Day in the Life of a Deckhand
The workload on a super yacht varies incredibly. The busiest times are in the preparation for guests’ arrival, when guests are on-board and preparing for a boat show or photo shoot. During a busy period, between twelve to eighteen hour days are quite common. While guests are on-board a seven day week with no days off is worked, even if on-board for months. Our crew worked a twelve to fourteen hour shift system.
Below is a brief summary of an average day with guests on board to give a very rough overview of a day for a deck hand.
Wake up to alarm from a very deep sleep. This for me is one of the worse parts of the day, leaving my warm bed, (narrower than a single bed) knowing my day starts here. This is when I question why I ever left work at home starting at 9am and giving me every weekend off. I peel myself out of bed and straight into uniform. I opt not to have a shower in the morning as it gives me an extra 15 minutes in bed. I shower and shave the previous evening. Men (and maybe some hairy women!) have to be clean shaven each day when are guests on-board.
I wolf down a cereal bar and head onto deck, collecting my radio (the means to communicate on-board). I radio my crew mate who is on the 00:00-04:00 shift to relieve him from his duties. The yacht has shifts covering 24 hours a day, seven days a week whilst guests are on board. At this stage I am envious of my crew mate; he is now off to bed and has an eight hour break. He discusses what is left to do on deck, and I take over.
04:00 - 06:00
The majority of the guests have returned from their evenings out, so the passerale (the walkway connecting the yacht to the dock) is raised when the last tender run is completed. (Tender runs involve ferrying guests from the yacht to wherever they wish to go).
Provided all guests are on-board the yacht will be cleaned as needed. The teak decks sometimes need a rinse but often a scrub is needed with cleaning products to remove any stains from food or salt water. It may also involve emptying and cleaning the Jacuzzi. I could also be involved in preparing the water sports room for activities that day as well as re-stocking the cooler bags with drinks and replenishing the towels outside.
The whole yacht may need to be rinsed to wash away salt spray from the previous days cruising and dried with a shammy, although hopefully my crew mate on the night shift will have done this. The tenders have to be cleaned also.
The time goes quickly. I am working on my own and as there are normally no guests around, this is the time to do the jobs that cannot be done when they are present.
06:00 - 07:30
My work colleague joins me at 06:00; starting his shift which will run until 22:00. He helps me finish any outstanding work and we then prepare for the guests once they wake.
All outside seating areas would have been covered when guests retired to prevent dew or rain damaging the cushions. Once the sun has risen we uncover the seating areas, lay out sun loungers, lay tables with magazines, sun cream, fresh water and tissues on them. We place towels rolled neatly on the chairs and loungers. The drains running around the deck are cleaned with a mop, the stainless steel is buffed with a cloth and cleaning products and all tables wiped down and polished. If the yacht had not been rinsed overnight we wipe down all the flat surfaces with a damp shammy to remove any dust or hair that has collected on these surfaces.
We aim to have everything set up and cleaned to an immaculate standard before the first guest wakes. It looks unprofessional to have water everywhere and crew carrying cleaning equipment while the guests are eating breakfast and reading their morning paper.
07:30 - 09:30
The guests often slowly start rising and the bulk of the work is now complete. We may be putting equipment away from their view or preparing to leave the dock.
09:30 - 12:00
Around this time we will often be leaving the dock so all lines will be brought on board and tidied away, fenders deflated and fender hooks put away. This keeps the main deck area tidy should guests come down, and erases any evidence of having been moored. Whilst the yacht makes its way to the days destination, we prepare for water sports activities and change into water-sports gear.
As we approach our destination for the day we drop anchor. We then set up the swim platform with all the equipment, ringos, banana, slide, wakeboards, water-skis, jet skis and launch both tenders which are placed on whips off the side of the yacht. The swim ladder is also put in place and the bumpers slotted in. We keep at least one crew member on the swim platform at all times in case a guest comes down to swim or to use the equipment.
Roughly every 30 minutes through the day the deck crew will carry out checks to ensure that all the exterior decks are tidy. This involves clearing glasses, towels, straightening cushions, topping up the jacuzzi, polishing finger marks off the stainless steel or cleaning the teak decks.
12:00 - 16:00
I am off duty though not a guaranteed if guests want to do water sports. If I do manage I will eat a quick lunch then go to my room/bunk and watch a DVD, read or sleep.
16:00 - 20:00
On-going water sports until the sun sets or guests have tired. All the water sports equipment has to be brought back, rinsed and deflated. The jet skis and tenders are also lifted on board and cleaned and the engines flushed with water. The swim platform is packed away, whips put away and the lazarette (water-sports garage at the back of the yacht) tidied. The anchors are lifted and we are underway to our next destination.
On the journey I try to take a very quick shower, change into evening uniform (long trousers and shirt) and have a bite to eat. It is then time to prepare the lines, blow up the fenders and put in place ready for docking when all the deck crew are needed.
I may not get to bed until 20:00 hours though this has been closer to 22:00 hours. I will be unlikely to get this time back and will lose sleep.
Once docked we organise a rota for passerale watch. This involves standing on the dock or yacht ensuring no undesirables enter, and keeping a tally of any guest leaving or returning. When my shift has ended I ask permission from my senior crew to retire to bed, normally around 20:00 hours, ready to begin again at 04:00 hours the following morning.
So it can be seen that a normal 12 hour day could easily creep up to 18 hours. This is not too frequent, and anything from 12 to 16 hours is commonplace.
For more information Ben has written Work on a Super Yacht: The Beginners Guide and created www.workonasuperyacht.co.uk.