Running Off to Sea in Your Yacht
I’ve been in a lot of rich people’s homes, especially when I was a reporter. Most were either fussy or gaudy. But I could actually imagine living on this 143-foot yacht.
I was aboard to research FINAL SAIL, my new Dead-End Job mystery. The yacht’s main salon had hand-carved oak the color of warm honey and soft couches that begged me to sink into their cushions.
All I’d need was $12,000,000, plus another million a year to run it.
Before I could pawn the cat to get the cash, someone else bought the yacht and deep-sixed my dreams.
If you’re tempted to run off to sea with a crew of ten to wait on you, here are a few things you should know about owning a yacht.
At 143 feet, this ship is roomy and beautifully furnished, but fairly modest for a mega-yacht. Sure, it has a master state room with a king-sized bed, two queen-sized guest staterooms, two more staterooms with twin beds, teak decks, a Jacuzzi and a million-dollar sound system. But it doesn’t have its own submarine or helicopter.
I could live with that.
It also has its own staff staircase and a hidden passage so the three stewardesses can clean the rooms and the heads without being seen by the guests.
What? You think a yacht with one staircase isn’t a problem?
During the annual boat show in Fort Lauderdale, I heard a woman complain that she ran into “the staff” – her words – on her yacht staircase. She and her husband were looking for a two-staircase yacht to avoid that vexing problem. You can imagine how much I sympathized with her.
The cleaning routine on luxury yachts rivals Victorian households. The yacht’s main rooms are dusted and vacuumed twice daily, and the guest heads are cleaned after every use. Yep. Every time.
When I say “heads,” I’m not talking about the pump toilets on many boats. On this yacht, guest heads have flush toilets, marble, mirrors and mountains of fluffy towels embroidered with the yacht’s name.
The stewardesses stay in touch by two-way radio. Each time a guest uses the head, a stewardess cleans the commode, sink and mirror, empties the wastebasket, changes the towels and folds the toilet paper into points. There are soap dispensers, but if the guest used the bar of Bvlgari, a fresh one is put out.
The staff gets to keep the barely used bar – but you’d be surprised how many guests don’t wash their hands.
In some ways, the yacht crew is treated better than the Victorian staff. The head housekeeper at a great British house wouldn’t care if the parlor maid preferred black Darjeeling to Dragon Well green tea. But the yacht chef will ask the lowly second stewardess if she’d rather drink Red Bull or Diet Coke, and if she has any allergies or foods she didn’t care for.
Why cater to the yacht staff? Unlike the Victorian serving maids, good staff is well-paid, in demand and highly mobile.
When a yacht cruises from Fort Lauderdale to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, that same stewardess may work 20 hours a day. If the owners and their guests come home at four a.m after a night of gambling, that stewardess will have to serve them drinks and sandwiches or an early breakfast.
But if there are rough seas on that crossing, the seasick stewardess is expected to drag her pea-green self down the stairs to serve milady and her friends soothing tea and soft-boiled eggs.
And woe betide the yacht stewardess if the ship lurches and a gold-rimmed teacup tumbles off her tray.
On some yachts, that $80 cup will be deducted from her pay.
Helen Hawthorne, Elaine Viets’ private-eye detective, works as a yacht stewardess in FINAL SAIL, the 11th Dead-End Job mystery. Marilyn Stasio praises Elaine’s “quick-witted mysteries” in the June 3 New York Times. Visit her website at elaineviets.com.