Superyachts in the 90's
Jenny Newbery was 27 when she landed her first job stew’ing on superyachts. Fresh faced from a season managing chalets in the French Alps at the end of the 90’s, she’d done massage, bar work and waitressing but stewardessing was something she’d only heard friends talk about.
Applying for jobs on board superyachts was very different 20 years ago, with the internet having only just arrived (1990) it still felt quite novel having the ability to get “online” but you had to find an internet café to do it!
Once in, you paid for your coffee and your allocated time slot, found a free computer and logged on, listening for that shrill whistle to announce your imminent connection with the outside world. Jenny told me “back then most people just had a Hotmail account, so you had to patiently wait to get online before eagerly checking for messages from family. Then you could sort your CV and set off, CV in hand, to walk the docks.”
Back then walking the docks was the way to get work on a superyacht, making friends and getting your face known by as many people as possible. “It was who you knew not what you knew! I spent May walking up and down the docks of Cannes, no STCW’s required, just experience and a willingness to work hard.”
There were hardly any crew houses either, most recruits camped in camp sites or camper vans.
That first summer, Jenny’s first job was as stewardess on a 24 metre motor yacht, one of a crew of 4. Jenny explained “my boyfriend was a deckhand and I remember standing at the dock, watching as he headed out of the harbour on the superyacht chartered by Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies, not knowing when we would see each other again! No mobiles, no computers, no Facebook!”
Next came MY Christina O, where Jenny was responsible for the interior: housekeeping, making beds, cleaning cabins, chambermaiding. “I learnt to clean with an earbud and a cocktail stick to a 5 Star standard and quickly got creative, using whatever was at my disposal; flowers, materials, napkins, glassware, crockery to present the dining table and cabins beautifully. Crew used to call it the Jenny Newbery Show!”
“The following season (April – November) my boyfriend and I got jobs together as stewardess and deckhand on the beautiful 50 metre MY Galu, built to go around the world, with a canoe stern and beautiful big boxed in flare at the bow.” Run as a charter boat, MY Galu was traditionally run with boys serving and girls allocated cleaning and ironing - a dry boat for the crew. As part of a larger crew (14) Jenny was able to learn the ropes from the Captain’s wife.
MY Victoire was Jenny’s last yacht, where she ended up as the “chef” catering for 6-8 guests, armed with lots of recipe books and a love of cooking she learnt to cook a varied menu. From then she was offered a job working in Simon Fuller’s (creator of Idol franchise) villa in Cannes, housekeeping and doing the odd massage charter.
Jenny told me “I spent 6 years on superyachts and loved the season, we’d spend the summer cruising the med and then head to the Alps from November to April, whilst the superyachts toured the Caribbean. Friends quickly became family, I learnt loads, became highly creative, totally self-sufficient, able to think on my feet, organised and above all prepared for anything. Skills which have stood me in good stead.”