As the UK enters day two of official lockdown and the challenges it brings, it has certainly brought a newfound respect for the European countries entering the second week of these measures.
While some have been lucky enough to seek refuge working from home amongst friends or family, for many members of the superyacht industry, their workplace is also their home for a large proportion of the year.
Captain Lars Hojegaard first entered the industry when he was 17, and having worked on a variety of much larger vessels, is now based in Livorno managing crew on board a 35m Benetti.
“I always have to think of my crew. I want them to be safe, I don’t want anyone on board to become infected and it is my responsibility to protect them,” he says. “It has been pretty tough working here in Italy; it was very clear that morale was low even before everyone stopped working.”
Hojegaard is currently managing the winter team of five crew, which he doesn’t see increasing any time soon: “why would you start hiring when you don’t know when things will return to normal?”, he asks, rhetorically.
“End of March, beginning of April is normally when work starts for seasonal crew. I think a lot of crew - especially those from South Africa and Australasia that returned home for low season - are quite frustrated currently. Sadly, our industry is not unique and there have been many other businesses laying off staff too.”
“We are trying to remain positive on board,” he continues. “ The warranty works have been put on hold until 3rd April but we still have work that can be done on board. We are taking advantage of this time to get some extra crew training in – today we are undergoing some first aid training and we have also been refreshing fire and other emergency drills – training can often easily be neglected during busy periods so we are finding a positive in that.
"We are taking advantage of this time to get some extra crew training in"
Hojegaard says, under such unprecedented conditions, the challenge is maintaining a sense of normality while observing due diligence and best practice.
“When work starts again at the yard, we will have at least three weeks worth of work to finish. However, the owner has pushed back the start of his cruising schedule until June now, so the summer season looks to be much shorter than anticipated.”
While in normal circumstances being stuck on board with limited access to life ashore wouldn’t seem ideal, the contained environment of the yacht could now be one of the safest places to be during this pandemic.
In terms of how they are keeping themselves entertained, Hojegaard ensured at the start that his team of five have adequate Internet access. “When we saw the direction that the country was heading in, we bought lots of 4G sim cards with 100GB of data – we wanted to ensure we had Netflix here!
“It’s fairly relaxed on board. I’ve heard of some captains enforcing movie nights and formal dinners on their crew, but I prefer to let them choose. We do all eat and cook in the galley together, however.
“There has been suggestion of a poker tournament. However, this could be dangerous in a confined space!” he jokes.
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