M

eet Jamila, the incredible woman behind @yacht_chief_stew. Joining the industry in May 2010, she nows resides in Madrid. She’s a freelance Chief Stewardess, spanish yachting blogger & home reno extraordinaire! We were able to connect a few months ago (thank you instagram!) and I was completely overwhelmed with how kind & insightful she is. So grab a cocktail & enjoy the first (sorry!) Mermaid Monday of 2018.

So…yachting, how did you discover this industry and find your first job?

I had never seen a yacht before, in fact, I didn’t even know that Yachting existed! I imagined my future working in the Events/Organization field, which is what I had always dreamt about. But then, one day, I received a call that changed my life. This was May 2010, I was supposed to finish my Master’s end of June and I had been working on my CV and interview skills for a few weeks, ready to start on the (very difficult in Spain) job hunt.

On the other side of the phone, there was a lady saying that her Boss wanted to interview me for his company’s headquarters in Madrid.

The job was related to a yacht but she couldn’t tell me more over the phone “for security reasons”. I didn’t have a clue what that was all about or even why that lady had my phone number. But I went to the interview. The person interviewing me was the Owner’s wife (I didn’t know this at the time, of course). She started telling me about this brand new yacht, currently in England but crossing to the Caribbean in a few weeks, and all sorts of things that sounded foreign to me.

I must have done something right because at the end of this very long interview/chat she offered me a Junior Stew position on her Superyacht. She told me that I had to fly to England ASAP to join the rest of the crew to get ready for the Caribbean. And I, too cool for school, thanked her for her time and kindness but declined the offer. I told her I had to finish my Masters end of June and didn’t know anything about yachts (and everyhting else she had been talking about for the past two hours).

She asked me to please think about it because she liked me a lot and knew her husband was going to aswell.

I went back to my flat, continued with my normal Uni life and forgot about it. Three weeks later, on my last day of Uni, I received another phone call. It was the Owner himself this time. He told me that I had impressed her wife a lot. She remembered that that day was my last day at Uni and he would like to fly me for a weekend to his yacht.

“Just for the weekend, you will be back home on Monday and if you don’t like it, we will accept your decision”.

“I have nothing to lose” I thought.

Well, after thinking: “I hope this is not a mafia wanting to kidnnap me or something”

Next thing I knew the following day I was flown on the Owner’s private jet from Madrid to London.

I obviously liked it (A LOT)

And the rest is all history…

Jamila, you’ve been in the industry for 8 years now. How important is longevity when you’re hiring for your interior team?

Longevity makes you more sellable. Literally.

If you join a boat, are not happy, and have important reasons to leave, leave. Of course! But, if you have just started on a boat and after a few weeks decide to leave just because “you can do better”, think about the consequences. You might not only not “do better”, but not get another job for months and months. 

I’ve seen this before! Stews will leave after hearing about insane charter tips and after several months end up on another private yacht. The grass certainly isn’t always greener. As Chief Stew, you have to deal with crew turnover, Captain request & guest demands. What’s your tip for staying so calm during stressful times?

From my point of view, giving enough rest to your team and getting rest yourself is one of the most important things while on charter. No one can work for 24 hours and do an excellent job (which is what yachting is about right? Excellence). If you haven’t had a minimum amount of rest for days, everything else will be extremely difficult. As for me in particular, during those times when you feel like you are not able to be in front of the guests with a big smile, I just tell the Second Stew I need to go to my cabin for 10 minutes.

I calm down and come back up with the biggest smile ever. This has been my trick for all my years as Chief Stew and has always worked. A few minutes to calm down, that’s all you need.

Yes girl!! I try my hardest to give my girls as much rest as possible! Providing the boat looks impeccable and the guests are happy, why work for the sake of working? 

Have you ever dealt with the opposite sort of situation where its quiet in the winter and stews get bored? Do you have any advise to Chief Stews hoping to keep their team on during the winter?

There is so many things to do during those periods! If you are in a hot country, how awesome is it that you can sunbathe and explore every day! If you are in a cold country, perfect time to learn how to ski or snowboard! And all that, receiving the same salary (minus tips obviously). I think you just need to make your team see that they can use those months to do all the things that they won’t be able to do during the season (and rest!). I think I already explained how important getting rest is for me!

I have found the winter is the perfect time to train. I used to do Cocktail Fridays throughout the winter & constant table setting practise, silver service training etc. A little bit of creativity helps break up long work weeks!


What is the most outrageous request you have ever received on Charter & how did you accommodate the request? 

The principal charter guest asked me to buy 150 coconuts for a 7 day charter as she only drinks fresh coconut water. We didn’t have so much storage onboard to accomodate all these coconuts so we came up with the idea of putting them around the deck as “decorations”. We had coconuts in the plant pots, as flower arrangements, they were EVERYWHERE!

But the most demaning part of this request was that she only wanted the coconut opened in the moment she requested it and in a very specific way. The result of this was that we had to “borrow” a Deckhand for the whole trip to open these coconuts.

The job required certain skills and strength that only our strong South African Deckie could do!

First Mate was not that happy about that, of course…But I think he got over it as today, four years after, we share a happy life together.

 

During your time on yachts, what has been your greatest accomplishment?

I love seeing how 90% of the Captains I have worked with, and also Owners, call me all the time to ask me back. It might sound a bit pretentious I know…

But I am so grateful for those yacht Owners that I have worked for to take the time to call me personally and ask me back! All the long hours and extreme hard work pay off on each one of those phone calls.

Be sure to follow Jamila for a daily dose of Spanish fashion, home reno’s & yachting tips & tricks.

Gemma Hulbert
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Gemma Hulbert

Hello! My name is Gemma, the girl behind The Yacht Stew. After 7 years of working on yachts, I wanted to create a platform where I could share my stories, travels & passions. I have been asked a million and one times “What do you actually do working on a yacht?” – hopefully this blog will give you a good insight. I’m so excited to share my travels & stories with you.
Gemma Hulbert
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