“I have to lay down the laws and keep people in line.”
“I’m fortunate to have a good group. When I come across someone good, I stick with them. There’s a valid reason for that: I know what that person is capable of.”
“Say ‘yes’ to one and ‘no’ to another, and you have an issue.”
This might sound like Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson talking about managing his staff, but it’s not. These quotes are from Francisco Chadinha, captain of the 200-foot superyacht Diamonds Are Forever, who was discussing his crew.
The ultra-luxurious Diamonds Are Forever was designed by Azimut-Benetti, with interiors by Evan K. Marshal. It contains an owner’s apartment, three double cabins, a twin cabin, a VIP apartment, and crew quarters that can accommodate 15.
He and his crew love to watch Downton Abbey, especially since they enjoy a distant connection. The yacht’s hostess, Kirstin Podmore, has a sister who used to be an au pair at Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed.
And, most certainly, Chadinha and his crew can relate. “What’s said by the captain filters through the service areas,” observes Chadinha. “And the whole daily operation and maintenance of Downton Abbey is run exactly the same way as on the yacht.”
The “rules” are similar, too. For example, the Tom-Branson-and-Lady-Sybil liaison would not be considered a good idea on board, Chadinha notes. “There’s no mingling. There’s a line. Do not cross it. Staff or guests. When mingling develops into marriage, there’s friction.”
Mr. Carson is exemplary in his position as butler, Chadinha says, and that’s the way it should be. “Much is learned by observing your mentors. It’s a little like teaching a child how to have manners. You have to respect your elders.
“When I was a deckhand, I was lucky to learn from the right captains. If you have a bad leader, you will get bollixed up,” he says.
Like an estate, the yacht must be kept tidy and well-maintained, and the process of keeping it that way must be discreet. Aboard Diamonds Are Forever, “Most of the work gets done in the evening, after the charterers are asleep. Our owner doesn’t mind if we continue to work while he’s on board, but charter clients don’t like that.
“We get a feeling for what time they wake up, and arrange our schedule around that. We do shifts — beginning very early with the crew member whose job it is to get the boat ready.”
Like grand estates, circulation patterns are separate for crew and guests. Stairs on the port side are designated for crew, while stairs on the starboard side are for guests. “And except for the service staff, crew stays clear of the pool deck,” Chadinha explains.
“But the crew does play a tremendous part in creating the atmosphere. If your crew doesn’t jell and work as a team, the guests will feel the resulting conflict and politics. It’s noticeable. In the past, they’ve come to me about it.”
While the crew sets the tone, the owner or guests call the shots, Chadinha adds. “Too many ‘no’s’ is a bad thing. They hate ‘no’s.’ You have to be diplomatic. For my part, it’s important to be a can-do captain, relocating the boat and giving the owner and charterers what they want.”
But the crew members do have some impact, notes his wife, Chief Steward Lylani (they married in January, kind of like John and Anna Bates, but without the drama). “Not in all cases, but I find that the crew does have the ear of the owner.”
If you have a happy crew, you have a happy owner, explains Mark Lacey, captain of the Arianna, a 164-foot Delta superyacht that can accommodate 12 crew and 12 guests. “The crew affects guests’ and owners’ experience more than anything. A good chef, good food, and the way it’s served go a long way, too.
“We use cameras in the dining room to see when to serve. Guests don’t want to feel like they are being stalked, and the crew must provide service without hovering. A huge amount of the job is about being discreet,” he says.
“It’s the owner’s boat. He pays us. It’s not part of our job to know his life. We have to be friendly and personable, but not too personal. We must be attentive, know where the line is, and don’t step over it.”
Good communication among crew members is important, too, Lacey adds. “To be aware of guests’ needs, we have to know where our guests are and what they are doing.
“For example, the chief officer will call us at intervals when he is bringing charterers back from the beach, letting us know how close they are to returning. That way, as soon as the charterers step onboard, we are there with a towel and a drink.”
When David Clarke served as build captain for the 240-foot Laurel, he was given latitude to incorporate design and layout elements with the crew in mind. Laurel has room for 17 guests and 25 crew.
Like Downton Abbey, “There are underground passageways, service entrances and guest entrances. Even on a large estate, you never see the grocery car or the provisioning vehicle show up at the front door,” Clarke notes. “The garbage is never at the front. We designed Laurel the same way.”
On Laurel, the service entrance is on the port side, which leads to the crew area and the tank deck. The tank deck (on the lowest level) houses freezers and refrigerators, the laundry room, dry-goods storage rooms and the waste-management room. The tank deck and lower corridor also handle the flow of the crew.
“A crew member can move from bow to stern without going on deck or to the guest area. Although we had 20 or more crew, you don’t see them,” Clarke says.
Crew quarters are forward, while the owner’s stateroom is midship. “This gave crew full access to the boat, and allowed us to move throughout the yacht without being seen, too,” he says.
Laurel has two galleys. Owners and guests congregate in the guest galley, which also serves as the place for the executive chef to discuss menu and event planning, since it’s a better place to meet than the full working galley.
Notes Clarke: “If you go to one of those beautiful old restaurants in Italy, they have the show galley, where you can see the chefs cooking. The ‘grunt work’ is done in the lower galley.” Same with Laurel. And there are lifts to move the food from one deck to another, too.
Clarke, like Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson, believes in keeping things shipshape: “My grandfather said, ‘Plan your work. Work your plan,’ and I’m a fifth-generation captain. We put equipment in places where it’s going to be used. Everything has its place on board, and it should be cleaned and put back after it’s used.
“We have an amazing amount of stuff, and if it isn’t put back, it takes too much time to find it. If the owner says, ‘Where’s the water-ski rope?’ at 11, and you take 45 minutes to find it, that only gives him 15 minutes to water-ski before lunch at noon.”
Laurel was sold in March; Clarke had worked for the previous owners for 10 years. Many of his crew were long-time, too. “Like Downton, we were a family,” he says. “We were employed to complete a task, and the owner was happy with the outcome. It was a two-way street. The owner and crew enjoyed each other and the boat. It just worked.”
After leaving Laurel — and based on his many years as captain — Clarke launched his new business, Superyacht Operating Systems (SOS). It’s an online database of operational policies and procedures that ensure safety and efficiency.
written for palm beach daily news: http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/news/local/superyacht-captains-take-lessons-from-downton-abbe/ncYM3/