One of the best parts of yachting is the unknown. Never knowing where you will be a month from now or who you might meet along the way is definitely a huge part of this life. Sure, it can be annoying too, but once you’ve accepted that it just is what it is, you learn to take things day by day, step by step and sometimes, you are forced to think on your feet. And trust me, some things might throw you off.
It seems that guests, for the most part, have no concept of how we do things, they just see that things get done and therefore begin to expect them at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t seem to matter what the thing is, all that matters is that we, as crew, remember at all times that our guests come first and that means that we must grant their wishes, adhere to their random requests and comfort their neediness. Always. We are on the clock 24/7 when guests are on board, and their happiness is entirely our responsibility.
As a chef, I will spend weeks preparing for a charter season, planning menus according to every guest’s preference sheet they have carefully (or sometimes cryptically) filled out. Then comes the mighty task of provisioning accordingly and sometimes things don’t go to plan…
When your provisioner cancels on you
Having less than 24 hours to turn the boat around between guests trips is quite normal but there is one “24 hour turn” I remember particularly well. It was just before picking up a Christmas charter in the BVI when my provisioner cancelled on me on the morning of the pickup… two hours before. I had no choice but to run and do the shopping myself, along with the million other things on my to-do list. After running to the 4 stores on the (thankfully small) island, I was completely stumped. There wasn’t a single piece of chicken to be seen. Not a breast, nor a thigh or even a whole chicken. Not even one single wing. Lemons. Not a single yellow delight in sight. I couldn’t even find a tree to pick any myself. This was a huge problem when lemon meringue pie was promised for this family’s traditional Christmas Day dessert.
I ended up getting lemons on Christmas Day in exchange for a bottle of Moët from a yacht anchored nearby by and I could have cried as I carried them back to the boat ?.
When the boss changes their mind at the last minute
Next, there was a time in the South of France this summer when I had a request for dinner in 30 minutes. Seared duck breast with an Asian twist is what I’d promised that morning, before they had informed me that their dinner reservation was confirmed. I didn’t bother provisioning since they weren’t on board that night. Change of plan, thirty minutes until service and I didn’t have any duck breast. I should have known.
Thank goodness for the amazing crew, I had almost all of them making the duck dinner happen as they roared off in the tender to bring back the vital ingredient.
When your beef is too big
Last New Year the boss flew into St Barth with many of his own ingredients. This included a massive cut of 8-ribs of beef to be roasted, but none of my roasting trays were big enough to hold the meat. After tearing apart the galley, I had the radio to my ear with the Captain reeling off yacht names on the AIS to me, until I eventually knew a chef on board one of them. A quick radio call on Channel 16, a couple of logistical changes and six crew between the two yachts, we managed to get the tray on board while underway from one anchorage to the next.
I don’t even want to talk about the day we set off on an Atlantic crossing with 14 days of sailing ahead and all the supplies on board, only for my whole crew to watch a documentary and decided to become vegan there and then ? ? ?.
I think we all know that there is no option for failure when in these situations so we just have to learn how to make it work. There have been many saving graces along my personal path when it comes to needing something I didn’t have, and it is safe to say that the understanding community of fellow yachties has helped me pull off things that seemed unimaginable at the time. Thinking on your feet definitely becomes second nature in any role on board, and luckily we all have each other to help fulfil these seemingly impossible requests happen.