Senior Couples: It’s Tough at the Top

By on January 17, 2017

Well, it’s certainly nice to see how much of an impact last issue’s topic didn’t have on the yachting community. I’ve interviewed more young crew couples asking for “ team only ” jobs than ever before. And despite placing huge amounts of junior crew as the Med season gears up, not one of those placements has included a couple on the same yacht. Fact. Are you listening yet?

Unfortunately, the nature of this industry is not kind to couples. If you want to see each other, then take a land job. The only team jobs I’ve seen so far this year have been for super senior crew (i.e. the captain and wife team or the chief engineer and his current bird team).

So, let’s start with the captain team. Now, these captain teams work very well on those small motor or sailing vessels requiring a two man crew (usually up to about 22 meters); when the crew accommodation consists of only a double bunk then often it’s the only option. And, although we often get approached by two people who are just friends but work well together, the owner’s don’t feel comfortable with a non-couple sharing a bed. So, captain teams, you have the monopoly here.

On the larger vessels, the captain and wife team can provide a really homely “ mom and pop ” feel for the crew. They keep things running smoothly, they’re easy to talk to about any issues and sometimes the wife can actually pre-empt a problem by sorting things out with the crew before they get in trouble with the captain. Having a nice, established couple running a yacht is great for the owner, and for the crew. However, sometimes the old captain and wife dynamic can cause a little bit of a problem…

Captains, what do you do when your wife is chewing up and spitting out your crew? Unfortunately, we’re talking about the “ two captains ” scenario. The captain is, allegedly, in charge, yet the wife is the one dishing out orders — not just in her area but everywhere — and generally stressing everyone out and creating a feeling of utter unrest onboard. You can usually spot these vessels far off because the passarelle is more like a conveyor belt for the constant turnover of crew. It’s a shame these captains don’t seem to have enough in the trouser department to get their wives to behave themselves, as the end result is usually a bad reputation and a miserable crew.

Don’t get me wrong though, some captains seem to need a strong wife to take the reins up and give them a good kick up the backside. I’ve encountered the odd captain whose get up and go has got up and went, leaving behind the leadership skills of a wet dish cloth. Hardly inspiring. So, sometimes it needs the wife to chivvy up the crew and keep things going by sticking a rocket up ’em.

I had a large motoryacht that kept going through chief stewardesses like fat people go through cake, and the problem was in fact the chef. The chef being the captain’s wife, of course. It seems the chef wasn’t just in charge of the galley, she was in charge of everything. Any new chief stewardess was immediately undersized, made to feel like crap and had all authority and responsibility taken away. And it turned out the captain was too frightened of the chef to set her straight. He’d run and cower in his cabin instead. Needless to say, after discovering the truth, I stopped traumatizing my good chiefs by sending them to such a rotten environment.

I wonder if this captain’s wife syndrome is a bit like those school teachers we’ve all had? You remember the ones who were just plain evil? Then, as you grow up, you realize it was because they had absolutely no authority in real life. Other adults would walk all over them. Hence, they had to pick on little kids to get a sense of self worth.

There’s a thought: Perhaps some of the first wives club (did you like that?) are so mean and beastly to crew because they’ve never been able to command respect on land, never been able to hold positions of responsibility and the only reason they’ve got a senior job is because of their husband — who was probably bullied into marrying her by his mum who is undoubtedly another power-crazed freak with delusions of grandeur who spent her whole life making her husband’s a misery.

I’ve actually called captains for references for engineers and been called back by the wife. Come on, captains, what’s that about? I’m all for women’s lib, but when I ask her, “ So, captain’s wife, how’s his specific systems knowledge? What kind of IT kit do you run on there? Is he a bit tasty with the old Crestron systems? ” I’ve never had a decent answer yet.

Perhaps I’m just picking. Perhaps a captain couldn’t answer that either…

Speaking of the engineer, seeing as they’re so sought after, it seems these days that not only can the engineer stipulate his own terms and conditions, his leave, his rotation, his salary, his own cabin and his own fluffy wuffy towels, he can now say he’s also bringing his girlfriend and she wants a stewardess job. And the fact she’s a waitress from Hooters who, when you ask her if she has an STCW 95, says, “ No, I drive a Peugeot 206, ” is neither here nor there.

This has got to be the worst kind of team, when the engineer is super hot at his job (AND he’s social, pleasant and he even washes frequently), but the girlfriend is a total pain. The captain is torn. Obviously, he wants a happy crew and the girl is causing friction. If old cappy tells the engineer his girl’s not pulling her weight, he’ll probably lose him. It’s a toss up: replace the cherished engineer after spending three years finding the right one, or constantly replace the stewardesses who reach a point of brain meltdown with Hooters girl.

Sorry girls, you lose. The captain will probably cling to the desperate hope that the engineer will tire of her and leave her at the next port in the arms of some other poor bugger. So, until then, you’re stuck with her. And THAT’S why so many vessels won’t take teams.

About Anita Valium