Coronavirus: The experiences of a crew in lockdown
We are living in unprecedented times and people from all corners of the globe have seen a dramatic change to their way of life amidst the coronavirus – COVID-19 – pandemic. The yachting community are no exception. We are in a constant state of change, encountering new challenges every day, but we are also making new discoveries and developing ways to manage this crisis together.
We recently caught up with 3 crew members from the Clear Ocean Pact network, to discuss their experiences and the challenges they are facing during the current lockdown, and to share their tips and advice for crew members who find themselves in similar situations.
Our crew members
Lauren Loudon, Chef currently onboard MY Sandalphon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (LL)
A member of ‘The Superyacht Chef’, a community hub for chefs in yachting (SYC)
Genevieve Grant, Chief Stew currently onboard MY DEDE in Toulon, France
How has the current situation affected your crew experience?
LL: We’d dropped off the owner after a 3-month stretch onboard – we had an Easter charter to look forward to as a change of scenery and a break thereafter. This was obviously cancelled so we had to try to adjust our plans accordingly, and still get the boss to go home as he continuously changed his mind with wild ideas of “riding this out in the Caribbean”. A growing number of news articles, worrying stats and strong words of advice from the captain swayed him to eventually head back to his home in Germany. We left the dock in St Thomas an hour after we dropped the owner off and did a 5-day trip to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived into the crisis that is happening and have been quarantined onboard ever since. We’d planned on coming to Fort Lauderdale to do some work over the summer, but with the owner being from Germany, he decided that he would rather have his boat near to him. So we are shipping her over to Holland to get the work done over there instead, while we will wait this out and find out what the options will be for our next cruising schedule.
SYC: It has been pretty crazy for a lot of crew. Many have lost their jobs as boats shift to keeping on essential crew only, and a lot of crew are locked in ports around the world. We have heard of a few boats with guests still on (imagine!!), and there were a few crew who are just working as usual in yard periods. Everyone has found themselves in limbo and unclear about their future with a lot of unanswered questions. Are we all crossing? Are we stuck stateside? No one really has the answers yet and the season is so close to kicking off.
GG: It has been quite an easy shift moving into the quarantine period with the crew onboard MY DEDE as we are all pretty tight knit and family orientated so everybody gets along which helps a lot.
What have been the key challenges? How have you adapted to meet this?
SYC: I think a big issue for many boats was flying crew in and out who were on rotation. Dealing with constant flight cancellations and changes has been challenging. Getting provisions onboard has been a nightmare too.
GG: The main challenge has definitely been with keeping busy during this time. We have adapted to this by training every morning before work for an hour, which has been a fun way to keep active and fit. We try and do lots of things to pass the time including playing a few board games, studying and barbecuing as a crew some weekends. We have just recently purchased a basketball net to play after work or on weekends.
LL: Unwinding after guest trips is always very important. Giving the crew time to get off the boat, regroup and find balance in daily yacht life without guests on is key to everyone’s wellbeing and to the morale onboard. Arriving into Fort Lauderdale may seem like the promised break we all needed, but it’s not quite the same when you can’t get off the boat, wander aimlessly ashore, lay mindlessly on a beach for a day, see friends that are docked right by you or, just do anything else with the sense of freedom that we so desperately crave.
Have you got any advice or tips for other crew members who are in a similar situation?
GG: Regarding food and hygiene, make sure you’re always washing your hands. When provisioning, have a wash station set up before entering the boat, where you disinfect everything before bringing it onboard. Regarding mental health, I received a great tip which has really helped me: That whenever you’re feeling anxious, just spend 5 minutes taking a few deep breaths and repeating “This is only temporary, everything will be ok”.
LL: The best way I’ve found to manage this is to get myself into a routine. Being the chef onboard, I’ve used the time to practise new recipes, play with ingredients, get creative with the dry stores and try out different dishes or bakes. I’ve been making a point of doing a nice sit-down crew dinner at least once a week where the stewardess will set the table nicely, I’ll plate the food and we will wear real clothes, you know, ones that aren’t meant for the gym or uniform! I also find it important during this time to keep my body moving. I’m big into yoga so I’ve been doing virtual classes through Zoom at least three times a week and trying to run where I can in between.
SYC: I think crew should be really aware of how they are consuming media. Don’t overdo it. Don’t get too stressed out about the way things are being portrayed. Question the credibility of what you are seeing before you share it. There is way too much conspiracy theory stuff flying around about it all, and some of that is more irritating than the actual coronavirus facts! Crew should check in with themselves and each other and not be afraid of asking for help if they need it. Stress levels can shoot up, especially with crew members who are super close to family and who are now stuck on a boat on the other side of the world. So many people are struggling. but there are professionals you can reach out to if you need it. Also, I’ve found the Headspace app a godsend!
Many people have talked about learning or discovering something about themselves or their environment amidst all the challenges. Is this something you can relate to?
LL: I feel that this time is testing everybody’s patience. Being two couples onboard, we are certainly beginning to feel the tensions building and heat rising where, under “normal” circumstances, they wouldn’t. On the other hand, it has created a true sense of unity. I have seen people coming together through social media that wouldn’t usually and I personally have enjoyed being able to connect with others, especially with other chefs in the same position. There was an Instagram challenge going around amongst yacht chefs to post their crew lunches, which really forced the creative juices to flow and allowed space to offer out and receive inspiration on so many levels. That’s the kind of positivity we need to get us all through this.
GG: I have definitely learnt that there is always a positive to any situation and it’s all about finding that positive and focusing on it. A big positive I have found is that you can finally hear the birds singing in the morning without the shipyard machinery functioning from morning until evening. I now also have so much time to study online courses online that will benefit me and my career.
SYC: There are some great online courses available for chefs, we have listed them on The Superyacht Chef website. Head to www.thesuperyachtchef.com if you want to use this time to expand your knowledge!
GG: I challenge everybody reading this to write 5 positive things that they have discovered since the lockdown was implemented. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
SYC: Stay safe!!
LL: We’ve got this – togetherness will get us through.
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We are thinking of all crew far and wide who are separated from family and their homes right now. We will get through this together.
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