Sunday, June 9, 2013

Strange Sails

After interviewing and getting hired within all of 30 minutes on Islandia, I was able to skip off to my mom’s new house on Glen Lake for the weekend. I wanted the job and was relieved they knew they wanted to hire me almost immediately, but I still felt uneasy knowing I planned an out for myself and wasn't necessarily 100% committed at first. It just all happened so fast and was overwhelming. Once I was able to sit in the car and think about what just happened, then call my mom and work it out with her, I knew there was absolutely no way I could not take this opportunity. For one, I had nothing else lined up for work, and 2, this job has all the things that make my heart go pitter patter - adventure on the high seas, all expenses paid, a new experience, a chance to learn an entirely new skill set, and generally an unknown future. Although my heart truly breaks for Mt. Hood and its absence in my life still hasn't fully sunken in, this opportunity is not a terrible option by any means. In fact, it will only enrich and develop my character in ways that if I went back to Hood and did the same thing this summer I might not gain. So back I went to Newport from my mom's to start my summer adventure and meet up with the people and boat I'll be sharing it with.

Islandia’s crew consists of the captain, chef, first mate and myself. The captain and chef are a married couple that have been in the yachting business for over 50 years combined. The captain is a Navy vet from Barbados and the chef is a sweet woman from the DC area that started working on boats right out of high school. South Africa is where the first mate calls home and has been racing in regattas for a decade. They all have sea legs and sailing experience for days, leaving me as the newb with open eyes and ears ready to learn and absorb all that I can from them in hopes that by the end of all this I can call myself a sailor. They’re all super easy going, laid back and we all get along really well. It’s crucial that we get along and work well together since we’re not only working together, but living with each other and spending every waking moment together.

We made the final preparations on Monday morning, June 3rd, and were ready to greet Islandia’s owner and buddies Monday afternoon for a week of sailing and sight-seeing. My job began with serving happy hour, then dinner, clearing and cleaning up, and then turning down the beds in each of the guest cabins (which means pulling back the covers for them.) There are 4 cabins, three guest cabins and the master cabin that is truly what makes this boat amazing. Remember, this is a 140’ sailing yacht with a fulltime crew of 4. Although it sails and there’s hearty adventure in that, it also entails plenty of luxury. 
Master cabin all done up
Entry from the deck into the "upper salon"

Dinner table set in the lower salon

The next day we planned for an early start to test out the engine and get underway out of Newport bay. The day's itinerary was to cruise through Rhode Island Sound toward Cuttyhunk Island off of Woods Hole, Massachusetts to anchor for the night. Our sail to Cuttyhunk was not without malfunction, that’s for sure. We discovered some issues with lines that were jammed and stuck below deck, our friend Auto Pilot was being temperamental, alarms were going of all over the place, but the best part was when the owner, Harvey, ran ‘er aground when we pulled into the Cuttyhunk shallows to anchor. Luckily we got unstuck almost instantly, but where would we be without a little excitement in our day? Above all, it was a success. Islandia went out for a sail for the first time in months and we made it to our destination safe and sound.

The next day was a proper day of work with the guests fully on their vacation. My job as stewardess is to make sure the guests are well taken care of. I’m a waitress, bartender, chambermaid, nurse, entertainer, and problem solver. Obviously the Captain is the decision maker and has final say on all matters. His wife, the chef, has been a cook/stew for about as many years as I’ve been alive,  and has given me immeasurable guidance, advice and direction since I’ve been aboard Islandia.

As the week went on I was able to anticipate my tasks and take care of our guests with ease. This job is not difficult, it just requires a positive attitude and tireless work ethic. I love working hard and being busy all day. I find similarities between being a yacht stewardess and coaching ski racing in that its busy busy on the go, every day is different while working as part of a team to achieve a common goal. By the end of the day you’re ready to sit and relax with a drink and good company. And I have a built in set of family/friends that understand exactly how hard we just worked and can commiserate over the day.
Captain Steve and First Mate Andy hard at work

By the end of our first trip we were all working in sync. We had a few nights off together when the guests went ashore in Martha’s Vineyard and Newport for dinner, leaving us to lounge and enjoy the boat to ourselves. It may seem like sometimes we’re indentured servants living and working in a confined space for an all powerful owner, but the moments when we have freedom to enjoy the boat by ourselves makes it worth it. Islandia never feels like its mine, it will always be a job and a burden to keep safe and orderly, but it sure is a nice place to call home for the summer!

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