Of all my conversations with crew, one topic of discussion that never gets old is how owners treat their crew. Whether a captain is raving about how the owner welcomes him and his crew as part of the family or a chief engineer is bemoaning the firing of crew with no notice (the latter is, in fact, a column in the latest issue of The Crew Report), there’s always something to say.

There is definitely a link between owners who love the sea and yachting and their relationship with the crew. Owners with a passion for their yacht and the yachting experience tend to surround themselves with crew who enhance the experience. Of course there are owners who enter yachting for different reasons; perhaps their yacht is purely a status symbol or they are half-hearted owners whose yacht is chartered or berthed for most of the year. Owners who aren’t particularly interested in yachting aren’t realistically going to be all too interested in their crew.

Over the years we have heard some fantastic stories of close owner-captain relationships. Benetti’s Dyna-R, for example, was built by the owner for his family, and particularly his children, and the captain’s children are always welcomed on board. Another example is captain and owner of 70m Sherakhan Jan Verkerk, who, when captain, will become one of the crew and as such truly understands their needs. When captain and owner share this mutual understanding there is a knock-on effect. We come to that old loop there: a happy owner means a happy captain and a happy crew means a happy owner, who faces little turnover and sees those familiar faces on board.

There are, of course, unhappy owners. When I say unhappy owners I don’t mean those who decide they don’t like the stewardess because she served the wrong coffee – unfortunately we’ve all heard these stories and I think there is little that can be done to change the thought process of these owners. I mean the unhappy owners who have a genuine reason to be dissatisfied, and for some them bad experiences or mistakes lead to quick dismissal, rather than a conversation.

I think it’s important that owners understand the knock-on effect that they might, and probably won’t want to, cause. Crew group together. If one goes, and goes under circumstances that could be judged as unfair, others are likely to vote with their feet. Sensible crew are unlikely to take a job on board a yacht where lots of the crew have left, meaning that the recruitment process can be difficult. An owner is likely to end up with either an inexperienced group or a group who no one else will hire – neither are particularly good options.

"All too often rapid firing and hiring is becoming the norm."
- Lulu Trask, manning editor, The Superyacht Owner

I am not suggesting owners don’t terminate the contract of a crewmember who is repeatedly not meeting expectations or is doing their job badly. But I think all too often rapid firing and hiring is becoming the norm, and I’m not sure if owners are actually encouraged by the industry to talk to their crew about problems on board.

I think the ‘quick fix’ mentality of getting new crew in is permeating the industry, but what owners don’t necessarily understand is that this ‘quick fix’ is all too likely to result in another ‘quick fix’ in a few months’ time. Instead, what if an owner talks to his or her captain or chief stewardess about what they’re dissatisfied with? All good crews understand their job, safety aside, is to please the owner. Good crews will know what they’re doing and, in most cases, I am confident they will be able to solve any problems an owner might have with regards to service, attitude, experience, itinerary – anything.

So next time an owner isn’t happy with something on board and is considering making that call to the management company, perhaps they should pause for a moment and make a call to their captain or chief stewardess. Chances are, the problem will be solved and the owner will be be greeted by those same happy faces next time they step aboard.

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