What did you do before yachting, and how did your yachting career first begin?
Before I joined the yachting industry, I was working back in Cape Town as a gymnastics coach. I had done gymnastics for many years while growing up and I stopped due to a knee injury. Years later after college I found my way back to gymnastics and ended up working for my old gymnastics coach. As much as I loved my job, I had always wanted to travel and to explore other career options.
My partner and I had a few friends in the yachting industry and we decided to take the leap and join them. My partner went over a few months before and then I eventually joined him in the South of France. After a week or two of dock walking and seeing agencies, he helped me get day work in Toulon shipyard, where he was currently working and the boat was under-going a 20 year ABS survey. We ended up working there for most of my first season. I would have to say my start in the industry was a bit unconventional but I learnt a lot from the great chief stew I had and although we never had guests onboard she took the time every day to teach me about service, laundry and all that goes along with our jobs as stewardesses.
What has been your favourite boat you’ve worked on, and why?
Hmm that’s a tough question… It’s hard to pick a favorite boat, there’s so many factors that go into that decision! Crew, owner, what the season was like and for me, the interior! I think what makes the job and boat for me is liking the interior of the boat that I’m on and taking pride in looking after it. I’ve honestly been lucky with my crew on every boat I’ve been on and I have made some great friendships as well as had some great times and hard times! I think what makes the most difference is how the crew get through those hard times together, so I’d have to say that the current boat that I’m on, which is M/Y AWOL would have to be my favorite as it checks all those boxes! We have a great crew and vibe onboard, our owner is honestly the best I’ve ever had, he really takes care of his crew and is just a pleasure to work for.
What are the best and worst parts about working onboard?
One of the best parts of working onboard for me would have to be traveling. Although as most people in the industry would know, we don’t actually always get to explore the places we go. In fact, most of the time we’re just out at sea looking at land… but that’s the part I love, being out at sea. I love going to sleep and waking up in a new destination and seeing the world from that perspective as well as being able to explore when we do get some down time. I’ve gotten to visit places I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to go, and they have ended up being some of my favorite places. A few other bests for me would have to be meeting and working with people from all over the world and the adventure of our unusual and unpredictable lifestyle that comes with the industry.
The worst part of working onboard would be, being away from my family, friends and missing my nephew growing up and all the other important events back home.
And pets! Not being able to have pets is probably one of the worst things for me.
How do you keep sane on charter?
I don’t…No I’m just kidding! I think the most important thing for me is the crew. It’s imperative to keep a positive vibe and help each other through the tough times. I find a good old vent and a decent laugh is always a great way to refresh the mind
(also it is definitely a bonus that I get to work with my best friend and partner!).
What are your best strategies for spoiling charter guests?
My strategy for spoiling guests would have to be knowing what they want before they ask for it. I like to learn how they like their coffee, tea, their favorite drink or snacks from the first day. That way I’m always two steps ahead and I think it makes the guest feel special, also just going that extra mile and always providing service with a smile.
What’s the coolest thing you have done for guests?
Themed dinner parties. I’ve done a few, but I think the one that stands out the most was the poker themed dinner party that we hosted for the owner and his friends on their final night onboard. I spent most of the day (in between all my usually duties) making decor for the evening and setting it all up. I love seeing it all come together and the excitement on the guests faces when they finally see it. I thoroughly enjoy planning and executing these evenings as it allows me to use my creative side and it gives the guests something to remember.
What is your signature cocktail?
Although I have made many, many cocktails, I personally don’t have a signature cocktail…. I enjoy making them all and experimenting.
What is your favourite yachting destination?
My favorite yachting destination that I have been to so far would have to be Corfu, Greece. The clear blue waters and green surroundings are stunning, and each side of the island has a different feel to it. We spent a few off days on our chase boat cruising around, finding little gems to have lunch and ice creams and beautiful secluded bays to relax and swim.
If you owned a superyacht, what would you do differently?
I think from a yachties point of view, I’d take an interest in my crew, making sure they’re happy… after all, they play a huge part in your experiences onboard. Interacting and building relationships with crew also helps them deliver better service.
What is your on-board pet hate?
Spacial awareness …when people stand in my way while I’m really busy and trying to work, especially in my work area for service, like blocking the door to where I basically live during charters …The pantry!
What career achievement are you most proud of?
I think one of my proudest moments was the first time I stepped up in position. Although it’s not a huge career achievement, it’s a moment I won’t forget, Been given the opportunity to grow and have more responsibility. It had also been a tough season and I had worked really hard and I think at that time, getting a promotion just made it all the more worth it and I was able to prove to myself that I could take on anything. Winning the 2019 Stew Award at the ACREW awards and being asked to be apart of this article are other things I would never have expected in my career.
Best housekeeping tip/hack?
Hmm I’d have to say Downy or any crease release and alcohol and water! If you use downy/crease release right you don’t have to iron a bed, and alcohol I feel just works the best and for so many things, also it a sanitizer as well… Personal little life hack is toothpaste! If I’m traveling and don’t have all our usual products in the laundry I usually put toothpaste on a spill and then wash it as soon as I get the chance, It keeps in from leaving a stain plus you can polish your jewelry and clean the white trims on your shoes with toothpaste!
Tell us about your funniest embarrassing moment on board.
Ha ha oh dear, it’s probably more awkward than embarrassing but I got stuck in a guest cabin with a guest…this happens from time to time, especially when we’re cleaning the showers. Unfortunately, this time the guest had walked in and started undressing before I had the chance to announce myself. I ran out apologizing as fast as I could trying not to make eye contact!
What’s your favourite adventure in Mallorca?
I haven’t spent a lot of time in Mallorca but I’d have to say my best experience there would be the food! We went to some amazing restaurants in the little time we had off there.
If you could give your 20yr old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
My advice would be to start in the Yachting industry sooner. That might sound a bit weird considering all the advice I could give my 20-year old self, but I guess I wasn’t spontaneous enough or willing to take risks and make life changing decisions at that stage. I think 20 year old me was a bit too cautious and unsure of what she wanted…
What’s your plan for the future?
Ultimately my end goal would be to take everything I have learnt in this industry and use it back home, where I’d like to start an events company with my sister and settle down with my partner of 7 years. For now, I’m just looking to grow within the industry, do some more courses and see where the sea takes me next.
Thank you for reading!
2nd Stewardess M/Y AWOL
Chief Stewardess, Giverny Elliott on Michaela’s winning the ACREW 2nd Stew Award:
“I’m very proud of Michaela and I can tell you that she is an excellent and valuable asset to the team. I have been fortunate to have many fantastic 2nd Stewardess’s however her and I are so ‘in-tune’, it really is a pleasure to work with her.