Going the Distance

Running a yacht is a huge responsibility. Heads of Galley, Interior, Deck and Engine Room provide some comfort as they are in charge of overseeing day to day tasks but the job of the Captain is to ensure the entire team dynamic is a good one.

The job of the Captain is no easy feat. You need to be certain each crew member is committed to the success and smooth sailing of the yacht. How do you do this?

Between manning your own post, delegating important duties to Heads of Department (HOD) and keeping guests satisfied; how do you find time to inspire and incentivise your crew to be the best they can be. With these 3 simple but effective techniques, you will having your crew happily bending over backwards to please the guests on board.

Yacht work requires unconventional hours, crew often perform unusual tasks and many staff have received unorthodox requests. This is the nature of the industry. How a Chef responds to a party of four demanding a dinner spread fit for thirty, or a Stewardess expected to source a bouquet of Campion flowers at 5:45 on a Sunday afternoon, for example, will speak to how successfully the Captain has briefed the crew on the importance of service. You need to ensure that you are keeping your crew motivated and eager to please from the moment your guest arrive until the last passenger boat shoes are planted safely on shore.


Teamwork makes the dream work, and if you want your crew running as efficiently as the Swiss train system there are a few things you must do.


1. Communicate.

This is the most important aspect of any relationship, professional or otherwise. As team leader you need to set goals (major and minor) for the team to reach. When crew know what they are working towards, and especially if they believe in the goal, they work with extreme proficiency. It is your responsibility to get your staff excited about working together for the success of the yacht service.

Minor goals help keep the crew motivated. If they see their efforts amounting to something it inspires them to do more. Nothing gets a disheartened person more energised than knowing they are a part of something important. Take the time to talk to each crew member. If you’re pressed for time, chat to the staff in their departments. If you make your crew feel valued and not just expendable staff they will repay you in how they treat the guests. Get everyone on the same page and you’ll notice  service improve.

NB: Make sure to check-in with your crew on a regular basis. Get them talking about what they are enjoying and what they might be having difficulties with. LISTEN. A sure way to get your crew going over and beyond for the guests is if you, as Captain, go over and beyond for them.


2. Performance Review

Conduct an end-of-season review for each one of your crew members, as well as in departments. Not only will they have a clear understanding of the importance of their job but it will also foster an environment of accountability. It is vital that crew understand that they are each responsible and answerable to their actions.  

In order for this to work you must communicate the criteria each crew member will be graded on. This must happen before service for the season begins. Crew knowing that their performance is being carefully monitored will keep them efficient and constantly on their toes. The last thing any yachtie wants is to perform badly on their review or get a bad score in comparison to their crew mates so healthy competition will only work in your favour. Your crew will want to be the best for themselves and for the betterment of the yacht.


3. Encouragement

William Hazlitt believed, “The more you do, the more you can do,” so it is important to take stock of achievements and celebrate them. When you and/or your crew experience success, no matter how big or small, pat yourselves and each other on the back for it. Progress is the goal. If you show your crew that you appreciate their effort, and that their labour is not in vain, they will keep working to please you and the guests on board.

NB: when thinking of a suitable reward consider something that will renew the crew’s energy and spirits. A special crew dinner might be nice or organise a roster for a week that allows staff have one late start at a time, so that they can lie in for a day if they’d like.


Your staff needs to know they are appreciated. Make them feel they are seen as more than just a pair of strong hands and they’ll perform over and beyond their strong hands. Similarly if you treat your crew like they are useless and incompetent without your direction and guidance, they will be.

Final word: lead by example. If you are an attentive Captain who concerns himself with the happiness of their guests, yes, but crew especially then you should begin to notice your staff mirror those attributes. Remember; the customer may always be right but the bartender keeps the drinks clean. In order to get the best service out of your staff you need to ensure that they are happy at their posts and committed to the collective goals and successes of the yacht.