Again, I find myself apologising for not updating you on the going-ons of the last few weeks. Well, there is a reason for that. I got myself a job, on a yacht that is steaming across the Atlantic as I type in one of its cabins. I wasn’t sure how much I was allowed to divulge until I signed the contract.
It’s a 70m+ motor vessel, which isn’t what I had in mind, but I am most definitely not complaining. So how did this come about?
The basic training
As I’ve said, I had to do STCW, which is shorthand for the basic safety courses that crew must do legally. It was mostly about fire-fighting, fire being the biggest risk. The course was excellent – culminating in donning breathing apparatus and entering a smoke-filled shipping container to extinguish a fire as a team with a fire hose. There was also basic first aid, sea survival, and security awareness talking about piracy, and stowaways and such like. I had wondered if STCW was just box ticking but was left in no doubt – and it was sobering to know how devastating a fire can be to a yacht, but reassuring that every crew member was trained to at least a basic fire-fighting level.
But, while doing the course I couldn’t look for work. So, I did what anyone would do, and made a music video CV. Cringe alert. I posted it to “Palma Yacht Crew” (PYC), a Facebook Group for people working in the yachting industry in Palma and further afield. With my finger poised over mouse on the “post” button, I wondered if this would be the best or worst decision I had made this year. Throughout the day, the likes grew to 600 and comments to over 80. People were recognising me in bars – as Ron Burgundy would have said, I was kind of a big deal. So, I hoped something would come of it and it wouldn’t just be some cringetastic flailing fail (no you won’t find a link to it here).
Two days later, the day after completing my basic training, I got an email from the captain of this boat, asking me to call him. He asked me to go to an interview with one of his friends in a bar – the captain of a similar sized motor yacht nearby.
There I sat opposite this captain, and the guy in the table next to us said “hey, aren’t you Jack from that video? Mate, if I had a job going, I’d give you one”. There were a couple of difficult questions about being older than my boss, and how could I be a musician AND a deckhand? I answered honestly, and a few beers later I had two thumbs up.
The next challenge was getting a B1/B2 visa – necessary to work on a vessel in US waters. No visa, no job. PYC had been awash with stories of yachties being denied visas in Madrid and London, and I was certain I would be one of them. 25 hours of travel from Mallorca and I was in the US embassy in Lisbon. When the visa interview came I had hardly slept from travelling and anxiety. When asked “have you ever lost your passport”, “have you ever been denied an ESTA” and “have you ever reported anything stolen to US police”, I answered a confident no in all cases. Turns out this was wrong, and my visa was to be “on hold”. That was it, I thought – no visa, no job. After a bit of email inbox interrogation, I discovered I had lost two passports, which in one case led to ESTA complications, and had reported stolen cash in Vegas. I think I may have good reason to forget some of that trip…
So I emailed the embassy, and miraculously got my visa approved the next day – even going to the central post office depot to interrupt my passport’s delivery schedule so I could be sure. Another 12 hours via Faro to Gibraltar, and off we went this morning.
And it is insane. I can’t begin to describe how surreal it is, to be paid to do this. I am the lowest of the low, a Junior Deckhand, the most inexperienced person here. And yes people younger than me are telling me what to do, and I am very fine about that. There are two crew decks, crew mess and lounge, and about 5 other decks, I lost count. There are 29 crew right now, with positions ranging from Captain, Chief Engineer, Technology Officer, Laundry Stewardess… Even the crew accommodation is like a hotel and that’s before you step foot into the guest area. The master bedroom is twice the size of my flat (although I was pleased to see that I think my bed is still bigger). There are jet skiis and jet boats in the “tender garage”, and the rescue boat is about the same size as the boats I am used to sailing on. The bridge actually resembles that of the Starship Enterprise.
On the crossing we are working 8 hour days – today we washed the whole boat with soap and it was actually quite fun. I also have to sit on watch for a couple of hours with whoever is driving the boat at 3am in the morning. Yes we have sophisticated radar etc, but you still have watch, because “small” sailing boats often evade the radar.
So, there you have it. What an extremely surreal and fortunate time; I am very aware of how lucky I have been to land this. In less than a fortnight we will be in the Caribbean. I am not sure how much I will be able to blog, or what I can blog about – we are under strict instructions not to breach confidentiality of guests, or mention the boat name in public for reputation and security purposes. But I can say that the boat is Classed by Lloyd’s Register, my former employer, which is a funny little twist I guess.