First Time Chief Stew

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My first time as Chief Stew I remember clear as day. I returned from holiday & stepped back onboard as Chief Stewardess for the first time. The butterflies were SO intense that I had just spent the 14-hour flight back to the boat, writing notes, work lists, positive affirmations & training plans. 

{Wondering if you are ready to become Chief Stew? Click HERE to read my thoughts on making the transition!}

The first season as a Chief Stewardess is just indescribable. Suddenly you are responsible for a team, the main liaison with the guests & take on the ultimate responsibility for the Interior. It’s a lot to take in & offers some major learning curves. I reached out to 5 Chief Stewardesses in the Industry to share their top 3 learning curves during their first Chief Stew season! They are sharing their learning curves to hopefully help you with yours. 


Written by Briony, Chief Stewardess of 3 Years

My name is Briony and I’m from Devon in the UK. I’m forever missing proper English chocolate and mums Sunday roasts but I’ve been in yachting for 8 years traveling the med at first, and now been lucky enough to be based on the West Coast of the USA, Canada, and Alaska for 4 years with my South African husband who’s chief engineer on my boat (lucky me). I stepped up to chief stew on a lovely boat 3 years ago and have been blessed with incredible owners and a great crew that feel like family.

Stewardess Chief Stew Uniform Yachting Yachtie Asian Theme

Briony is on the right-hand side. 

Diving Underwater Sea Turtle Adventure

  1. With the new role comes a big step up in responsibility and as you feel you are trying to prove yourself to others as well as to yourself. I feel you put a lot of pressure on yourself, feel the need to work at 100mph whilst covering all bases and it’s important not to burn out. You have your team for a reason so it’s important to learn to use their strengths and work together for the greater goal. Even though you may feel you can’t sit for a mouthful of food sometimes I have learned it’s really important to try and take some time out of your day for yourself. Take a walk (if at the dock), a quick nap does wonders and even 10 mins fresh air or meditation is so beneficial for your own mindset as well as the rest of the crew.

  2. Suddenly you’re looked up to in respect of all aspects onboard so how you conduct yourself is very important. I learned how you act, react and deal with the ongoing situations onboard really affects your team and other crew members. Supporting your team with working hard alongside them, a kind word, a hug, or a thank you truly does make a difference and can turn anyone’s hectic day right back around again. If you’re upbeat and positive even after all the long hours put in then everyone can pull through together.

  3. Your relationship with the chef is so important. As a chief stew, it is vital to work closely with the chef and be on top form in the galley. They have to endure such long hours in stressful situations so I’ve learned to try and make their lives a little easier by being as communicative as possible regarding menus and owner’s requests and timing conversations correctly. There’s nothing worse for a chef than walking in whilst they are trying to cook 12 different breakfasts at once with a group of hungry guests waiting and asking their advice on the evening’s theme night… timing is key and gives them as much advance warning as possible (which is not always the easiest)!

Written by Cantleigh, Chief Stewardess of 1 Year

My name is Cantleigh and I am a Chief stew with a serious addiction to Sephora and Instagram makeover videos. I would consider the last Med 2018 season as my first Chief stew role. Sure I have had boats before where I have stepped up to the leading role but this was my first ever hire as Chief Stewardess. I’m currently planning on taking some much-needed R&R before the start of the next season. I plan to be cuddled up by a fire, seasons deep into Gilmore Girls wondering how Lorelai has not aged a day whilst trying Sephora’s newest face, hand, feet, and eye masks. 

 Stewardess Chief Stew Uniform Yachting Yachtie

Stewardess Chief Stew Uniform Yachting Yachtie

  1. My first challenge was walking into an interior where there had been zero systems in place with junior girls who had not been given the chance to learn/experience a planned schedule. At first, they were a bit shocked and upset with the hours I had implemented (which included a 2hr break in the day and 9hours at night) for 5 girls on a 75m I thought this was very relaxed from what I had come from. I had to quickly learn the balance of being strict yet flexible with the schedule I made which took a lot of power chats. We had a growing pain of me being stern until we had a well-oiled machine after which the girls could own their day sometimes allowing for 3-4 hour breaks in the day. 

  2. Another personal challenge I never saw coming was the change in dynamic between myself and the rest of the girls. For the first 2 months roughly, I was treated as ‘the boss’ which was a little bit lonely. I completely get it because letting your hair down was never something I did as a junior/green stew with my chief, maybe one or two curls but never the full L’Oréal! It took time to find that balance but I was very blessed with the girls I had onboard who I know consider incredibly close friends (who don’t feel like they have to hide around the corner for a cheeky smoke!).

  3. The last challenge other than the typical things at work was the overwhelming sense of responsibility I felt over the girls and how I encouraged them to want more and still do what was best for the boat. I think it is because I am so aware that we all join this industry so far away from our family and loved ones and how important it is to have a support structure, someone who knows the standard and should tell them when they are worth more. This was extremely difficult when there was no room for the girls to be appreciated financially the way I felt they should have been. Making the call to be straight with them when they ask if they should move on to something more or stay and allow the boat to thrive put me in a strange place. Ultimately though I think we have to look out for one another more than a boat. 


Written by Sarah, Chief Stewardess of 7 Years

I’ve been a Chief Stew for 7 years and Purser/ Interior Manager for 3 years, for a total of 13 years in Yachting (and counting!). Yachting was never on my radar but I never knew what I wanted to do. I have been bitten by the travel bug- since I did charity work during a school holiday at 16. Having said that I LOVE going home- there’s nowhere nicer than somewhere you are familiar and content. I love hiking, kitesurfing, a good TV series, and love a good cafe (my google maps is literally hikes and coffee shops) and still, after 13 years I’m a sucker for a sunset and a sunrise. Also LOVE talking and meeting new people. People are so interesting. 

Stewardess Chief Stew Uniform Yachting Yachtie

Sarah is the 3rd in, from the left.

Stewardess Chief Stew Uniform Yachting Yachtie Females Laughing

  1. Take time out from the laptop. Get the balance right: computer v interior work. You hear at crew events:  ‘my chief stew just sits on her laptop- and then when the girls become chief stew they do the same thing!! There is a lot of computer work (girls you just have to accept that) BUT the interior and spaces and management of the boat are the chief stews responsibility its much easier to run if you spend time ‘on the ground’ helping. Don’t be afraid off charter to jump into laundry one morning or help out in cabins, clear the crew mess. Computer stuff still needs to happen but don’t become a service stew on charter and an office person the moment they get off. (Most people don’t do this but it is easy to feel overwhelmed at times with all you need to do).

  2. You are going to make mistakes. Remember as a junior stew you may have put the wrong person’s underwear bag in the wrong cabin? Well, it happens as chief stew too just potentially with bigger consequences. Be open, honest, and real with your team. I once ordered the wrong cigars for the boss (my biggest f*+k up!). I then had to get the right ones but they arrived 2 days into the trip so I had to tell my mistake… Be open honest and real – you aren’t perfect, ACCEPT THAT don’t be untouchable, and don’t pretend you are. Your team will respect and help you more and actually as long as you try your best what more can you do? Your best is enough, it was good enough to be made chief stew – but stay honest and open. 

  3. People react differently! Management and leadership aren’t openly taught in yachting it’s wrongly accepted that you have it or you don’t. Suddenly you are a chief stew with a team of girls who you need to train to a certain standard/way,  get them to work 13 hours a day for xx days at a time, AND keep them happy – sounds exhausting when I write it down! And that’s even before organising all the details like crew birthdays/ keeping the deck and engineers happy- it’s not easy to switch off. Be mindful not to assume that everyone reacts the same way: don’t always talk to the team how you would like to be spoken to. everyone is different and they react differently. Some people need a straight simple/some much more softly/softly – very descriptive. Take time to get to know what makes your team tick together and also as individuals – talk to them about how ‘they need to be spoken to’. There are lots of good leadership courses/podcasts/books out there and I think it’s crucial to getting the most out of your team.


Written by Michaella, Chief Stewardess of 1 Season

 My name is Michaella Honeycutt and after half of a season as acting chief stew this past 2018, my captain offered me the promotion to become the official Chief Stewardess. I am not a person who enjoys staying stagnant, in anything. I LOVE to grow, to move forward, and am in constant pursuit of new experiences and challenges. I am an avid lover of early mornings, awesome coffee, early nights in (maybe after a few drinks at an awesome cocktail bar), and baking (I am famous on board for my vegan chocolate chip cookies).

Female in front of luscious green waterfall

Stewardess Chief Stew Uniform Yachting Yachtie Canal Passage

  1. Productive & positive confrontation. I am still learning how to be firm and to speak up in a professional way when something isn’t happening the way in should. Passive aggressiveness is the opposite of a healthy dynamic onboard and it leads to nothing but bad energy between crew members and built up resentment.

  2. WINE! I know, I know, most people think I am crazy but wine and alcohol, in general, have never been my biggest love or passion. However, it is an important aspect of service and needs to be learned. I love to find help and inspiration from The Yacht Stew and other awesome Instagram accounts, as well as good old Google. This winter season I invested in a service course as well as committing to visiting wineries and tastings to learn as much as possible. We are based in Italy for the winter so I don’t think this will pose any challenges!

  3. Prioritising my passions on board. I feel very creative and inspired in my work and it can feel a bit overwhelming as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. I have to remember to turn myself “off” after the workday ends to avoid burnout. The ever-cliche self-care movement is of the utmost importance for myself and my girls.


Written by Megan, Chief Stewardess of 2 Years

My name is Meg and I’m 27 years old. Half Aussie, half South African.. now living in Spain. I’ve got 2 different coloured eyes and no middle name. Nothing stock standard about me I suppose! I love the ocean and have huge travel goals, so Yachting seemed obvious for me. I’ve been in the industry for 5 years, and chief for 2 of them. 

Stewardess Chief Stew Uniform Yachting Yachtie

Megan is on the right-hand side.

Yachting Stewardesses Chief Stew Stewardess Uniform At Sea

  1. Leadership isn’t all butterflies and best friends. I’ve always been lucky enough to work amongst amazing interior crews, with similar personalities and work ethics. I can’t really think of a team I was a part of where we weren’t all great colleagues, but an even better bunch of friends. Stepping into a chief stew role, in a team where you have previously been second or stew, I always knew my hardest challenge would be maintaining the same level of relationships and friendships in and out of the workplace. To no fault of the girls I worked with, or my leadership style, it saddened me that I was no longer introduced as “Meg”.. but now it was “our chief stew”.  For some people, this may be quite satisfying for a sense of accomplishment, but I hate titles, so for me, I still want to be just Meg, but with more responsibility from 8-5 pm. 

  2. There is never enough time in the working day. No matter how many extra hours you put in, the job list is always going to appear never-ending. It’s the nature of Yachting, and not necessarily the sign of bad organisation. I quickly found myself “just finishing this” at 4.57 pm.. which was at least a 1-hour task. Or “just” responding to one more email before calling it a day… and before you know it, you’re working till 7 pm every night, during your “quiet” winter season. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike nothing more than clock watchers, but the need for time management and pre-planning quickly became apparent to me. Without it, tasks can seem meaningless and the bigger picture unclear. Communicate the end goal to the team, and show them that daily tasks add up and contribute to achieving bigger goals. You yourself will feel more at ease with meeting deadlines, and as a department, you will be less likely to constantly be chasing your tail. 

  3. Fake it till you make it! Now I’m sure this needs an explanation before it’s taken at surface value. I took my first chief stew role having just turned 25 years old, a few days before. So many people reminded me how young I was to be in a position of leadership, sometimes questioning my experience or ability. It’s hard to forget these comments, especially at times when things do seem daunting and overwhelming, or the turnaround between trips gets shorter and yard periods get more demanding. We all have bad days or doubtful weeks, but I quickly learned that people can feed off of this as they look to you for motivation or guidance. It’s important to smile your way through it, using the support system around you, and most importantly, back yourself! Because if you don’t, who else will??

 

How amazing is it to find ourselves in an industry where our peers are rooting for us and are so willing to participate in giving such honest & valuable information about their struggles on board to assist us in making our experience better? A heartfelt thank you to Briony, Cantleigh, Sarah, Michaella & Megan for sharing your learning curves & advice with everyone! 

And finally, a reminder that you were given this promotion or new position because of your skill-set, experience, and knowledge. It’s normal to feel anxious, but you deserve this role.

Have questions about the above post?! Comment below & I’ll be happy to answer them xx

Beautiful Tablescape on board a superyacht

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Big Hugs,

Gem xx 

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