On superyachts, senior crew have a wide-range of responsibilities outside of their core day-to-day roles. While larger yachts might have a purser on board to help with the administrative burden, a lot of additional work falls on the shoulders of captains and chief stews working on smaller yachts when, ideally, they would be focusing on service and safety.
Former superyacht crewmember Lottie Brawn runs a virtual assistant business focusing on working with chief stews and captains to act as an extra pair of hands on a freelance basis to offload some of the tasks that may be taking up their valuable time, such as assisting with crew flights, provisioning, and product research, to coordinating guest reservations. Having worked in all interior levels on board superyachts for three years, ranging from a 55m charter yacht to 138m private yacht, Brawn understands the unique challenges of these senior roles.
“It’s no secret that working on a superyacht can be extremely hard work,” Brawn explains. “Captains and chief stews bare a lot of the brunt of this and, in exchange for great salary and ranking, they are expected to work long hours and take on so much responsibility. For both captains and chief stews, they are having to deal with a whole Tetris system in their brain and have to untangle an absolute jumble of tasks to create a good working environment.”
While captains are the ones that have to answer to the owners, ensure the safety of the vessel and manage crew dynamics, chief stews have to manage the whole interior of the vessel to the highest standard, as well as order provisions, create inventories and handle last-minute requests. Both roles require extremely long hours in addition to always being on call in case of an emergency.
“Usually, a bigger yacht has a purser role that takes on these tasks, but there isn’t the room to have a purser on a smaller vessel, meaning that the captain or chief stew usually has to take on this role alongside all their other responsibilities.”
While yacht agents are essential for any yacht to help with organising provisioning, deliveries, contractors, customs and other logistics, captains and chief stews can’t depend on them for every additional task. “Agents are more focused on the big jobs and, even with offloading this work, captains and chief stews have a jam-packed day full of other tasks often not even finding the time to complete all of those,” adds Brawn. “The everyday running of the boat still has to be fulfilled and this can be time-consuming and stressful.”
Having the opportunity to offload administrative tasks could be extremely beneficial for any yacht. “Instead of tackling the bigger jobs, a virtual assistant can take the reins of all the ‘niggly bits’ that are essential but not a priority for captains and chief stews who are time-limited,” says Brawn. “We already know that captains and chief stews work a considerable number of hours taking on a lot of stress and, with mental health becoming more of a priority for many, especially in the maritime world, it’s time to start taking that really seriously.”
Having the access to this type of service is something that Brawn wishes she had access to when she was working on board yachts. “I understand and appreciate the expectations that captains and chief stews have and I want to able to help them to make their lives a bit easier to give them the time to focus on more important matters,” she concludes.
“That’s not saying these tasks aren’t important, but that there is only so much time in a day in order to fit all these jobs in. Usually, a bigger yacht has a purser role that takes on these tasks, but there isn’t the room to have a purser on a smaller vessel, meaning that the captain or chief stew usually has to take on this role alongside all their other responsibilities. In the bigger picture, offloading these administrative tasks means more time to focus on other tasks, meaning less stress and happier crew who work better.”
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