The impact of COVID-19 on superyacht crew training

Up until 2019, the super yachting business was growing from strength to strength with no end in sight, then 2020 and the pandemic hit. Like almost every other industry, the yachting industry was dealt a major blow.  The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns and new regulations basically shut down the travel industry, not to mention how it has affected the global economy since.  

This has left those wanting to pursue a career in super yachting at a loss as to where to go or what to do now. We discuss some of the harsh realities of the impact of the pandemic on the industry, as well as how best to use your time right now.

The reality of super yachting during a pandemic

At the start of the pandemic, there was this huge unknown. As lockdowns were implemented like the Mexican Wave across the globe it became increasingly difficult to move and place crew members, processes like booking flights, attaining correct documentation and visas for joining and disembarking crew members in each port was hindered by national border closures and airports. Some crew members had to remain at home for extended periods of time before they could go back to their contracts, others had to remain on board for between 6 and 11 months until airports and repatriation were allowed by certain governments. 

It was a complicated time, and as 2020 progressed, it didn’t get any easier. April normally signalled the start of the yachting season and yachting crew would begin their hunt for work. However, with no vaccine in sight and the crippled economy, yacht owners were being more cautious than ever about new hires or were running on a skeleton crew. Recruitment took a dive.

However, 2021 brings with it more hope as vaccine roll-outs begin. While it is still difficult to predict the future of the industry we can already see that more countries are opening up their borders for travel. The vaccination programs being implemented everywhere could start a trickle of new business for the industry. 

Many hopeful superyacht crew members are wondering what to do right now that could help further their career or bolster their chances at landing a job as recruitment picks up. We’ve got some suggestions.

Use this time effectively, upskill yourself.

Now is the ideal time to reinvest in yourself. Take the time to improve your CV; learn new skills and do courses that will build valuable skills that no employer can resist. When the job opportunities start to roll in again, you will be ready and highly qualified to apply and even have a better chance at landing a position.

We have a list of superyacht courses for crew members that we offer, which include:

If you’d like to get in touch with our team to find out more about superyacht career training and what one needs to become a crew member on a superyacht, we can certainly help you.

Possible changes to the industry 

The future of yacht charter is most definitely going to look different post-pandemic, and it is difficult to predict exactly how but we have observed certain changes already in effect. 

  • Higher need for refundable bookings and added clauses in contracts
  • Stricter tests for captains and crew to ensure they are COVID-19 free
  • Should see an increase in private charters once things are back to normal (people opting for private yacht charters over ocean liners due to health concerns)

Future job security for superyacht crews

The reality is that currently a lot of positions have been put on hold, with yachts operating on skeleton crew only. However, this will be temporary and the vaccine roll-out brings with it the hope of a renewal of interest in nautical travel for leisure. The availability of the rapid tests also means that international travel is expedited in most cases without the need for longer quarantine times – which is a win for both travellers and crew members.

Many yacht owners are restricting recruitment to only candidates based in the same country, making it easier to join the crew with no travel restrictions or quarantine periods. This too will be temporary because crews look for diversity and high quality in new recruits – and the bigger the pool the higher the likelihood of fulfilling this. 

Looking forward, we are hopeful that things will turn around and that the yacht crew job market will make a full recovery. We just urge students to use this time as best as they can to prepare for when it does.

How to help your guests when they are seasick

Many years ago a female guest walked on board and announced that she was going to be seasick the entire trip and that her children were forcing her to come along on this charter.

I had the unfortunate experience an hour or so later when she vomited all over my arm and uniform as I was reaching for a bucket (forgive my slow reactions, but my other hand was holding a cold towel to her forehead). Catch being – we were still docked…  At my steward/ess courses at Super Yachting South Africa I am often asked by my new-to-the-yachting-industry students: “What if I get seasick?”

Is seasickness ‘all in the mind’ or is it a debilitating condition that many people suffer from? For this column, I choose not to enter into this debate, however, I will share some valuable tips and advice for the crew who either suffer from it themselves or need to help guests who cannot handle the motions of the ocean.

To explain the phenomenon of seasickness: Your feet are telling your brain that you’re on solid ground when you’re actually rocking and rolling on the high seas. Your brain gets confused; you get sick. The rolling and pitching affect each individual differently. The brain relies on messages from your eyes, inner ear and muscles in order to tell your body how it is moving.  When one is off or sending a different message, you can become nauseous or queasy.  The yacht’s motion competes against our body’s natural proclivity for balance.  Symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, sweating, headache and vomiting.

Many crew and guests will suffer for the first 48 hours at sea while acquiring their ‘sea legs’ – the ability to reclaim your balance on a moving yacht.

Seasickness and the many factors that affect it can be largely controlled, however, keep in mind that not everyone is equally sensitive to motion.  There are mild, moderate, and extreme cases of motion sickness. Therefore, some of these tips may not work for everyone.

Seasickness Medication

Remember that all and any medications are best prescribed by a medical professional!  Check with your guests if they have any allergies, etc. and if all else fails; consult with your yacht’s medical company (like Medlink) first before handing out any medications.

  • Stugeron 15 ® (active ingredient is cinnarizine): This is normally best to be taken 6 – 8 hours before going underway.
  • Sea Band ® and Acuband ®:  They are small cotton bracelets with dots that purportedly touch acupressure points on your wrist. For centuries, traditional Chinese medicine has included acupuncture or acupressure on the inside of the wrist, at a spot called P6, as a way to suppress the nausea associated with sea sickness. More sophisticated, battery-operated bands like Reliefband ®, which delivers an electrical pulse instead of pressure, also work well.
  • Mercalm ® (active ingredients are Caffeine and Dimenhydrinate):  Dimenhydrinate directly inhibits the stimulation of certain nerves in the brain and inner ear to suppress nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and vertigo.
  • Kwells ® (active ingredient is Hyoscine hydrobromide):  This ingredient particularly helps with inhibiting vomiting, which of course is an embarrassing symptom of sea sickness.
  • Berocca ®:  This multivitamin (calcium, B and C vitamins, magnesium and zinc) would help improve physical stamina, especially if the sufferer has been sick for a few hours or a day.
  • Transderm-Scop ® (active ingredient is Scopolamine):  This is a medicated patch that looks like a band-aid and is the size of a small coin. It slowly releases medication (over a 72 hour period), which is absorbed into the body through the skin.  The patch is normally applied to the hairless skin behind the ear.  Scopolamine, the drug that reduces the activity of nerve fibers in your inner ear, is hands down the most successful commercial seasickness medication on the market.  You will do need a prescription from a medical professional. Just be mindful of following directions and watching for side effects like dry mouth and blurred vision.
  • Dramamine ®, Nauzene ®, Bonine ® (active ingredient is dimenhydrinate or meclizine hydrochloride):  Some people believe that the best remedy for sea sickness is to take a heavy sea sickness pill or two and try to sleep. Once in motion, the tablets won’t really work, unless ingested well before.  This is difficult if you are a crew member on charter though…

Fever often accompanies sickness.  Many sea sickness sufferers say they often get a fever with sea sickness and people often do not realise that’s a big part of what is making them feel so horrible. Paracetamol can obviously help with that.  Early signs can include chills, headache and frequent burping.  Once burping starts, pills will not help anymore – it might be time to go to the leeward side of the deck and let it all go…

  • Emetrol ® (active ingredient is Phosphorated carbohydrate solution):  This is a powerful over-the-counter anti-nausea drug.
  • Reglan ® (active ingredient is metoclopramide):  This injection is for preventing nausea and vomiting.   This would only be available on prescription from a medical professional.

Natural Solutions for Seasickness

Anything ginger…  Ginger, ginger and more ginger – there is a variety of herbal ginger teas available, as well as serving or eating freshly grated ginger root, ginger sweets, freshly baked ginger cookies (not containing too much sugar), natural ginger ales, ginger tablets and ginger powder. Although many naturalists say normal Ginger Ale (in a can) will not help, it does contain phosphoric acid and sugars that can help calm down the stomach.  I was taught many years ago to give my guests a glass of ginger ale, lots of ice and a few drops of Angostura Bitters added.  This is a remedy I have used for a long time for seasick guests and crew. You can also offer the guests a shot glass of grated fresh ginger mixed with freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice.  Both the citrus and ginger will have a calming effect on their upside-down tummies.

WARNING: Ginger can negatively interact with certain medications, particularly blood thinners. Clear this with your guests and if in doubt, avoid it.

Divertigo ®, MotionEaze ®:  These drops are rubbed behind the ears several times daily. Containing natural ingredients such as lavender, peppermint, frankincense, chamomile, myrrh, ylang-ylang and birch, this remedy will also act as a calming agent for anxious guests.

Some sufferers swear by simply chewing on ice cubes, eating citrus sweets or drinking fresh lemon juice, placing cold towels on the forehead and eating dry raw nuts and unsalted crackers, charcoal crackers or Melba Toast.  It is essential to eat little portions frequently, rather than a lot in one go.

Dehydration can cause symptoms of seasickness to start or make them worse if you are already feeling poorly.  Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day, and try to drink ice water as much as possible.

Can acupuncture and pressure point therapy help?  Some experts suggest going for regular treatments before your guest comes on the trip can help the onset of nausea.  If your guest was not aware of this remedy, you could arrange for this treatment to be done on-board by a licensed Acupuncturist (or your Stew/Masseuse might already be licensed!).

I worked with a First Mate who always became violently ill for the first few days of each trip (even though he was a 15 year yachting veteran) and he believed in drinking cans of ginger ale, apple juice and lots of ice water to keep cool.  He always asked for saltines and went outside of the bridge as much as he could for fresh air.  He stayed away from acidic (like coffee and orange juice) and strong, heavy foods and drinks for the duration of our trips.

Where on the Yacht is Best?

Look up and out. Stop tinkering with your computer and equipment and look out on the horizon, which usually appears very stable. Suggest to your guests that they don’t watch TV, read a Kindle or play on their tablets, and rather look outside to the horizon, as your peripheral vision will see the ocean swells that you feel. The whole picture will make more sense to your brain.  Suggest they place themselves at the center of the boat where the rocking and rolling is less amplified.  It often helps to lie down on a couch or a towel in this area.

If conditions are safe, the captain could allow them to drive/steer the yacht (under strict supervision of course!) – the concentration will take their minds off the seasickness.

If you are cruising somewhere in calm seas and it is at all possible, it is a good idea to actually anchor in shallow waters and let the guests go for a swim.

Sit on the sundeck or higher aft decks and look at the horizon – just stay away from any yacht fumes, which are often a problem on the main aft deck.

If we know our guests tend to suffer from sea sickness, it would be smart for the captain to adjust the itinerary.  Avoid multiple days at sea. Itineraries with more frequent docking will be your best bet. You want fewer days at sea and more days in port with an opportunity to get off the yacht often. A Trans-Atlantic cruise or sailing with two or more days at sea in a row is not ideal if your guests are sensitive to motion. This is of course not possible for crew, and they would need to try some of the other suggestions to battle nausea.

Seasickness Tips

Don’t try to read. Focusing your eyes on an apparently stationary target makes them even more convinced that your middle ears are wrong.

Avoid key triggers. There are a number of factors that can contribute to the not-so-great feeling of being off-balance. It is a good idea to avoid fatty foods or those high in salt and sugar, avoid alcohol 24 hours prior to sailing, and poor ventilation as strong smells can overwhelm the senses and push you over the edge (metaphorically speaking of course!).

Close your eyes. You may have to go below or find a place in the centre of the yacht to stretch out and lie down, in which case you should close your eyes so they aren’t giving a no-motion message to your brain (of course not advisable for a crew member to lie down in the saloon whilst guests onboard).

Be clean and sober. Even a mild hangover can easily degenerate into seasickness, besides increasing various diving risks.  Likewise, fatigue predisposes you to seasickness – of course after a long season of back-to-back charters, how does one prevent being tired whilst cruising?!

Relax. Anxiety contributes to seasickness. Those who are frightened by the ocean and the movement of the boat, or anxious about the diving later in the day, are more likely to become seasick.

Avoid the cabin. To acclimatize to the motion and get those sea legs working, it is best to spend as much time as possible outside on deck in the fresh air.

Plan ahead. Take precautions early – go for acupuncture, take your tablets a few days before the trip, start using the patch the day before, etc.

If you feel the urge, let it rip. You’ll feel better almost immediately. Prolonging the inevitable only prolongs the pain.  Don’t use a toilet or a trash can (poor Stewies!). Go to the rail on the lee (downwind) side or use a bucket if one is designated.

Avoid powers of suggestion. If you think you’re going to get motion sickness, more than likely you will. Or if you suffer other forms of motion sickness (car, train, plane) the stress of past experiences can influence your mind. Your mind is a powerful thing.  After a few hours, most people feel better. For some it takes a day or two. Almost everyone gets over seasickness within three days.

If all else fails…. “A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.” Spike Milligan.

Written By: Isobel Odendaal for Onboard Online

Stew Tips: Wellbeing Ahead of the Charter Season

As yacht steward/esses, we all know that a busy yacht charter season can take its toll on our physical and emotional health. With long work hours, stressful conditions and demanding guests, we sometimes forget that we also have to take care of ourselves and our precious health.

We have had some wonderful discussions on our Facebook group, Yacht Stewardess and Steward Tips and, for this column, I would like to share some tips on how to stay healthy on charter, even in small spaces as well as some healthy ‘between-guest’ health rescue ideas.

As another busy Mediterranean season has just kicked off, I’m sure you’ll find many of these suggestions soothing to your body and soul. Best of luck to all of you!

Planning for your own wellbeing

As many of you will agree, a busy season can really do a number on our health. Here are some suggestions for before, during and after your charter guests have left.

After all those long hours on your feet, nothing beats a good manicure and pedicure! If you’re lucky enough to have a beauty therapist onboard, maybe you can convince them (with some financial encouragement) to treat you to a special mani/pedi. I once worked on a yacht that spent four months in the yard and our captain actually asked the beauty therapist to give every crew member either a massage, reflexology or manicures and pedicures. I guess he felt she had to keep up her skills, but nothing beats a good mani/pedi before and after the season.

Before the charter season starts: 

Schedule visits to the dentist, hair salon, check that all your bills are being paid (arrange debit orders, etc).

It’s highly advisable to visit your gynaecologist, dermatologist, optometrist and GP at least once or twice a year and stock up on your medications and multi-vitamins.

Purchase your essentials – such as favourite make-up, beauty products and make-up brushes.

Download some audiobooks and make some playlists for yourself and for guests.

Items to bring on board when joining a new yacht: 

Silk pillowcase, headphones, comfy sleepwear, body lotion (not a strong smell), nail clippers and nailcare items, good sunglasses, one workout outfit (if there is ever time), a bathing suit (that is work appropriate if invited on guest excursions), and an outfit to wear out to dinner with the boss or guests if invited.

Thank you for the music

Get your favourite Spotify playlists ready to go. Spotify is great because you can download playlists for when you have no internet service or WiFi. In Spotify, you can mark selected playlists and sync them to your computer or mobile device for offline listening. You only need to be online to sync the tracks in the first place.

A group member shared some of her favourite playlists with the group (search for Lauren Lubitz on Spotify):

  • 2018 – upbeat songs from 2018
  • Fam party – some classic party songs
  • Good day underway – is my underway playlist full of beach/boating and some country songs
  • Summer Party – a good party playlist for 20somethings
  • Spring cleaning – playlists for detail cleaning days
  • Summer cleaning – playlists for detail cleaning days
  • Peaceful guitar – good background dinner music, but can be repetitive
  • Happy day – upbeat chill family happy music
  • Brunch – Sunday morning chill upbeat music
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – 68 songs for star gazing, all songs say something about stars, galaxy, etc.
  • Wish upon a starfish – 77 songs about beach, lakes, boats, ocean, etc.
  • Boca fiesta – Spanish songs for theme night or theme nights
  • Chillin under the covers – chill cover songs, mostly acoustic
  • Beach in Hawaii – reggae beach music

Take care of the small stuff

Another must-have to keep on board is a natural hand cream like Aesop ® from Australia as hands feel tired too – a necessity just before sleep on charter.

Cooling gel for legs and feet helps a lot after long hours on your feet! Prior to the season, order top-ups of all your precious creams, which might not be easy to find elsewhere.

It’s a good idea to get all your hair removal done prior to a long season – waxing, laser treatments, etc. If you like permanent make-up, it saves a lot of time on charter if you have less make-up to worry about.

Invest in good earplugs, a sleeping mask, dry shampoo, make-up removal wet tissues, BB cream (short for ‘blemish balm’ cream – it is a versatile combination of products such as moisturizer, primer, SPF, foundation, skin treatment, and concealer). Look into products like Eltamd ® tinted sunscreen, many steward/esses swear by this product.

Stay connected

A busy charter season takes its toll, so be kind to yourself – rest when you can and stay connect with the people who make you happy – it takes five minutes a day to stay in touch with loved ones via Whatsapp or Skype.

A little extra help

Consider investing in a 24k gold collagen eye or facial mask. It’s pricey, but it will make your face feel brand spanking new after just one use.

Personally I’ve also seen the benefits of a B-12 shot once or twice a year. However, it is important to discuss this with your health care professional, as different people react to this treatment in different ways, not always well.

If all else fails, for the first week on holiday just go wild and let your hair down!!

Chief Stews: Ideas for a ‘welcome on board’ gift for your team

If your yacht’s budget allows, it’s always a great idea to buy your team a ‘welcome on board’ or pre-charter gift package. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but the gesture will lift their spirits and get them excited for the upcoming season.

Here are some handy ideas for gift packs:

  • Dry shampoo
  • Sephora ® face, eye and foot masks
  • A deep moisturizing hand lotion
  • Burt Bees ® make-up remover wipes
  • Resistance bands – easy to use in small spaces like a bow or cabin
  • Olly ® multivitamins
  • Ear plugs, body scrub, facial cleansing sponges and wipes
  • Night cream for eyes or face, eye cream, eye drops, mini hair sprays, mini hair gels, mouth wash, mints
  • YSL ® brightening pen – one of my favourite must-have items on charter!
  • Lip moisturizer protection, sunscreen
  • Lucas’ ® PawPaw gel
  • Hair ties, masks, Eucerin ® Aquaphor hand balm, hangover cure patches
  • Foot spray and cream from Primark ®
  • Hair oil shots and under-eye masks
  • NatraCure ® 5-Toe Gel Moisturizing Socks – they help for dry feet, cracked heels, calluses, cuticles, rough skin and enhances your favourite lotions and creams whilst sleeping
  • Hydrating face mist
  • A foot massager
  • Hair ties/bobby pins in the colour of their hair, as those go missing en masse
  • Foot rollers/massage balls, hot pack for shoulders/back or for the dreaded tummy cramps
  • Magic-away makeup remover
  • Always keep stuff in the snack cupboard – it is always a nice surprise for the different nationalities on board if you have some of their home country’s snacks available during a busy charter season.
  • Arnica sticks or Arnica drops – helps with the dreaded stew bruising and muscle aches
  • Silicone Gel Socks that you wear at night time after rubbing a peppermint lotion on them
  • Champagne split bottles or an expensive bottle of wine for after-charter celebration
  • Compressions socks! A lifesaver when feet are swelling.
  • CBD balm, very effective and doesn’t smell like the traditional pain reliever (if available where your yacht is docked)
  • Arbonne ® Prepwork Gel Eye masks are great for dark circles and puffy eyes
  • Tiger Balm
  • A nice organic pillow spray to help with peaceful sleep
  • Wine and spa gift cards could be useful if you want to give something small and don’t want to cause clutter in the cabin

Before, during and after – time permitting!

Another mani/pedi and a well-deserved massage!

If you are able to go home, take the clothes and items with you that you didn’t wear or need. If possible, try to take a mini-vacation.


Make time for a mini-detox or take a few days for a proper full detox or cleanse. A lymphatic drainage massage might also be a good idea (check with your medical professional if this would be suitable if you have any medical issues). MLD is a very light, delicate, and superficial technique – very different from classic massage, which also moves lymph, but affects muscles, veins, arteries which lie deeper.


Something that I tried to do as often as possible, was to go totally off-radar and go somewhere far, far away from boats. Even checking into a hotel alone for a weekend with your favourite book or TV programme does wonders to energize your body and soul.

For after-season holidays, if you’re experienced in the art of yoga, book a yoga retreat, a diving holiday, or a wine tasting trip in France – anything that nourishes your soul and awakens your interest and energy levels, and may add to your steward/ess skill set!

Best of luck to all of you. Always remember to take care of yourselves. When we work in service, it’s so easy to focus on everyone around us but don’t forget about your own emotional and physical wellbeing!

Written By: Isobel Odendaal for Onboard Online