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Life’s lessons

As the yachting industry considers setting new standards for service, Sabrina Stedman shares this first-hand experience of a crew-training program in Sweden.


Story by Sabrina Stedman

There is a yacht stern to a dock, let’s say, in St-Tropez. Passersbys are gawking and oohing and ahhing over the enormity and elegance of the boat. You are a nobody to the naked eye, yet you walk up to the boat, slip off your shoes and ascend the passarelle. You secretly thrill at the privilege. You automatically have a sensation of self-confidence. You realize jealous onlookers are watching you from the dock.

OK, so you don’t own the boat; you have a uniform on and you are simply one of the crew, the one who serves the mojitos, vacuums the custom carpet, polishes the gold-plated faucets and makes the beds with the 500-thread count sheets. You are IN the world but not OF the world. Being a stewardess is an arduous job, yet it is one that can be extremely fulfilling and one that sets you up to be able to do anything else you set your sights on.

To a large degree of owners and guests, what makes their yachting experience so special is the exceptional service. Yet a uniform alone does not make one a good crewmember. I recently decided to embark on the adventure of becoming a qualified stewardess. The STCW 95 is a required safety course one must take to be legally qualified to work on any yacht, but I wanted to really sink my teeth into the attitude and qualifications necessary for a luxury yacht. I have had the good fortune to have been on the receiving side of great service and thought I knew what it would take to provide it. In order to learn more about the profession, I took a two-week course at the Swedish Yacht Crew School, based in Stockholm. Under the tutelage of SYCS’ and the school’s Founder and Director Malin Linder, I became much more aware, not only of the service required on a yacht, but of a whole code of ethics. Students learn useful everyday skills. We talked about many possible scenarios from the silly to the substantial; we learned how to sew buttons, get candle wax out of table clothes, which side to serve from, how to pour wine with style and a twist. But more importantly we learned “grace under pressure”— how to deal with what might become uncomfortable situations.

The school provided more then I could have imagined and Malin’s programs take experiential learning to a whole new level. We dined in nice restaurants to fully understand what great service should be. We had wine and champagne lessons from experts in Sweden’s biggest wine cave. Malin helped us understand how a stressful day at work might be by instructing us to fully clean a whole boat and make up a cabin on short notice. Beyond dust rags and silver polish, we were able to draw on Malin’s own experience as a chief stewardess on a high-profile yacht owned by a public personality. She was able to instill in us the need for discretion and for respecting privacy. She had wonderful anecdotes from her former students and you can tell she has a mother-like pride in all of them. Crewing aboard a yacht is a major lesson in psychology as well as service. I realized there is a fine line between being awkward and obsequious and being genuine. And sometimes it’s a skill you have to learn.

Swedish Yacht Crew School
St. Eriksgatan 112
SE-113 31 Stockholm
Tel: + 46 (0)8-420 50 194