How long did you work in yachting? Can you tell me about your yachting career – highlights, low points?
I had a late start in yachting after many years working in IT. I began sailing at Brighton yacht club with my best friend and spent a couple of years there at weekends. I was lucky enough to do some racing whilst I was there including the Fastnet and other RORC races. At the time I was working for Mars Inc and was persuaded by a good friend (!) that I should leave and do a Yachtmaster course. After that I joined Neilson Active Holidays as a sailing instructor. I was lucky enough then to be promoted to flotilla skipper and so my one season sabbatical from the corporate world stretched to 3 years with 2 crew running up to 16 small boats and 60 guests at peak season. The highlights of this time at Neilson were meeting my husband and other now long-term friends, having lots of fun with the guests and absolutely loving Greece. The Corinth Canal is a terrific experience with a flotilla of twenty plus boats.
After Neilson we had a ski season in France running a chalet for 19 guests. I did some courses and learned to cook for that number of people. We then went to the BVI and ran a privately-owned charter catamaran for 2 years. It was a wonderful place to be and we made some amazing friends both from our guests and other crews in the area.
Then we discovered Superyachts…first a season on 38m SY La Cattiva where I was employed as the sole stewardess. We joined this in the Caribbean and left it in Palma. That is when we decided Palma was the place for us.
After a few months break we joined 40m SY Anakena in Palma. Again, I was employed as the sole stewardess. This was a hard job when the owner and family were on board but in the main a good job. I worked with some lovely people and many of them were also ex-Neilson (some of the best super yacht crew come from a flotilla background!). We were lucky enough to call Palma our base for a while and then started a world trip which ended after a few years in Brisbane. We visited some places I either would never have been to or certainly would not have been able to spend so long in… my favourites Include Venice, St. Petersburg, Scotland, San Diego, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.
I worked for over 4 years as stewardess and then 4 years as the chef on Anakena. I absolutely loved cooking for the crew and the guests. One of my favourite cooking moments was the last-minute change of plan in Naples from “We are taking the crew out for dinner” to “the weather is horrible, let’s have a 3-course dinner on board with all the crew” so from no prep done at all for that meal to dinner for 12 in 90 minutes. All the crew got involved and helped either me with the food prep or the stew with the table prep. We may not have all eaten exactly the same food but everyone was fed well and enjoyed the camaraderie. That was definitely more my thing than cleaning and making beds!
I was very lucky working with my partner. We were able to share fantastic experiences…however other people are not so lucky and spend months away from their loved ones.
The downside of this life for me was the difficulty of seeing family and friends. When we did have holidays, they were spent visiting people, which was lovely but we didn’t often feel that we had had a break!
How did you know it was time for you to make the move to land?
It was sort of forced on me. The owner of Anakena was elderly and became too ill to use the boat, so myself, the stewardess and the deckhand were let go. That was a very sad day and I couldn’t decide if I was glad to have some time to myself or if I felt a little lost. I had been on board for eight and a half years and travelled all over the world with a lot of the same crew. It was very odd!
What was the most difficult thing about the transition?
For me the most difficult thing was no longer working with my husband every day and, of course, the change in income! I absolutely loved not having to be at work at 8am to begin with but then it was more about not having a focus or reason to get up which was a little disorientating.
What was the best thing about it?
I spent time on my house and garden (still not much of a gardener but I try). I visited friends and family a lot in the first year I was off the boat and generally had time to do some things for myself.
A cat also adopted us who is now a solid part of our family.
What do you miss most about yachting?
Many things …
I miss that exciting feeling when leaving a port to go to a new place. I miss that feeling of coming into a port after a while at sea and knowing you will get a beer or glass of wine soon!
I miss the stunning sunsets and sunrises at sea with not another boat in sight. I miss the camaraderie of being crew on a yacht, the bbqs and improptu get togethers on the dock with crews from other yachts. I miss the great moments you share with your crew that you can look back on for years afterwards. I miss being part of something that I consider to be special!
What do you do now?
I currently work for a company called Chocolate and Love. They produce the most amazing Swiss made gluten free, vegan, organic, fair trade chocolate. The summer is not the best time to sell chocolate, certainly not with some of the temperatures we have had lately, so I am ticking over until the autumn. However (shameless plug) please do contact me if you are interested in some! I am lucky enough to be able to work part time at the moment and enjoy that. It gives me time to work in the house and the garden. Also the 1 cat who adopted us now has several brothers and sisters who we either adopted or have adopted us (actually 3 more adult cats and 6 kittens to be exact)…anyone want a kitten!?
Do you have any advice for fellow yachties about going land-based?
Well if you can plan it, save some money so you can give yourself time to enjoy a break and think before diving into your next venture. Be prepared to earn a lot less money, this may not be the case, but be prepared! Take some time to think about what you like doing, what you can do and what you would like to do. Do what suits you and you will enjoy. I have learnt very recently that actually life is too short and unpredictable to do otherwise.
Thank you for reading!
Interview by Melanie Winters