A Crew Reflection on a Year of Adaptation

By George Bains

2020 has been a challenging year for all involved in the superyacht industry, not least the thousands of crew members who have been at the front line and faced with adapting quickly to a new world. Jack Hunting has been working onboard superyachts since 2014, and shares his experiences of how the global pandemic has impacted the way in which superyachts operate.

A passion for yachting and thirst for adventure first led Jack into the superyacht industry as a fresh school leaver. Since then, Jack’s exploits have seen him tour the Mediterranean, Caribbean, USA and Canada as a watersports instructor onboard private and charter superyachts between 50 and 85 metres. Currently at bosun rank and working towards his Officer of the Watch <3000GT, Jack has worked on renowned superyachts including 82m Alfa Nero, 115m Luna and 85m Pacific.

At the beginning of 2020, Jack was part of the award-winning crew onboard charter superyacht Arience. Now in the Caribbean for the winter charter season with 50m Turquoise yacht Mosaique, Jack gives an insight into what the last year has been like for crew…

New Measures

The yachting industry has had to adapt to measures against COVID by focusing impeccably on the health of the crew and ultimately the guests and locals in the places they visit. These implications have been stringent across the yachting fleet throughout 2020 as a matter of responsibility, but for charter yachts there is added incentive to maintain a completely sanitary environment.

Yacht crew are being tested frequently. It is mostly a simple process to carry out onboard as quarantining is easily enforced thanks to the facilities and space on a superyacht. Having provisions delivered to the boat and disinfected before being brought on is pretty much as controlled as consumption could be, and constant temperature screening of the crew helps to monitor the possibility of an outbreak.

I’ve seen UV lamps being put in AC ventilation to stop the virus circulating around the boat. Homemade scented hand sanitiser and personalised face masks are examples of there always being room to add the ‘superyacht touch’.

Travel limitations for crew have been put in place by some yachts, encouraging crew on rotation to extend time off during times of peak infection and asking crew already onboard to continue to push through. Rather obviously, a yacht has the ability to move anywhere there may not be as much COVID presence.

Charter Impact & Shipyard Safety

A lot of charters were cancelled due to uncertainty with travel restrictions, however, when things opened up in the summer I think the constantly adapting measures on yachts will have influenced the sale of charters to clients who have either never before or rarely chartered a yacht, thanks to the isolated and adaptable environment onboard compared to land-based vacations.

Privately-owned yachts, with less incentive, have been less busy and many spent the winter and summer in hibernation with skeleton crew. It must be said that the yachting industry hasn’t been unscathed by the world climate as it usually is, and there have been plenty of lay-offs. Many crew who kept their jobs have often experienced a more airtight and controlled environment with strict socialising rules or confinement to the vessel.

Before it was even possible at the beginning of the year to charter in the majority of cruising areas around the world, I think the shipyard side of the industry did pretty well for business. I noticed many yachts extended their time on the dry dock to capitalise on efficiency and make the most of the time to get engineering and maintenance works done. Rybovich Superyacht Marina and Shipyard in Florida, for example, was completely full in the months from February to May/June.

Industries worldwide have had enormous repercussions and it would be false to say that the yachting bubble has been airtight. The impact of all the restrictions, actions and knock-on effects from COVID on crew welfare is very mixed. Many crew have had their lives affected by the loss of employment, some crew have barely been able to leave their vessel al year, and many like myself have had the good fortune of being docked up among great yachting facilities which undoubtedly softened the blow of being confined to a marina.

Aside from the inevitable horror stories arising from COVID, my experience this year is that morale has very much stayed intact because most yacht crew appreciate the job security, a lifestyle in safe surroundings, lockdown with young likeminded people and in most cases having the financial support to be as safe as possible. There’s a lot of encouragement that can be brought out of the success of many yachts from the relatively busy summer and winter season, so at the moment everyone is just keeping the spirits high, with high hopes to travel and thrive in business! All while staying safe!

A Look Ahead

It seems the fate of the current winter season is still unknown beyond one week in advance at the moment. The usual names on the yachting circuit are travelling in their hordes between the Med and the Caribbean ready to operate, but the verdict on how busy the charter season will completely depend on local regulations.

I’ve been in Antigua for two weeks where the marinas are approaching capacity – plenty of boats arriving but many are standing by to see what rules come into place. These rules are ever-changing as charters hang in the balance.

Yachts travelling off the beaten path always have an alluring selling point, and now of all times, their destinations may benefit from looser restrictions than in the popular hotspots. I think there’s just a question of provisioning: remote islands have understandably redistributed the resources that yacht provisioners would usually get a portion of, and channelling them towards making sure the locals are not short of supplies which is of course a priority. It’s also great to see yachts going one step further and bringing supplies to remote places that need it. Notably, Yacht Aid Global among others are strong advocates for the industry giving back.  

"The impact of all the restrictions, actions and knock-on effects from COVID on crew welfare is very mixed."

Jack Hunting, crew M/Y Mosaique

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"The impact of all the restrictions, actions and knock-on effects from COVID on crew welfare is very mixed."

Jack Hunting, crew M/Y Mosaique
By George Bains
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