Confessions of a superyacht worker

Story highlights

  • Bonnie Muddle has been working on superyachts for six years
  • Her work has taken her to some of the world's most famous ports
  • She says the yachting industry is full of extreme highs and extremes lows

The phone call came from my uncle -- a captain on a superyacht -- offering me a seasonal job as a stewardess. Having absolutely no experience and no idea what the job would entail, where it would take me and how I would fare in rough conditions, I jumped at the chance.

Within the week I had arranged my B1/B2 visa at the American Consulate, booked in the obligatory safety course ( S.T.C.W 95), had a medical, packed up the accumulation of goods a girl at 22 owns and flew across to the USA.

I arrived just in time for the Miami Boat Show armed with a reckless dash of confidence, a hefty dose of enthusiasm and sea sick pills.

Despite discovering that it is indeed true, one can turn a certain shade of green; what started as one season has now turned into six years of life working as a stewardess, and now chief stewardess, on superyachts.

The industry is a curious one. Unless you have actually worked on a white boat it is near impossible to understand the life of a crew member. From an outsiders perspective cruising in a luxury floating hotel to glamorous and exotic locations on an all-expenses paid trip does indeed sound luxurious, amazing, and enviable.

See also: Shipwreck hunters' mysterious finds

I am the first to admit it can be. As someone who has taken the plunge below deck, I can tell you, yachting is an industry of extreme highs and extremes lows.

Yes you are indeed gracing the ports of Monte Carlo, Ibiza, Sardinia, Nice and St Barts but, in reality, the key sights are usually seen through a small round window not dissimilar from the sort you see on Playschool. Porthole tourism I like to call it.

In season, rarely do you have the energy to tear yourself away from scrubbing the porcelain throne to take in the salty foreign air. An irregular heart beat from the Red Bull running through your veins, is a necessary hazard after 36 hours of "yes siring" to a plethora of demanding billionaires all whilst maintaining that smile on your dial.

Check out Bonnie's website for more inside info

There really is no typical day onboard a superyacht. Workload and the sort of work changes depending on the season, whether you have guests on board and any maintenance issues. A superyacht requires never ending upkeep. The yacht needs to be kept in immaculate condition and the crew need always need to be prepared for any situation.

Salaries on board a yacht are dependent on position, qualifications, yacht size, where the yacht is located and if is private or charter. In general, a slightly higher salary is offered if the yacht is private with the hope if you work on a charter that you will make up your salary with tips.

A person in my position with experience can hope to make from $3500-$6000 a month, not including tips, while inexperienced crew can hope to earn around $2000-3000 a month. On a busy and successful charter yacht you can hope to make tips of around 5 to 15% of the cost of the charter per week divided amongst the crew. In recent years tips are not as extravagant as they once were but you can hope to make approximately $1000 USD a week in tips. With a busy charter yacht completing approximately 10 weeks of charter a season.

Possibly the most extraordinary situation I experienced and -- we were totally unprepared for it -- came when the captain of the yacht I was working on fell sick and went into a coma. We were docked on an isolated island in the Bahamas and had no means of transport to get the captain and his distraught wife (who was also the chef on board) to the closest hospital.

Luckily for us, a couple had just tied the knot on the beach near our boat and we had to hitch a ride with the newlyweds to a place where the captain and his wife could be airlifted out.

See also: How to design a yacht fit for a Queen

In addition to this we had a charter load of guests flying in who were intending on joining us to cruise the Bahamas islands. We didn't have time to contact them to let them know we were now down a captain and a chef, had no time for provisions, no access to money, no way to steer the boat and not enough crew.

We did, however, have champagne, a freezer full of lobster and some culinary skills between us. Somehow we managed to pull it off with some cruises around in our tender and made an attempt at gourmet meals. Thankfully the captain survived and was back at work after a couple of months.

Working on a superyacht is very hard work; you have to be at the beck and call of guests who have some quite particular requests that are almost impossible to fulfill.

One particularly challenging one was from a lady having a bad hair day who wanted a seaplane to take her from Alaska to a hair stylist in Canada! I've also had guests who pre-ordered 100 bottles of vodka for their week-long trip but polished it all off just days into their charter, they wanted me to somehow organize another 100 bottles of their luxury brand spirit from the middle of the ocean.

There are the simple things too like making sure you have the language of choice newspapers and particular imported coffee and the preferred wine on hand at all times, from wherever you may be in the world.

We had a particular diva celebrity who required full body make up every day before she left her cabin and a group of Ukrainian guests who brought with them suitcases full of pig lard to accompany their whiskey.

Whatever the guests require it is our job to make sure they get it. Although we do everything in our power to provide them with a six star service, Mother Nature is not always so obliging. Encountering bad weather and rough seas is inevitable and makes trying to keep guests happy (and from vomiting) quite a challenge.

See also: Is Middle East the new sailing hub?

That aside, after serving, ironing, cooking, chamoising and putting up with bulimic supermodels, there is a real sense of triumph when you complete a two-week or two-month stint with guests on board a 24/7 running (and you are literally running) superyacht. It is times like these when you might just get a day or a night to explore the splendid ports of call all with a nice big gratuity in your pocket.

These kind of opportunities are extraordinary and for that moment any trials you may encounter with the world's wealthiest whilst facing unruly seas, unpredictable weather and even more unpredictable and unruly guests, diminishes.

For all the challenges yachting presents, I actually enjoy the rush, the work and the lifestyle (just don't ask me that after cleaning up after a boat full of sea sick guests!).

I am grateful for the education I have received whilst contributing to running these superyachts and the opportunity to travel the world whilst saving my pennies.


    • Wide shot of a sailboat from a drone

      Drones offer new angle on superyachts

      "Sometimes, I fly the drone with my head in a trash bag so I don't get salt spray from the sea on my equipment," says drone operator Justice L Bentz.
    • Dave Swete and Nick Dana on the bow of Alvimedica for a windy downwind sail change during the team's second trans-Atlantic training session, this time from Newport, Rhode Island, USA, to Southampton, England

      Disney duo's new 'fairytale story'

      Navigate the world's most treacherous seas, crossing 73,000 nautical kilometers in a confined space with stressed-out, sleep-deprived crewmates. 
    • The Triton Submarine.

      Millionaire water toys

      Personal submarines, jetpacks, even 'walking boats.'
      Why the Monaco Yacht Show is a bit like stumbling upon James Bond's secret gadget lab.
    • London's new superyacht hotel, in Royal Victoria Docks.

      Inside $67M superyacht hotel

      London's new superyacht hotel is so enormous, authorities had to lower the water level by five meters just to fit it under a bridge.
    • Thomson hurtles up to the top of the mast aware that the boat can keel at any moment and fling him either onto the deck or the water below

      What next for sailing's daredevil?

      His mast-walking stunts have attracted over 3.5 million hits on YouTube, but Alex Thomson just wants to get back to doing what he does best.
    • Endeavour, a 1934 J-Class yacht, racing during The America's Cup Anniversary Jubilee around The Isle of Wight 21 August 2001. The four entries in the J-Class category represent the oldest remaining class used in America's Cup competition. Over 200 boats, including vintage yachts are taking part in the America's Cup Jubilee to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the first America's Cup race in 1851. AFP PHOTO Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

      Through hell and high water

      Elizabeth Meyer talks to CNN's Mainsail about the "Armageddon battle" to restore the pioneering J-class boat Endeavour.
    • Specatators use a boat to watch as boat crews race on the River Thames at the Henley Royal Regatta on July 2, 2014 in Henley-on-Thames, England. Opening today and celebrating its 175th year, the Henley Royal Regatta is regarded as part of the English social season and is held annually over five days on the River Thames. Thousands of rowing fans are expected to come to watch races which are head-to-head knock out competitions, raced over a course of 1 mile, 550 yards (2,112 m) which regularly attracts international crews to race. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

      'Downton Abbey' on the water

      Like "Downton Abbey," Henley's Royal Regatta reminds its visitors of an England of old. But for how much longer?
    • LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge poses next to the America's Cup as she visits the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for the Ben Ainslie America's Cup Launch on June 10, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

      Britain's $134M secret weapon?

      Can a $134 million budget and the royal seal of approval bring the coveted America's Cup back to British shores for the first time in sailing history?
    • Eyos Expeditions offers superyacht journeys to the most remote places on Earth.

      Yachting to the ends of the Earth

      Bored of lounging on your superyacht in the Mediterranean? An increasing number of millionaires are now sailing their luxury vessels to the ends of the Earth, to get their kicks.