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The Perfect Charter Yacht Guest

Working aboard charter yachts, from 60 feet to 247 feet, as a chef and stewardess, you get to meet a broad range of nationalities, sexual persuasions and religious beliefs. Frances Howorth looks at those who choose an all inclusive crewed yacht holiday afloat as she searches for the “Perfect Guest”.


Yacht Charter Guest

I have been amazed, embarrassed, ashamed, and delighted by the variety of attitudes charter guests exhibit towards crew who try to indulge the whim of every guests far exceeding 5 star hotels ashore. Some became good friends with whom we retain contact. Others, just a handful, feature on our “never again list” and there is a large group in the middle that could have made life so much easier for crews and enjoyed their vacation more if only they had a little guidance.


Before chartering it is essential to choose fellow passengers carefully, even 150 feet of luxury is not large enough to escape the party bore, nor is it the place to go to finalize divorce arrangements as one couple did. That was both awkward and embarrassing for Chief Stewardess to be the recipient of intimate details of the marriage from the wife and no better for the Captain who learned a lot more than he wanted to, from the husband. Every meal was an agony for the crew; starting with an argument over food and timing ending at the table with the stewardess relaying messages between warring parties. The bitterness affected the cohesion of the whole crew after a week; and the chef and the first officer, who were courting at the time, split up shortly afterwards.


Size matters, the larger the yacht, the larger the crew, and the more they can achieve. If the perfect vacation involves overnight passages or long days of sailing, don’t expect a small yacht with a crew of two to give full service at all hours, on the other hand if you want a hands on experience choose the smaller sail boat. If you really want to upset a small crew, where the chef is also the chief mate and needs every moment to prepare the next meal, all you have to do as you near the end of a long days sail is say; “Let’s sail a little longer before we go in.”


Charter Yacht Guests

Where to Cruise
Whilst charter brokers frequently offer ideas on where to go, only the yacht’s captain can best say what is really possible for a particular yacht. There are factors other than just distance involved, the cruising speed of the yacht is important, and it is no good setting ones heart on a destination if the yacht is too deep to get there. On long charters; chefs may need to re-provision making anchoring off deserted beaches every night impossible, unless the yacht has a very large tender or helicopter. Talk to the Captain, ahead of time and during the charter, planned itineraries are not written in stone. In the Caribbean; one party had so much fun on Dominica they decided to stay there rather than sail further to St Lucia. After talking to the Captain he arranged an inter-island flight at the end of the charter to connect with their international flight away from St Lucia. They were a really happy bunch but not so another group, who plodded on stolidly, despite bad weather and in the end one aggrieved member of the party actually left early vowing never to go sailing again.


Charter Yachts Guest

Preference Sheet
Filling out preference sheets for each guest can be boring but it is so important if you plan to eat aboard. Provisioning in many parts of the world is difficult and even back home it takes time. If chefs do not know about some special dietary requirement they will have to go shopping after guests arrive and still may never be able to get the item. Be honest when filling out the form, one guest completed it for everyone in her party stating no desserts because she was dieting, the rest of the group were devastated the first night when no sweet course was served! Another guest had a very fussy child and gave the chef a detailed list of the few items he would eat. The chef made heroic efforts calling upon all her contacts finally locating all the items, despite being in a very distant part of the world, then the guest arrived with a suitcase full of the special items. It is always helpful to contact the crew with last minute requests, but perhaps the new recruit to AA should not have left it until Christmas Eve to request non-alcoholic wine, just hours before she arrived on board, the shops in St Lucia were already closed for the holiday season.


What to Pack
Storage space aboard a yacht is at a premium. Unless you are chartering a 200 foot yacht, resist the temptation to pack solid luggage, instead use soft sided bags instead. Crew find it a total nightmare to stow a cargo of rigid suitcases out of the way. There are no rules about what to wear for dinner, after all it is your yacht. If you really haven’t got what you need, use it as a great excuse to buy something new when you get there! Docked stern to in St Tropez might need a change of clothes every hour or so but in the Caribbean it is definitely a case of; less is best. Arriving without luggage lost by an airline, one group were not reunited with their bags until they returned a week later. Undaunted they brought a few tee-shirts and a swimming costume a piece and never missed their baggage.


Be Considerate and Understanding
To really upset the stewardess do everything mother told you not to! Dump wet swim wear on sofas, lie on beds wearing dirty shoes and spill red wine on white silk cushions should all do the trick. Accidents happen, and telling a crew member immediately and saying sorry, really does help, most large yachts happily do laundry of personal items, but delicates and dry cleaning take a little longer, don’t expect a one hour turnaround and try not to take advantage and arrive with a bag full of dirty clothes as one guest did.


Chefs love to cook and most really adore chartering because it gives them a chance to show off their talents, but there are a few golden rules to ensure a happy galley. Tell the chef as soon as possible if you are planning to eat ashore or want extra people to join you for a meal. Take the time to visit the galley, with permission, or invite the chef to visit with you then tell them how much you appreciate the food.


Given time, most ingredients are available, so ask if there is something you fancy to eat, but even the best chef may be defeated if the item you desire is out of season. Whatever else you do; resist the temptation to copy the actions of one charter guest who just as he was plating up rare fillet steak told the Chef he was popping ashore for half an hour before dinner. The smile Chef gave the guest would have done credit to a shark.


Yacht Charter Guests

Crew Guest Relations
Remember the magic words; please and thank you. Good crew always give 100% but to get that extra little bit; be nice, it really works. Guests pay for and can expect service but not slavery. On a large yacht, crew and guests live apart and do not mix socially, smaller yachts are very different and generally crew and guests mix all the time, socialising and eating together. Imagine the surprise of one crew aboard a small 60 foot sailing yacht lying quietly at anchor in a little Caribbean bay when, having ensured nothing was required, went for a quick freshening dip in the sea, only to be told by a guest that he preferred the crew kept to the starboard side while the guests swam on the port side! Young children and yachts are not always an ideal mix, sailing can be very boring for children unless they can be involved in some way and that is impossible on a large yacht. Remember crew have lots to do and rarely have time to act as nanny, so bring your own if you want a quiet holiday. Older children generally love the water and there is usually at least one crewmember trained to teach water skiing, sailing etc.


Charter Yacht Guest

Brochures may show calm seas and blue skies but reality can be different and mal de mere can be a problem for even the strongest stomach. Remember to bring your favourite medication and never follow the example of one guest who used the cookie jar as bucket, especially bad when the cookies were freshly home-baked. This wasn’t helped when the guest then asked the chef where to put the results and was surprised when she got an honest answer.


Where a yacht vacation was wonderful you will want to show your appreciation as you depart with a tip for the crew. The better charter brokers will have told you what is normal but remember wages of most charter crews, like waiters, reflect the tips that are expected. Try to give cash to the Captain to distribute, Stewardesses gave the most visible service, but the yacht would not have gone anywhere without the hard work of the engineers, whom you may never have really seen. Some people are very generous, some very mean. A good tip is not what we fondly remember one regular charter guest for, though he was always very generous, it was the surprise gift he sent just days after one charter ended. In a large package sent down from the States were a complete set of charts and pilot books for the east coast of America given because he knew we were planning our first visit to that coast a few months later.


Written By Frances Howorth


Frances Howorth holds a Yachtmaster Commercial Licence and is a highly experienced chef and chief stewardess. She is a regular contributor to Yachting Magazine and has been sailing with her husband for the last twenty five years crewing aboard luxury private and charter yachts, both sail and motor boats, from 60 feet to 240 feet. Their voyaging has taken her to Africa, North and South America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, India and plenty of islands in between, including Tristan de Cunha, St Helena and the Maldive Islands. Frances is the co author of the books: The Grab Bag Book, The Sea Survival Manual, The Professional Yacht Log Book and The Bridge Procedures Guide.






Written and Photos By Frances Howorth

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