A breath of fresh air
With so little exterior space on a yacht allocated for crew usage, how can crew ensure adequate ‘air time’ on board?
Outdoor space on a superyacht is valuable real estate, normally dedicated to guest usage. Any extra deck space is usually earmarked for dining and entertaining, and increasingly, owners are building yachts with private deck areas that impinge on the bow area of the vessel. Traditionally, the bow of a yacht has been considered ‘crew country’, but that concept seems to be changing as on some yachts it has become an extension of the owner’s suite or guest area. When this happens, crew are even more restricted, sometimes even relegated to the tender garages and crew entrance areas of the yacht.
The importance for crew to have access to the open air cannot be overstated. As with anyone working in a stressful environment, it enables relaxation and regeneration, something Karine Rayson, director of The Crew Coach, knows only too well. “Having worked as a junior stew, the challenges associated with limited R&R and ‘air time’ came with being at anchor for long periods of time and not having the opportunity to have a change of routine or scenery,” she recalls. “The nature of working on board yachts is that you are confined to working and living in a restricted space, where work becomes home and home becomes work. Working on a superyacht, you are isolated from the outside world and obliged to strictly subscribe to the rules that govern its operations.”
Rayson says that from a psychological perspective, anyone working and living in a confined environment and restricted to specific routines for extended periods can be susceptible to spatial deprivation, possible mental- health conditions and a sense of isolation from mainstream lifestyles. “Having others control your life, telling you when you will eat, when you will get up and when you will be afforded a break interferes with your sense of autonomy to make your own choices and decisions,” she says.
As well as getting enough fresh air, exercise can be an important part of a crew’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. When on charter especially, crew are working long hours in a claustrophobic environment and they can become stir crazy and fall into unhealthy eating habits because of tiredness and fatigue. However, exercise can reverse the effects of this. Edward Thomas, director and founder of Gym Marine Yachts & Interiors, says, “Fitness in general is so popular now – it is universally recognised that exercise is a good release from tension and stress, and the benefits are particularly apt for seafarers working in enclosed spaces and high-pressure environments. As such, any kind of crew exercise facility is good for crew welfare. The commercial shipping industry, for example, is very dedicated to ensuring that crew are able to keep up a good exercise regime because of its proven ability to reduce fatigue, which in turn means better operational efficiency and safety.”
According to Gym Marine, almost all new builds over 70m are having a crew gym specified at the earlier stages of GA planning, and smaller yachts are contacting the company more frequently to try to find space for exercise equipment for crew...
Crew gyms are becoming ever-more popular in the superyacht industry; according to Gym Marine, almost all new builds over 70m are having a crew gym specified at the earlier stages of GA planning, and smaller yachts are contacting the company more frequently to try to find space for exercise equipment for crew. “There is a greater general awareness of how important health and fitness are to crew these days,” adds Thomas. “In most cases, we are finding that the crew gyms are being just as well-equipped as the guest gyms because the industry realises that it aids crew wellbeing and reduces turnover. It is interesting for us to see how engaged the crew are with the gym-design process. They are the ones actually driving how these spaces are set up, which just shows how important exercise is to crew these days.”
For a captain and crew who are keen to reap the benefits of fresh air and exercise, the possibilities are plentiful with the right attitude. “When you find yourself in situations like these, you need to use your initiative and draw upon your creativity and problem-solving skills to find solutions that will best serve you and protect you against the onset of cabin fever,” says Rayson. “Exercise is excellent for this – we would take swims off the yacht when approved, we rotated the stepper machine to do a mini workout in our cabins and the exterior team built a makeshift gym in the store room. Improving fitness levels, especially while at anchor, allows for better and safer operational efficiencies in discharging duties.”
Thomas agrees and maintains that some form of outside crew exercise space can be designed to fit around the workings of any boat. “A yacht in its natural form is one of the most perfect places to work out: it has stairs, rails, big deck spaces and is surrounded by water for swimming,” he explains. “With all the space-saving equipment available on the market now – from folding benches to adjustable dumbbells – there is no excuse for the crew not to be able to exercise. Anything can be achieved with the right equipment, space and motivation.”
It is a positive sign that many new builds and big refit projects are investing in space, design and equipment to allow for crew relaxation and rejuvenation. This indicates that owners and managers are well aware of the impact it can have on overall crew welfare and morale. While crew on larger superyachts may be spoilt in terms of outdoor space and exercise equipment, those working on smaller yachts can still make the most of what is available to them. It’s up to the management on board to instil a culture that prioritises mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Image courtesy of Gym Marine Yachts & Interiors
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