the job normally, like everybody else and generally a couple consider more the yacht like a ‘home’ building up extra good feeling about the yacht.
Also, sometimes a middle-aged couple can represent, for some of the younger crewmember, the source of advice to their problem. This can help in maintaining a good environment on board. I think that a wise, hardworking and calm couple on board can be a secure and stable point for the owners and an example of crew longevity.
Captain Gordon Jamieson, Double Haven
We don’t have a policy for no couples on board but are just not set up for it properly. This 51m Feadship is of the era where crew cabins are shared; six cabins with two per room and the problem then is that you either need to have at least two couple or a male and female sharing a cabin. Many are not bothered by that co-share idea, however, when asked whether I would consider a female chief mate the last time we were searching, my concern was that she may have no problem about sharing with the chief engineer, and he may also have no problem with the concept, but that his girlfriend would.
Lots of yachts have couples and they are happy with the. Usually the captain who thinks it’s fine is also one of the people coupled up – I personally really enjoyed running a yacht with my wife for four years as the experiences were greater shared and the stresses eased by the close company. A lot believe that it mellows out the binge drinking and partying of the crew and that people are more likely to be settled. However, it almost happens by definition that when one goes they both do, so it’s possible to lose two important crewmembers at the same moment. When our chief mate left with the chief stewardess, both departments lost their leadership at the same time with very little notice.
Work is the great aphrodisiac and relationships do happen when people live and work together; I know of lots of couples on boats that met their partner on a boat. But I have seen third stewardesses turning their nose up at the chief stewardess because the third was shacked up with the chief engineer and he was deemed indispensible, so she thought she was untouchable.
Another aspect that can gripe those not coupled up is that it is a constant reminder that they are not with their partners – who may not be in yachting – especially if those coupled up are ‘touchy-feely’ in the crew mess. Plus, as happened to a friend when he was an engineer on a yacht with three couples, they always wanted him to cover watches so they could be together.
Yachting has changed greatly in my time; some crew now can’t cope if there isn’t VSAT for Facebook and newcomers to boats now expect conditions that used to only come with seniority of experience. So whether it works or not, having couples and multiple couples is most likely going to be more common in the future. My feeling is it really ought to be mutually beneficial to the couple and the running of vessel, call me a dinosaur for thinking that it out to be beneficial for the boat too. But if it means that considerations of watch schedule, vacation planning etc. mean the necessity for the boat to go short or have to cover with extra crew, the advantage of the couple themselves must be worth it.