A personal insight from Yotspot's Sarah Diggle- Whitlock
After returning from an incredible trip to Antigua, it evoked many memories for many reasons. Our Yotspot end of show ‘Mingle’ with Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting was to not only raise money for Yacht Crew Help but also a celebration of finally being together again after such difficult times
I spent 10 years on Superyachts, lucky enough to of circumnavigated on both motor & sail, completed 8 Atlantic crossings – seeing my first flying fish blew my mind! I have seen the world through the eyes of the rich & famous onboard yachts & their private jets, I sailed down the Amazon river over the Christmas period, to make the boss laugh I sat on an inflatable banana in a Santa hat with Piranhas below me , I’ve been shipwrecked in Madagascar, jumped off the mast at Jost Van Dyke for free drinks, rubbed shoulders with royalty, dived in places there are no charts for, experienced a Mayday in Antigua where we were de masted, I have organised the most bizarre parties for guests that have tested both my nerve, physical limitations & imagination , I held my stomach to supress laughter as a certain rude Count threw up overboard whilst letting rip god almighty sounds from the other end, the food the Chefs make is like nothing you will ever taste again.
I understand what camaraderie truly is & I have forged friendships that will remain constant in my life.
I have a volume of books worth of experiences on yachts…but the negatives are just as memorable.
Being of an empathetic character, I never failed to notice the loneliness many heads of department & junior crew faced, even though I was a Chief Stewardess, when I wanted to start a family, I came to a shore based yachting position. Others did not have the same opportunities or felt they ‘have to’ stay onboard to support financial responsibilities or family.
Onboard a Superyacht you live, work & play with the same team during a busy charter season. There is no 9-5pm, no walking away from work to leave it behind & enjoy drinks with your friends from home.
Captains are often onboard for months on end, the responsibility of not only the crew wellbeing, but that of guests & the ultimate safety of the yacht itself - & if not managed shore based, an inconceivable amount of paperwork to keep up with. Many do not see their partners or children until the end of a ‘season’ – a usual 6 months.
If anybody was struggling onboard with their mental health, in any department, you were expected to talk to your head of department, & if this failed you had your DPA ashore. But neither of these options were a professional body, trained to deal with the mental health issues many crews faced onboard.
I have been in the industry now 22 years & sadly I have known many who have suffered in silence & some ended in tragedy.
Additionally, when you left to go ashore, many were left feeling ‘what now?’ – there was no guidance, no help & worst of all, no recognition, no qualifications (for interior crew) to the hard work required to work on a Superyacht.
This now has all changed.
I am without words to describe how proud I am to be part of this revolution within our incredible industry, working towards aiding crew with not only professional help onboard & shore side from companies like Luxury Hospitality Management but online courses promoting general wellbeing such as The Crew Academy, career progression, talent profiling to ensure you are well placed, accredited, audited courses that show your efforts to work shore side, the industry now is firing on all cylinders to provide all crew with support mentally & moving towards a long term career.
I personally have been a freelance GUEST trainer for over 10 years for interior crew & have reaped the benefits watching students flourish from a unified training programme.
Print publications & digital campaigns are all geared towards the same goal, we are all on the same page.
Thank you to those who so generously donated prizes for us to give away at our event, our end figure is still not finalized but it has been a huge success!
If anyone reading this resonates personally or knows somebody struggling with their Mental Health, please contact the amazing Yacht Crew Help they are 24/7 & offer multilingual support, many have been in the industry & know first-hand the perils.
Finally, I salute all those companies tirelessly helping, evolving, teaching, training, listening, inspiring, thank you.