Crew Positions - Basic Descriptions
Ultimately the safe navigation of the vessel and the safety of everyone on board is the main task for yacht captains. They should be familiar with every system on board including radar, satellite navigation, satellite communication, multi-propeller use, bow and stern thrusters, stabilizers, trim-tabs, etc. Clearing customs and immigration in international ports and being familiar with new International Ship and Port Security measures are ever increasing examples of responsibilities as well. Yacht Captains also carry a unique responsibility on board, interacting closely with owners and guests while maintaining a professional relationship, and developing close personal relationships while maintaining the respect of the crew.
On smaller yachts Captains may also assume the engineer role and possibly even maintain the exterior of the yacht as well. On larger yachts they delegate the various duties among the Senior Officers, and with each of their crew. On smaller yachts they may have to maintain financial records, make and meet budgets, plan itineraries and reservations in marinas, and have a resources of international contacts for all types of parts and services. On larger yachts these duties may be performed by the yacht manager or Purser onboard instead.
ENGINEER: Obviously the most important responsibility of the engineer are the engines of the yacht. On larger yachts commercial engineer licenses are required and often a chief engineer delegates responsibilities among the 2nd and 3rd engineer and himself. On smaller yachts the captain or mate may be responsible for basic engine maintenance. Knowledge of diesel engine maintenance and general mechanical understanding is a must. Other areas include refrigeration, plumbing, electrics, hydraulics and reverse osmosis. Most every system of these natures is the responsibility of the engineer. Once again we see the versatility of a yachting nature emerge!
When large "refits" are called for the engineer may only be required to oversee contracted workers in port; however, the truly skilled engineer is capable of troubleshooting and jury-rigging at sea. When an alternator, freezer or a water maker quits halfway across an ocean, a yacht relies on the engineer's ability to isolate a problem and (if a permanent solution is not available) to invent a temporary solution. At the same time engineers may be expected to emerge from the engine room, dress in whites and epaulets and interact with owners and guests as well.
DECKHAND: This position also stays interesting because of its many different duties. A deckhand should be very versatile and a jack of all trades. On larger yachts the boson is responsible for delegating responsibility among the deckhands and himself. On smaller yachts a deckhand may find himself also sharing engineer's duties with the captain or steward's work with the chef. In general deck crew are responsible for the exterior of the yacht. Most of this maintenance can be compared to auto detailing: washing, polishing, waxing, buffing, and touch up painting, often with two-part polyurethane. Teak maintenance is never ending whether it is the high gloss varnished handrails, the richly oiled wheelhouse interior, or the bare golden glow of a freshly scrubbed teak deck. A deckhand must be a sure hand with a brush whether scrubbing or painting. In any case it is always helpful to have some understanding of electricity, plumbing, carpentry, and mechanics as well as interior cleaning and service.
CHEF POSITIONS: The largest difference in a chef position on a yacht is the extensive planning required and the ability to work at sea. They must do their own provisioning and preparation work for all of the courses including desert and often clean their own galley as well. Remember cleanliness is next to godliness! On some smaller yachts the cook may also share steward responsibilities with the deckhand while on larger yachts the chef may have the services of one or more Sous Chefs for prep work and cleaning, and Stews for serving and clearing. Also, unlike a hotel or restaurant, a yacht menu must be practically unlimited while having limited resources on board. (Inventiveness is the key!) An ability to produce exotic meals from ordinary ingredients and present new and exciting dishes, avoiding repetition. The chef should also be trained in many different diets to accommodate possible allergic, vegetarian or other special requests. One never knows who may be dining with the owners, your guest may be an influential politician or a world famous actor or entertainer. Of course your hardest critics are often the crew themselves, who must partake from your table every day. It cannot be said enough: presenting new and exciting dishes and avoiding repetition is the key to a successful yacht chef.
STEWARD or STEWARDESS: On larger yachts a Chief Stew delegates responsibility and divides the work among the other stews. On a smaller yacht may be required to perform dual roles as the chef. The stew is responsible for the interior of the yacht. They must be meticulously clean and orderly people, as should all members of the crew. This position can be interesting because of its many different duties. Although the comfort of the owner and/or guests is the first priority, the steward is involved in every aspect of a yacht's interior. This includes cleaning and maintenance duties similar to a maid in an expensive home as well as many unique yachting areas. There is always vacuuming and laundry to do, washrooms to clean and dishes to wash after helping prepare and serve the meals. The main difference on a yacht is the restricted space! They must be able to meet all of the guest's needs without intruding on their privacy. It is the most skilled steward who is rarely seen and yet "magically appears" whenever they are needed! Time management is essential, keeping organized so that ALL jobs can be completed at the same time. Yacht stews are be required to know Silver Service, as well as table settings, napkin folding etc.