The best place to study wild animals, the saying goes, is in the jungle, not the zoo. At the same time researching truly Ultra High Net Worths (UHNWs) is very difficult. Roxanne Génier spent time in the jungle of the Super Rich, working as crew aboard superyachts. Wealth Reporter Robert Frank wrote the ’must read’ book Richistan based on his time as an embedded reporter with with a selection of billionaires. Below Génier gives her observations on the way the 0.1 percent live during her time on the high seas and haute ports. I think it provides an excellent glimpse for anyone who is selling products or services to the very rich.
By Roxanne Génier
When you imagine getting a position as a crew member aboard a superyacht, you dream of exotic destinations, lavish surroundings and countless adventures. You envision yourself shaking hands with celebrities, having inspiring conversations with tycoons and creating envy in your surroundings. You will indeed accumulate stories that will last a lifetime, experience the best of what life as to offer, and make connections with la crème de la crème. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it? The reality is somewhat more challenging.
Working aboard a superyacht is a love/hate story. When you become a crew member, you immediately put yourself in the trench for the uber elite. You may need to carry a 6’4″ man so he doesn’t wet his toes; you may have to host a party of 50 as a team of three; or you may visit a harbour 10 times without ever stepping one foot ashore. Think I am lying? How about working 100 hours or more a week, in a 24 hour shift rotation, for 10 months, with less than 7 hours of sleep a night, one break every four days, and just enough time to eat one full meal a day? Sounds like being on a military foreign mission, doesn’t it? This is exactly how I spent the last 10 months of my career in the superyacht industry. Yet, if you ask if I would take another position as a deckhand again, I would say yes. As I write this article about life aboard a superyacht from the beautiful island of Cozumel, I, once again, start dreaming of the adventures.
Having both worked in the Canadian Naval Reserve aboard minesweepers and destroyers and aboard superyachts; I often like to compare the two. Both industries require a certain passion from their crew members; a passion that is rarely seen in a traditional industry. Aboard a ship, men and women work together as a team to achieve an almost unattainable goal. In one hand, you protect a country from all types of invasion; and on the other, you cater to the needs of those who have no limits. After working aboard a superyacht for a few years, you will “Be All That You Can Be” with an expertise in luxury.
To express my claim that a superyacht is the ultimate boot camp within the luxury industry, allow me to share a few personal stories, putting my experience in the Navy alongside my time aboard superyachts. You will quickly understand that what happens on a superyacht is nothing like what you see on HBO’s Below Deck.
- Navy: The Navy pushes you to your limits but you know that your strength is essential to the safaty of your country. I once spend 18 hours in a military rhib protecting an aircraft carrier after 9/11. It was raining and freezing (think Canadian winter).
- Superyacht: Yachting also pushes you to your limits, but the sacrifices are sometimes debatable. I once spent 16 hours in a million dollar tender waiting for our charter guests to come back from a night of partying in St-Barths on New Year’s Eve. Once the guests arrived, I had two hours of sleep before my next work day. At the end of an exhausting seven nights charter, each crew member was rewarded with a $2,000 tip. You instantly forget that you are extremelly tired, and you go ashore to spend some of that money.
Never Leave A Man Behind:
- Navy: Regardless the situation we were in, we never left a man behind. All for one, and one for all. From the Captain to the newest sailor, we did everything as a team.
- Superyacht: Yachting can be a little different if you stumble on a bad owner. I was once tasked to go throw out the garbage by tender in Dubrovnik, a three mile ride in a Northern direction. Once I arrived at destination, I received a call from the Captain stating that the owner wanted to make its way south to Montenegro. He was not willing to wait, so the Captain had to find ways to stall the departure. I had no food, no water, no money and just enough fuel to make the seven mile journey to where I meet up with them again. This time, I was not driving the million dollars tender; I was actually on a 17″ inflatable rhib in three foot swells. When I arrived I immediately crashed from exhaustion. The Captain felt terrible but the owner didn’t seem to notice my vivid sunburn.
Manage Your Supplies
- Navy: Any military serviceman will tell you that supplies can be sparse when in the field. Waste is unacceptable especially when it comes to water.
- Superyacht: Needless to say that basic supply is rarely an issue in yachting. Superyachts produce their own fresh water; therefore the deck crew will rinse down the yacht from top to bottom at less once a day. The concept of having sea salt covering the windows is simply absurd. . Bed sheets are washed every single day and food is sometimes thrown out by buckets.
Also, when there is no more berries, no worries, take the helicopter for a flight. Need a magician in the Seychelles? Easy, fly one in from the Middle East by private jet. You might consider it expensive to fill up your car with fuel in this economy, how about a $800,000 fuel bill for cruising the Med on your yacht for a few months (pumping gas can literally take up to 10 hours).
Be Prepared for Change
- Navy: Tactical plans change on a regular basis and you need to be able to adapt on a whim. You may not know why you have to move location, but you understand that the decision was taken with regards to your safety or the safety of your ship in mind.
- Superyacht: If there is a storm, chances are charters guests will end up spending time ashore browsing the shops in Cannes, Monaco, Sint Maarten or St Barth purchasing thousands of dollars in luxury goods. One guest returned from such a trip with a $200,000 diamond from a jewelry shop in Sint Maarten. During that time, the crew braced the yacht for high-seas. We often left port after a hurricane to make it in time for an event in another location.
If the sky is overcast with clouds, don’t be surprised if the helicopter is launched to find a patch of sun. As the helicopter guides the superyacht in search of sun, guests can easily work on getting that perfect tan.
One yacht owner once booked a $25,000 villa for a night to give the crew a night off but then changed his mind after visiting the villa for 20 minutes, giving the crew just under two hours to unwind. This is when I called it quits and went back home to Montreal exhausted.
After sharing a few of these personal stories, I have to state a fact: every superyacht is its own entity. Some owners and charter guests are the most pleasant people to work for. They understand the value of their crew and they rarely abuse their power. These are the people you want to follow ashore for your next career.
As a boot camp for the uber elite, working aboard a superyacht prepares you for life ashore in the luxury industry. If you fall in love with the industry, like I did, you will come out of it ready to take your place as a leader in luxury. Be prepared to become an estate manager, a personal assistant, a private jet attendant, a wealth management investor, a right-hand man or like me, a digital marketing expert for the affluent community.