The Yacht Crew Coach
Ahoy. Thank you for making it this far. Let me tell you a little bit about my journey. I am a Saffa for my sins. I only have a Green Mamba (South African passport) but that hasn't stopped me from travelling to all 7 continents (6 on boats!). My passion for travel was ignited by my father, who was an airline pilot. I have ticked over 60 countries off my bucket list and I hope to one day reach the 100 club.
I embarked on my yachting career in 2006 after graduating from university (I studied a Bachelor of Business Science in Law, Accounting and Economics at UCT). I also completed a Post Grad a few years later in Management, focusing on Tourism.
I was a Chief Stewardess for 6 years before my harassment of crew agents finally paid off and one very special agent landed me my first Purser gig. I had been trying to progress to Purser for years because of my accounting and legal background. When I was eventually a Purser I missed the variety of being a Chief Stew and of course the interaction with people (although sometimes this was my favourite part of being a Purser - I was a department of one).
I worked on some of the most prestigious and busiest yachts in the industry and am no stranger to pulling 18-hour days for days on end. I am a perfectionist but have come to realise that sometimes finished is better than perfect.
Pleases and Thank Yous
I have a large network of captains, pursers, chief stews, chief officers, engineers, chefs, crew agents, yacht agents and one heli-pilot that I rely on for support (the heli-pilot is the kookiest of the lot but also the one who makes me laugh the most!).
When I was managing teams, I believed strongly in personality profiling and used to have the team do a quick test online. 16 Personalities is a simplified (and free) version of the famous Myers-Briggs test and gives a good insight into what makes people tick.
My profile is ENTJ (The Commander), which means I do not need 'pleases and thank yous' and efficiency is my number one strength; I love a good SOP and checklist. It also means that I can be very tough and results driven, which can be unpleasant for the team members who are more sensitive and emotional. However, if you sit down and discuss all your personality types and how they interact with each other and assess how each person needs to be spoken to or how they prefer their feedback to be given it makes it a much more pleasant environment on board.
I once had an introvert on board who didn’t like going out with the crew. The other girls used to get offended and think that she didn’t like them or approve of them. When I explained that because she is an introvert she needs time to recharge alone, whereas extroverts get energised by being around people. I am sure you have all met someone who drains your energy and someone who gives you energy! Once they understood this they accepted it and allowed her the time to rejuvenate alone without being offended.
You grow or you die
When I had decided that I wanted to be a purser I had to choose between doing the purser course through The Crew Academy or doing a whole year intensive diploma in Superyacht Management through the Maritime Training Academy. I chose the latter because I felt that the Superyacht Management Diploma was a lot meatier (and despite having more information it worked out more cost effective too!). I don’t regret it but it was super challenging doing it whilst working on board too. Luckily the boat was in the shipyard for 8 months so it was a little easier than if we were busy on charter.
I knew from a young age that I had a passion for helping other people. When I was in High School I was a LifeLine Counsellor and mentored younger students. I love learning (hence the many degrees and diplomas) but I also love teaching! To quote Tony Robbins "you grow or you die!"
My coaching journey started many years ago. I have been mentoring stewardesses and new Chief Stewardesses for years. I watched a series of videos when I was at FLIBS in 2017 in which Tony Robbins made these amazing transformations with people and I learnt that he had a Life Coach training school (he talks about it in his Netflix documentary 'I Am Not Your Guru'). I enrolled immediately and was devastated that he was running one of his seminars in West Palm Beach whilst I was there, but I was working so hard I could not attend.
The coach training I received in the Core 100 is world class and has helped me immensely in my own personal life. All of Tony Robbins’ strategies are based on Human Needs Psychology and understanding how a person meets their six needs on a daily basis.
Once you understand this things just click into place. You understand why your captain insists that everyone address him as Captain over the radio or why some crew enjoy doing the same tasks (like only being in the housekeeping department) and why some enjoy rotating through jobs. This is important too because you want to play to your team’s strengths. There is no point in hiring someone who likes variety in a role that would have them only doing service or housekeeping.
Play to your team's strengths
Once you also understand that for some people growth is important you understand that longevity is an absolute soul-destroying thing for them. I am one of those people and once I have learnt all I can on board and created all the SOPs I can and have the boat running really well I feel like my work is done and time to hand over the reins. However, yachting places this HUGE emphasis on longevity over experience. I worked with a purser who had been working in the same position for 5 years. I felt that she was not very efficient because she had not experienced other systems and only knew one way of doing things. She was a great purser don’t get me wrong but because she valued certainty and security it meant that learning and growth were not present and she did not adapt well to new situations.
Happy Chief Stew happy crew ;)
So, you see how important it is to understand people. What makes a yacht unique is the crew. A happy crew means happy guests (I also say happy chief stew, happy crew).
Yacht management companies and owners sometimes treat their most precious resource as if they are expendable and whilst I agree that EVERYONE is replaceable and not every yacht is the right fit for every crew member, yachts should be encouraging team work and a happy environment on board because ultimately it saves them money through saving on recruitment costs and also the cost of having to train new people all the time. All that great knowledge that is learnt about the owner, repeat clients, systems and inventories is lost when there is a high turnover. It is kind of a no brainer.
I have been through some pretty challenging experiences in my 36 years on this planet (high-jacked at gun point, kidnapped in a taxi (I fought my way out and jumped out of a moving car in the middle of the night despite having my hands cable-tied and being at knife point), falling pregnant and not being able to tell anyone until I was back on board for fear of being fired before I returned, having an emergency C-section 4 weeks early and feeling every cut of the scalpel before they put me under general anaesthetic and losing so much blood I needed a blood transfusion).
Being happy is a choice
Despite all the crazy things that have happened to me in my life I am one of the most positive, happy people I know because I see everything as a learning experience. You either win or learn is my motto (it is also because I value growth!).