(Editor: this missive was written by a superyacht stewardess at the end of a rather long charter season…)
My name is Miele Middle Machine; I am the middle washing machine of 3 on board a 50-metre yacht. I spend thousands of hours each year, barrel deep in the dirty laundry of some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as the crew who cater to them.
In my 15 years on board (yes, you greenies who think 2 weeks of day work makes you an expert, that’s serious longevity) I have seen crew come and go. I have heard stewardesses complain about the chef’s Croc-sweat soaked socks that you smell before you see. Never once did they open their mouths to swallow the dirty deed, sometimes twice, when the stench couldn’t be quelled. Which brings me to Becky, who couldn’t match a pair of socks to save her life or her job, no Becky, I didn’t swallow Tom the uptight engineer’s lucky left sock.
Becky (hippy yachtie from Cape Town), bless her soul, wouldn’t separate whites from colours, ‘We’re a rainbow nation’, she would preach to anyone unfortunate enough to be caught listening, ‘we don’t discriminate based on colour’. Okay Becky, but it’s laundry, not another opportunity to try and explain the merits of being South African.
Yes Becky, I’m sure she ‘loved’ cleaning up after someone else’s four children as much as you loved cleaning up after a millionaire’s misguided placement of his derriere on the bidet rather than the toilet seat. Maybe you squealed with joy, not fear, as you daintily scooped up the offending pile and set it on the correct course to the black water tank. Needless to say, each time I receive a hodgepodge of multi-coloured crew personals and white uniform I return a gloriously clean batch of dull grey shirts and panties, no Becky, cold wash and a colour catcher is no excuse.
Then there was Damo the Main-O, the dimwit, half-baked, always grilled or severely pickled Aussie deckhand. Damo loved helping the stews, taking such tasks as unpacking the dishwasher, carrying provisions and removing their panties in his stride. On a particularly wild bender Damo got so marinated in cheap Caribbean rum that he found himself blissfully in bed with another junior stew, only the bliss was too much, and the rum swiftly resurfaced in a pile, on his freshly laundered sheets.
Damo, swung sluggishly into action, stripping the bed and running naked, to the laundry, where he was determined to wash his sheets. All he could manage, however, before passing out on the worktop was to deposit the dripping, stinking mess into a tumble dryer and press start. I’m just grateful that the next day Damo’s mortified conquest from the night before chose another machine for the cleanup of the crusty vomit cake instead of me.
The crew may seem to be the cause for most of my concern, but it is when the guests arrive that things really get going. I run day and night, night and day, washing load after load without rest. During these times I have seen stewardesses lose their minds. I have been loaded with 10 towels at a time, holding my breath as a scoop of Oxi or Vanish was hastily added, before the start of another Quick Wash. Only to be cursed 25 minutes later when I’m overflowing and frothing like Damo for a drink on drop-off day. It’s all I can do to hang onto my drum while it shudder shakes into a crashing bang from the weight.
Then there are guest sheet days, a whirlwind of white cotton and stewardesses’ curses. On these days I love old people and kids, lightly soiled sheets to be washed and conditioned. Unfortunately, these are a rarity compared to the menagerie of foul smelling, sometimes unidentifiable, stains conjured up by the 20-something-year-olds on a night out that they’ll never forget, but struggle to remember due to a mix of prescription pills, illegal drugs, alcohol and bad choices.
Enter the free bleeder, the lady who doesn’t use sanitary products. While I haven’t seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre I’d imagine it to be much like these sheets. A genuine horror show right through to the mattress. Unfortunately, that’s not where it stops, as British stew Lucy describes accidentally kneeling in an ‘unfertilized foetus’, on the white wool carpet.
Sometimes though, I get my own back, swallowing up any pennies, rings, necklaces or keys that come my way, then, if I’m really lucky I cough, splutter and grind to a halt. Laughing to myself, while Becky weighs up the pros and cons of calling Tom, who is still short of a lucky left sock, or calling it quits entirely.