While not all megayachts are the scene of tabloid sexcapades, onboard hookups are not unusual. In this rarified world where owners, crew and guests mingle in close quarters, flush with fine food, premium libations and breathtaking sunsets over turquoise waters, rules often don’t apply – and that includes love connections.
Many land-based occupations frown upon co-workers dating, because the relationships are not always good for morale. But on a yacht, sexual encounters are a natural occurrence for people spending time together, working in close quarters on a glamorous, floating isolation chamber with limited opportunities for social interaction.
On some boats, open displays of affection in conspicuous locations are just part of the atmosphere, in spite of the fact that some captains do not hire couples. However, most people crave intimacy at some point, choosing not to behave like a monk when surrounded by beautiful people.
Coupling up can be a deterrent to success during the early stages of one’s crew career. Some crew simply are not mature enough to be in a relationship and work together at the same time, which upsets the whole team effort on the boat.
“That’s why some captains don’t deal with teams,” says Heather Adams, a crew placement coordinator with Crew Unlimited. “People who hook up – it’s far from professional unless you have paid your dues and keep the relationship on the QT. You see the drama and the fights.”
Hookups can create a strained atmosphere onboard; guys and gals can be cliquish. During their time off, some couples don’t interact with other crew.
Captain Ron, an American who has worked his way up the ladder over 15 years, says, “If one crew member is unhappy with something that another one did, you have two enemies when they are part of a couple.”
Arguments at the dinner table can become tense for everyone when couples are fighting.
“If they’ve had a tiff the night before, you’ll ask a gal why she looks down and she’ll say, “˜Well, he’s a bastard,’” says Captain Brian, who met his wife on a yacht. “That’s no way to start the day.”
Emotional security breaches
Working on a yacht brings great rewards – globetrotting to exotic ports of call with no expenses, gourmet food and a handsome salary. But crew life is also synonymous with sacrifice. Losing daily touch with family, friends and pets ashore is expected, but some crew resist accepting the fact that it can require foregoing a normal sex life, too.
“Some kids are insecure,” says Adams. “Some kids grow up with a pack mentality and let it continue on the boat. They require constant companionship and this (yachting) is a different mindset. This is not a college dorm. That’s why some don’t make it.”
With a focus on incentives beyond cash for motivation, some yacht programs now recognize psychological and emotional issues that come with a casual hookup culture onboard. Those programs favor couples, because they’re meeting a human need that improves the crew experience and ultimately, the guest experience. Some vessel owners gravitate toward mature couples and like the stability it brings.
“I’m a fan of couples onboard,” says Rupert Connor, owner of Luxury Yacht Group. “However, maturity is required. Some may couple with someone onboard that they might not [choose] in another environment. That causes problems.”
Bells will be ringing
A lot of relationships that form casually turn serious. There are wonderful stories of long-term affairs that actually spawn weddings.
Captain Tim married his co-worker-turned-sweetheart in Hawaii, and had a reception in Fort Lauderdale. It was the kind of ceremony where you might have heard, “I now pronounce you captain and captain.”
Tim married another 500-ton master, Gillian, whom he met when they crossed the Atlantic together on Super Service 4 Dock Express. Gillian eventually became co-captain and mate on her husband’s vessel.
The most common coupling is between captain and stewardess. In a perfect world, they get married and the wife moves ashore to start their family. But the captain is still a captain and a long distance relationship, fraught with problems can develop.
“Invariably seven or eight out of 10 of these situations results in divorce,” says Ami Ira, owner of Crew Unlimited. “The woman is no longer onboard and she eventually resents the captain and the yacht. Then she is a single mom again. I have seen so many broken homes. A captain and stew get married and then it isn’t as great as it was as they are not together 24/7.”
Ira advises women to look for a relationship elsewhere, not on their own boat, if they are truly interested in seeing career success in a traveling job.
“It is so easy to get into a relationship with others you work with,” Ira says. “You are still a family, if not sexually, you eat together every day.”
“If you share a room, the guy usually becomes your brother or your lover,” says Sue Price, senior placement coordinator with Crew Unlimited. “So choose a path.”