Another entry from the painfully entertaining trinity of Bassboats, GoPros and Bumpkins…
Another entry from the painfully entertaining trinity of Bassboats, GoPros and Bumpkins…
We’ve noted previously that yachting is an industry of illusion, a performance of exceptional tourism even it’s most devoted participants merely indulge and one the people who order for those fantastic dream machines can but visit. To say that something is an illusion is not to denigrate it or its practitioners. In the case of yachting, many excellent crew reach a level of performance where they can appreciate their work as both a calculated science and an art with equal mastery. The problem is that this reality only makes for an “interesting” documentary. It’s not terribly exciting. Perfection never is.
The struggle toward it can itself be exciting, the ingenuity that people manage, the keen sense of anticipation and that moment where the guests are completely astounded, offhandedly suggesting that a cold beer would be the perfect finish to an afternoon of waterskiing as you reach into the cooler in the tender and proffer an ice cold bottle. It’s rewarding when you’re in the midst and to the casual viewer is a vicarious glimpse into the very height of the leisure industry, a video post card in some sense.
The natural remedy (for entertainment purposes at least) is to instill drama, personal conflict, power struggles, imminent disaster and all the other tacks of reality tv. Not that certain yacht crews would ever need a script, let alone a camera crew; it’s all there if a little more subtle. Unfortunately, this obscures the truly fascinating aspects and conflicts of yachting under the Bravo gloss. Below Deck as a series may be maturing but it’s still fallen a little short of the real adventure. Which is precisely why we thought to write the Bight.
The Bight is not representative of the dedicated crew who make up the yachting industry, it takes its cues, a lot of humor and stories from yachting but a good story has to escape the folklore of the pub. A good story should endeavor to give reality to what the job really demands of crew. It should show what it is like living between extremes: not having a life then suddenly indulging what would normally have been impossible, living with a glamorous image that everyone enjoys against the gritty reality of it, the want of real connection when you may leave at a moments notice and be left only with skype, being a servant to the people who control the world and suddenly having a similar sense of control over your own life. So what happens to someone negotiating a struggle few engage and even fewer describe?
Yea, that’s what we thought.
The story of what happens when you remove yourself from normal and wander into the capital W world, to live and work with every variety of foreigner, to appreciate people for their innate character outside the game of culture, to have ones conception of the planet at once shrunken and exponentially increased?
It’s the stuff of great fiction, of people trying to forge lives between borders, languages, cultures, economies and the whims of the 1 percenters!
And it has to be done, because if there is one thing we learned from yachting, there is no such thing as No.
It should be fairly obvious to even the most casual viewer of Below Deck that they will give money to anyone these days. While there is something reassuring to see the mildly wealthy are not that much removed from the typical self-proclaimed middle classer, it betrays something deeper.
This new class of moneyed tourist seems capable of only dipping their toes in luxury, never seeing beyond a dollar amount or most apparent in the show, the manner in which finely honed cuisine and impeccable service are delivered.
For many a crew this has created a rather amusing game, a sort of the guests have no clothes wherein a canny interior staff and the chef can exploit a guests desire and want for a luxury illusion rather than sophisticated and highly developed palettes implied by so many pieces of paper. Throw in some camera crews and a national television audience and you’ve added yet another layer to what has always been a reality tv show. All that is necessary is a smile.
Chief Stewardess Kate Chastain is all too aware of the conceit and in sharing with the viewers has offered a refreshing perspective but also a worrisome symptom of too much time in the bubble.
Luxury yachting has been something of a show business on the water well before Below Deck, whether from the set dressing: cushions, flowers, table settings, the shoot schedule: planning their activities, watersports, shore excursion, beach day, the blocking: suggesting and moving the guests around, never being seen cleaning the yacht, everything magically appearing, or the performance itself, somewhat cloying, cheerful, upbeat and solicitous of the guests.
All this constant being ‘On’ in addition to the usual pressures of perfection and guests whims, slowly begins to wear on one. It sinks in as a sort of luxury fatigue, becoming painfully aware of tending to another’s dream and no longer clearly seeing your own.
Then Charter ends and you try to escape it but can’t. The tip makes up for it but at the same time you can spend or drink your way only so far. You’ve got the money but no normal, no tenable reality to fall back on. A good crew helps, but more often it’s a collection of inept mercenaries chasing excitement and creating it, ashore, below deck and everywhere they can.
Enough time in the yachting bubble and there is no longer a normal to return to. You’ve seen too much, experienced too much. And most galling of all, you know what’s going on out there at the top. You know what fantastic things are possible on this planet. You know what it is like behind all the lovely pictures in the celebrity gossip rags.
It all leads to the What Next of all What Next’s just as your own real life takes on all the dysfunction of a reality tv series. All those fantastic heights and once and a lifetimes suddenly become little more than the footage populating the Facebook or Instagram and the real work becomes your own sanity or the toil of trying to recreate or live what never was your own.
It’s certainly nothing to smile about.
She dashes around the corner and a few seconds later I hear a gaggle high pitched voices all commenting on how many ages its been. Five, apparently.
I step up to the bar for another large espresso martini and return to the table.
“So, what’s going on there sailor,” Mike asks, just beginning to show the first cracks of drinking and with it conversation.
“Nothing. Just a little harmless fraternizing.”
“Don’t know if she feels that way. The fish is on the line, just gotta gaffe her and get her in the boat.”
“Is it even possible for a girl to spool you,” I ask, wondering for a moment about the power of metaphor. I have a tidy swig and wonder if sports, fishing and business are the only ones life so easily fits or do we simply make ourselves fit? I take another sip and decide to let the world answer.
“So what’s her story?”
“Aussie chick, 2 year UK work visa, world tour, ends up in Laudie, friends on boats, day work, junior stew. You know. The I’m just doing this while I’m working on my whatever it is this year…”
“You really do you enjoy reducing peoples lives to 140 characters, don’t you?”
“Is that 140? No. Do I enjoy meeting people who so easily fit into 140 characters? Nice girl though.”
“Yeah, she’s got the right balance. Just cute enough but not too, no paranoia. And that ass. The proper thickness my friend. The proper thickness.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“You’ve got to cut that shit out. Fucking get in there. You’re mopey ass needs a woman.”
Maybe he is right? Despite being an Engineer, a breed unto themselves, Mike has the air of a Captain, that universal command people might never notice but always follow. I light a cigarette and lean back with a supreme content to hold the option and as I take another sip enjoy some twisted notion of letting the market decide, any number of former surf wear models and other 6 packers milling about before I notice Steve creeping into frame.
“Steve-O! How are we this evening,” I divert to the new arrival.
“Chillin. Chillin. Brother. Hey, I’m going to get a drink. Anybody need anything,” he asks?
There are drinkers, there are yachties and there is Steve Wilcox, celebrity chef. Yes. There is a man who will walk the fine line until close, sleep for 4 hours, churn out breakfast, lunch and if the guests are going ashore for dinner sneak out for a quick sally about town without care or consequence. Of course he never reaches prime before midnight, long after the social networking fades into slurry camaraderie and with it zero hour and the choice that hovers over every evening, whether to take up the charge of greatness or slink back to the boat for leftovers and a bottle of water.
What happens? Something like this.
While it seems self-evident that no professional charter yacht would hire the Andrew, they would likely cut through his persona in a phone interview, it should be noted that he leaves a lot to be desired as Below Deck crew.
One watches him and has the feeling of wanting to turn away. He’s inept, preening, self-absorbed, lazy, dissolute….we could keep going down the list under NPD in the DSM-5 but what it all boils down to is an infuriating paradox. There’s so much to his character that you want to really hate on but somehow you just can’t pull the trigger. This is probably his greatest impediment as a deckhand. You can even see the hesitance of the crew to point out the glaringly, painfully obvious character flaws. Eddie seems to be handling it with tact or kid gloves as some might note.
Of course, there’s more than enough room to argue that Andrew is the necessary clown to marginalize the millenial male as infantile; easily upstaged by the scrappy Jennice and it’s doubtless a hit with the female demographic. But still you can’t really seem to escape that feeling he’s has all the prerequisites of a great car wreck but as you turn away and turn back, all you get is an air bag going off, no broken glass or twisted metal. Underwhelming to say the least.
Accordingly, we would like to offer some suggestions, hopes, intentions of what his performance needs.
First and foremost, he’s got to close with a guest. It has to happen. Even if he just gets in there and gives her bilge a nice once over. Bonus points if he gets his red wings.
Second, he’s got to be eating more food and complaining about the offerings. Models are notoriously prone to putting on weight and the scene of him having to ask Kate for a new uniform because his shorts no longer fit would be priceless.
Third, he’s got to screw up with the cleaning solvents. Not necessarily hull cleaner on the paint or bleach and ammonia in the cleaning locker but something just short of disaster. Better yet send him to the Engine room to open or close the wrong valve.
Fourth, they might consider detailing him to assist interior for some purpose or other only to discover he has an innate talent for flower arranging or napkin folding. Come to think of it, Kat would probably make a better deckhand anyhow.
And Finally, under the guise of a rapid turnaround, hire a seasoned dayworker and put Andrew in charge of him, he might learn a thing or at very least there would be the blind leading the blind factor.
This Andrew character is singularly infuriating, you don’t want to pity the lad and you can’t quite hate him so at very least he better up the entertainment value.
He wouldn’t really make it in the yachting industry so he’d better make it in the reality tv industry, that is unless yachts start hiring for the position of eunuch.
It is high time someone settle the great yachty or yachtie debate.
We all hate grammar. The only people who enjoy it are English Lit majors or those writers living by the maxim, if you have nothing to say, say it with precision. It’s not that they don’t understand language, it’s that they don’t understand humans.
Grammar, like any other authority, likes to cloak itself in rules and that whiff of logic and order. Some would have you believe it a science yet the English language is riddled with exceptions, most of which people internalize without a moments thought.
Which brings us to the matter of yachtie or yachty. Strictly speaking yachty is the grammatically correct formation for the singular. Yachties is the correct formation for the plural. It seems pretty self-evident. What is right is right. Right? Not entirely.
Grammar behaves in two different ways. It serves to codify long held linguistic practice. You know the stuff we humans create over years and years of writing things down and bullshitting at the pub. Yet it also serves to prescribe these conventions to people, that English teacher chiding you for a comma.
This was in the 19th and 20th century when the vast majority of communications and entertainment were written. Skip forward to the 21st century of smartphones and emoticons and the written word has gone from being the very basis of things to a supplementary means of communication, the caption to the image or quite often the selfie.
Selfie became a word. It’s not selfy in the Oxford English Dictionary but selfie. Some might argue that this is merely an instance in back formation, simply taking selfies and removing the s to form the singular and that this is an error. It is. But it does something more important than maintain order, it reflects the reality of language as a means of persons, not some sort of calibrated scientific measure but a living natural thing that belongs to everyone.
The rules of language don’t really deviate all that much and it is easy to assume that they are set in stone or debated by a gathering of Oxford dons but alas they are not. This isn’t French, we don’t have an academy telling us what is and is not and there is something very English about that, sending the mother tongue out into the world and letting everyone have a go. The whole point of a language is not to burden people with marginal distinctions but to allow them to communicate. Out in the world the only people who really depend on grammar are English Teachers, to justify their job and Lawyers, where a misplaced comma can have legal, economic and social repercussions.
So there it is. As with most things in life it is a little of column A and a little of column B. Engineers would rightly argue for Y and everyone else who has ever taken a selfie would probably go for IE. It really comes down to a matter of personal preference or style or in the case for some the availability of domain names.
While its reputation as the premier destination of the global elite will remain with the island for many years to come, one has to wonder how long it can maintain? Though there have been reports of a decline in celebrities, the glamorous mix of culture, paradise and pastry is hardly going to dissuade anyone with the price of admission. The appeal of the rich and famous is itself an interesting contrast if one asks, who came first? The celebrities looking for refuge from the media and the demands of the job or the oligarchs and industrialists looking for people of distinction?
Like so many places or events, it is somewhat amusing that St. Barths is not immune to the old truism: Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. Of course the entire luxury yachting industry is predicated on a similar paradox: that despite being ultimate symbol of wealth and achievement, capable of traversing the globe and taking an owner to the most exclusive destinations, viz. the South Pacific, its actual employ is on the quai being seen or chartered rather than enjoyed as a vehicle in itself.
There are probably still a few veterans sitting at the rear of a cafe lamenting past New Years with a loud poke to the newcomers, recalling an era when no one really took pictures and things were low key. If you happened to strike up a conversation or friendship with a rich or well known figure it was circumstance that made it happen rather than the cloying be seen be selling mentality that sits beneath any interaction with the label social networking. It used to be that money kept people out and for a time it did. Now it is the money that attracts them all.
New Years Eve 2013 is likely to be the year of the Reality Tv star, the social media entrepreneur and everyone else who cannot speak French, discern the banks of the Garonne or pay for a full tank of marine diesel.
Of course, all of this neglects the simple charm of the place, the one that brought people for so many years, before the floodgates of wealth opened and threw the island into the great global status chase a little too self-conscious to fully appreciate the beaches, crystal clear water and some of the finest cuisine in the Western Hemisphere.
How could one replace St. Barths?
Assuming that exclusivity and status as a French territory are the key components of a New Years Refuge for the Global Elite, there are some other options floating around out there:
Mayotte, just off the coast of Madagascar is perfectly placed for the discerning European. The airstrip can accommodate even the largest private aircraft and limited commercial flight guarantee an island of well heeled or discerning tourists.
Wallis and Futuna in the South Pacific is the ideal place to retreat when Fiji, just to the southwest, becomes overrun for the holidays; it’s proximity to the International Dateline ensures that you can celebrate New Years before anyone else. Of course, the Kiwis can make the same claim but as a Tolkien scholar would be quick to point out Middle Earth does not operate on a Gregorian calender.
However, for the utmost of exclusivity nothing can best The Crozet Islands in the South Indian Ocean. Largely uninhabited except the odd researcher, the island is an unsullied environment rich with flora and fauna. Taste for the exotic? Send someone ashore to club a penguin and determine for yourself whether they taste like fish or chicken?
As the New Year arrives and the New Money leaves, it will become plain who St. Barthes is for; those who don’t have to go back to work but have the time and luxury to actually enjoy it!
It’s that time of the year, expense account season, ridiculous dry cleaning, Mercedes car services, promotional packets, exclusive guided tours, everyone pretending to know each others name and that last shred of ethical or moral behavior suspended…for the sake of a sale.
Of course this is all amusing to watch and observe until word comes down the yacht has been sold, is to be surveyed or might be making a special deal greasing charter all to remind one of living at someone else’s whim.
But in the mean time, sitting on the quay white rag in hand, watching the Tommy Bahama shirts drift by along with the loud boasts of a broker, we have devised a handy field guide for the land based Fauna of the Yachting Eco-system. The Yachtbroker:
Old English: You don’t even need to hear the accent to spot this one. British tailored shirt and jacket which along with the pale skin tells all. Often a former Merchant Marine or Yacht Captain. Regional placement difficult with a shifting southern English and hints of Midlands. The preferred agent of Russians and Arabs. Known to close deals with scotch. Usually has a ride on standby. Good for a lift.
The Yankee: Similarly dressed as Old English, slightly formal but with the American tendency for button down collars or simply a polo shirt. May or may not be wearing saddle shoe. Rocking the sunglasses tan. Owns small sail yacht in New England often rotates former and potential clients on race weekends. Slightly pushy though eager to impress and useful for introductions.
The Marm: May or may not be named Fiona. Prefers to maintain the Antibes desk but enjoys popping over to the Colonies for a quick sally about. More intent on socializing and gossiping. Look for the scarf. She will be loathe to wear the same one everyday but it will always be there. Good for a flirt and maybe more.
The Bayliner: Worked as factory sales rep and slowly encroached into the industry via center consoles to sport fishers. Has an interest in a listing of a Hatteras yacht or old Palmer Johnson. Hungry and willing. Reliable for a free lunch w/drinks.
Cyprus? Surprising? But how did they manage to cause that much damage with only a few cracks? If you’re used to fucking up you do it like a pro.
As the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show looms along with another Carib Season, everyone will be making the pit stop in Florida. Seasoned crew will enjoy the fine evenings and lively entertainments along with the cheap clothes and even cheaper consumer electronics but one small cohort will visit, perhaps for the first time and find themselves in the no mans land of adulthood, those poor yachties in the 18-20 year old stage.
While the rest of the world operates under the notion that a human being at age 18 can operate an automobile, serve in the military, smoke cigarettes and most importantly, enjoy the most common psychoactive in history, alcohol. Common Sense has never been the aim of the US legal system. This is after all the country that decided to ban the production, sale, possession and consumption of alcohol for 14 years because a bunch of religious freaks thought people would pick up a bible if there was no bottle.
However, this was not always the case. Up until the mid to late 80s the drinking age was 18 to 19 and varied state to state. A couple of mothers lost their children to drunk drivers and well the rest is legislative history that in a way is the easiest method for explaining Democracy in America: Complain, Get Emotional, Bring Death and Loss into it and Laws will be passed.
The options for the underage drinker in the states are limited at best. You could figure out whether you are one of those lucky people who is currently 20 but whose birthday is between January and October and the 1st and 12th of the Month 1992. You could have a drives license from an exotic country where the first instinct of gee that’s neat license overwhelms their mental faculty and they could not be bothered to find out the age. You can tag along on a crew outing of hiding somewhere just past the middle of the line for ids where the bouncer will just flag you through but odds are you will walk up, hand over the drivers hoping he cannot figure it out and send you in.
Of course, this dilemma will only be experienced by the poor 19 year old holiday makers shacked up at a crew houses off Federal, so really, it is not a problem though the idea of drug dealers who card is quite amusing but drinking crates of PBR from amusing flatmates can only go so far. This is why there are gun ranges because in the weird logic of Amurica you cannot drink but Sweet Jesus Goddamnit You Got the Right to Shoot!
Why not go down, rent a pistol or maybe a full auto and unload a box of rounds? It’s as stress relieving as a 6 pack after work and despite all those wild nights out everyone loads up, there is nothing more legitimately Florida or Amurica, than a profile pic with an AR 15. Can you do that in the Med or the Carib? What else are you going to do? Go to a museum?
As part of a continuing series, The Yachtie, has consulted dozens of yachting professional in a series of contentious debates regarding the professional and personal dilemmas that are too common for the luxury mariner. As MLC comes into enforcement, the trend of regulation has passed a critical juncture and as the collective yacht fleet continues to grow, crew are being forced into a conflicting or insufficient patchwork of flag state, port state and international rules. This only underscores the importance of yachting taking the lead and in writing down and formalizing the custom into a uniform framework. The Yachtie will periodically revisit issues raised by the professionals in the field and spearhead the effort to create Yachtie Code of Ethics:
Rule No. 1: Don’t do coke on Charter.
So far it is the only thing so many disparate elements have agreed on. Note that only Charter is explicitly mentioned. Yard Periods are still considered fair game as well as down time in the islands because if there is one thing true about the film Flight, coke can rally crew and magically change them from shit-faced still buzzing crew into that person who showed up for the interview and even a little more so.
LA CONDAMINE, Monaco—After 3 years in the Luxury Yachting Industry, Deckhand Dave Masters has been stricken with a sexually transmitted infection. Emerging from a Dermatological Clinic in Monaco, the young Kiwi was surrounded by reporters and a group of well wishers holding placards.
While he had hoped that the strange lesions on his upper lip were an exceptional case of razor burn or an infected hair follicle, the doctors conducted swab tests and determined that he has contracted herpes.
“It’s such a shame,” noted Meghane a passerby, continuing. “But I suppose it had to happen eventually. It is only a matter of time isn’t it? Out there traveling all the world. All those ladies in all those ports.”
Mr. Masters made a brief statement thanking the well wishers, further commenting that “I’ve always been a responsible person. It’s regrettable that some individuals so indiscriminately throw themselves about and everyone they meet has to suffer. I think there needs to be more awareness.”
The Herpes Simplex Virus is a viral infection and a large portion of the world suffers from Type 1. However, Type 2 is the most common with sexually transmitted infections. There is currently no known cure for the disease and research for a cure has only yielded palliative anti-virals.
An anonymous industry veteran observed, “So young. The clap is one thing but this is just tragic. If he has only made Bosun or Mate he could have afforded a proper girlfriend.”
A Fundraising Happy Hour is currently being organized and will be accepting contributions as well as volunteers. Log on to, www.savedave.org to sign the petition and make donations for finding a cure.