Engineer Ian Claproth and his partner, bosun Dietlind Schirmer, contacted The Crew Report, raising some interesting questions about crew couples on board, hoping to reach the wider industry with their queries and concerns.

Crew couples is a topic often discussed within this industry, and one The Crew Report has investigated in great detail (see issue 63), however one factor within this arena that is often overlooked is the gender stereotyping of on-board roles within the couple, and this was an area touched upon by Claproth and Schirmer when they contacted The Crew Report.



“Irrespective of your attitude towards ‘Mr and Mrs’ on board, one cannot fail to note that the vast majority of couples’ jobs that are advertised are looking for a couple where the male partner is a skipper or engineer and the female partner is in an interior role,” outlined Claproth. “The captain/chief stew, captain/chef or engineer/stew partnerships appear to be the common combinations that captains are looking for, but is the industry simply missing out by doing so?”

And when we look at the progression of the industry, today we are seeing many more women in positions on board that, in the past, have been known to be occupied by men. “Women are now to be found employed throughout all departments of a yacht and no longer confined to the traditional interior roles. More and more women are to be found on deck, on the bridge and in the engineering department and this can only be seen as a step forward for the industry. So why aren’t employers asking for a female navigating officer and her chef de cuisine husband? Or a female engineer and her deckhand boyfriend?
Why is the female half of the couple almost always a stew? Imagine a captain who needs, for example, an engineer, two deckies and a stew at the same point in time; is there really only one possible couple within that group?” posed Claproth, who answered his own question: “I think not.”

Yet this is an attitude that has been adopted by the industry. “As an engineer and bosun couple we are a little perplexed by the lack of variation of required professions within the limited number of couples’ positions advertised.

“Moreover, having worked on two of our previous vessels together, we believe that as a couple we offer increased stability and what we offer as a couple outweighs the sum of our individual assets. We are, however, struggling to find a couples’ join that employs both of us in our chosen fields. It seems as if we may well be limited to accepting individual rules and being separated – a situation which seems unnecessary and one which dilutes our potential combined offerings to the prospective employer.”


"More and more women are to be found on deck, on the bridge and in the engineering department and this can only be seen as a step forward for the industry. So why aren’t employers asking for a female navigating officer and her chef de cuisine husband?"



So, yet again, it appears responsibility falls upon recruitment agents to remove this burden overshadowing the couples in our industry. “Perhaps employers and agents need to rethink their attitude towards the professional composition of couples in the industry in order to benefit from the greatest flexibility in recruitment and employment when looking to populate a yacht with the best crew for the vessel, owners and guests.”

In concluding their conversation with The Crew Report, Claproth and Schirmer added: “We would both be very interested in comment s from couples, agents and employers who may shed some light on this matter. If it makes one skipper rethink his crew recruitment policy and comment positively then we will be content.”