Crew Compass loves supporting fellow yachties, and we were lucky enough to chat with Chief Stew, Gemma Christian, about her experience in yachting and beyond. Check out the interview below and follow Gemma’s experience on Instagram @theyachtstew:
Crew Compass: What is your position? Describe what you do.
Gemma: I’m a Chief Stewardess onboard a Private 50m M/Y. I oversee the interior of that yacht, everything from meal service, housekeeping, inventories, provisioning, laundry etc. It’s my job to ensure everything runs as smoothly & efficiently as possible while ensuring that the guests have the best time possible onboard. I have an amazing second stewardess & we have freelance junior stews onboard for guest trips. It’s such a diverse position, every day is different & brings about a new challenge.
Crew Compass: What did you do before yachting, and where are you from?
Gemma: I was born on the Isle of Man in the UK & the moved to Vancouver, Canada when I was 10. Before yachting, I was an Event Planner & loved it! I initially wanted to be a Wedding Planner (I blame JLO!) and quickly realized it wasn’t for me.
Crew Compass: What made you want to start a career in yachting?
Gemma: I was just about to graduate from Uni, I didn’t have any specific ties to Vancouver & wanted to travel more than anything. Thankfully I went to Uni with an ex-chief stew who told me all about the industry!
Crew Compass: How long have you been in yachting? What size yachts have you worked on?
Gemma: I’ve been in yachting for 6 years & Chief Stew for 2. In the past I’ve worked on boats ranging from 35m – 75m. For that past 3 years I’ve been on a 50m & moving forward I would like to continue on this size or larger.
Crew Compass: How did you get your first job and how much has changed since then and now?
Gemma: I found my first job through a uniform store in Fort Lauderdale! I went to every networking event, dock walked & met with agents. I then started going to yacht interior stores, uniform stores etc. to chat with the ladies there as many were ex-yacht crew. I went in once a week to look through stock & say hello. The owner of the store took my CV & 2 weeks later I was on my way to the Bahamas.
Crew Compass: What is the hardest part of your job?
Gemma: Hmm… The hours can be challenging! After 7 weeks of guests onboard, the first thing I do when they depart is sleep. I always give my stews breaks during the day & make that a priority. If I can go on a break & the owners don’t need me around, then I will. I also go MIA when guests are onboard, I don’t have time to chat with family & friends so I have long catch ups during our down time.
Crew Compass: What is your favorite part of your job?
Gemma: Theme nights! We do loads of theme nights onboard & I absolutely love it!! Last summer I organized a 007 surprise birthday party for a guest. It took 3 weeks to put it together & I had both stews involved. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face at the end of the night knowing how happy the guests were. Planning parties all around the world… sometimes I have to pinch myself!
Crew Compass: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a chief stewardess, or just stepped into the role of chief stewardess?
Gemma: Remind yourself of how your chief stew made you felt on your first, second, third boat. Show kindness & grace towards your stews. Be willing to teach & share your knowledge. I finish every single day onboard with a massive thank you to my stews & any other crew who have helped that day. Its important to me that my girls know how wonderful they are and give them a chance to take on new responsibility onboard. I really think we can learn from each other, I’ve learned something from every single stewardess I’ve had onboard – at the end of the day, we are all stews.
Crew Compass: Where are you off to next with your boat?
Gemma: Vancouver Island, Canada.
Crew Compass: Where is your favorite place you’ve been so far on a yacht?
Gemma: My first yacht went to Cuba for 2 months. All of the stews learned how to salsa dance, made mojitos at a bar claiming to of invented them & snorkelled in some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. We made sure to make the most of our time off!
Crew Compass: What’s your favorite: cocktail making, flower arranging, table décor, or theme nights? Why?
Gemma: I’ve already mentioned theme nights, so besides that, I love cocktails! It’s become a huge passion of mine while on this yacht. Our owners like to have a Cocktail of the Day for everyday that they are onboard & it can never be repeated. We’re forced to be creative & think outside of the box – its awesome!
Crew Compass: Charter or private – and why?
Gemma: Private – my fiancé & I work onboard together and we have found its easier to have good longevity on a private yacht. The owners get to know you, there preferences become second nature to avoid issues & overall we just really enjoy the atmosphere. Maybe we’ll do a charter boat together in the future & I may have to change my answer!
Crew Compass: They say in yachting there are 3 elements – owner, program, and crew. If you could only pick 2, which 2 and why?
Gemma: If I had to pick two, Crew & Program would be my top pick. It’s so important to be apart of a strong & fair team. Even on days where the guests can be difficult, knowing you can spend a 2 hours break exploring Ibiza or New York makes it all worth it!
Crew Compass: If you weren’t working on yachts, what would you be doing?
Gemma: I would probably be a Corporate Event Planner. I don’t think I’ll ever do something that isn’t remotely related to event management.
Crew Compass: Tell us a true story that happened to you —The craziest, funniest, or scariest moment so far.
Gemma: I was once on a yacht that had a wild prank week onboard. The chef bought underwear & stained them with chocolate cake mix & mustard for us girls to find on the floor in the laundry. So the chief stew put cyan pepper on his toothbrush & toilet paper. That was only day 1! We found zombie mannequins placed in guest closets for us to find when we were detailing & deckies hid in garbage cans to scare us. I can’t help but laugh looking back.
So great to hear from Gemma! Thanks for supporting Crew Compass and being an ambassador. Looking forward to checking out your cocktail recipes! For all the aspiring or current yachties looking for work, check out Crew Compass JOBS for new job postings.