Transitioning to Chief Stew


“Gemma, how did you know when you were ready to step up to Chief Stewardess?”

Perhaps one of the most commonly asked question on my instagram these days! Before I go into this post, please keep in mind that this is just based solely on my opinion & personal experience.

Just as we all found yachting through different avenues, opportunities to step up are also varied & no two stewardesses will have the same yachting journey. 

I was offered my first Chief Stew position 18 months after joining yachting. I had 3 seasons behind me split between two 50M & 45M sized yachts. While I was flattered the Captain felt as though I was ready to be a Chief Stew of a similar sized yacht, I declined the position. Why? I simply didn’t have enough experience to feel confident leading a strong interior team. Deep down, I knew it wouldn’t be fair to the green stewardesses I would be training.

Several years later, after 4 years on yachts, I stepped up to Chief Stewardess. Do I think I could’ve stepped up a little earlier? Possibly. Would it of been the right timing? Nope. 

Some of the team from my first summer season as Chief Stewardess! I have been incredibly fortunate to work with ladies who have since become my best friends. Carrie (on the right) is my right hand girl, listening to every idea I have about The Yacht Stew and is always so encouraging & uplifting.

I had to ask the Captain to consider me for the position when the Chief Stew decided to leave. I hadn’t been given many chances to prove myself in the year I had already been onboard & was viewed as a very quiet & shy stewardess. In other words, I grew a pair & asked the Captain to give me a month while the Chief Stew was on leave to prove that I could do it. During that time, I stepped out of my shell completely and with the Chief Stew away, the Captain left it to me to run the interior.  Towards the end of the month, we had a guest trip that I led & I had never felt such a high before, I truly felt as though I was in my element. I worked my ass off and continued to do so when the Owners & Captain both agreed I was in fact ready. Truthfully, it was also the first time in a rather long time that work brought me pure joy.

So what pointers would I recommend you consider before making the transition?

  • I had an unwavering passion for the job that was only growing more intense. This was not just a job to me, it was a career & with that mindset, I saw endless possibilities. It’s unfortunate to see crew members in higher ranking positions that are only onboard for a paycheque. Be a role model for your girls, showing them how fantastic this industry is.
  • Develop a consistent attitude of wanting to help every member of the team excel, regardless of position. This shouldn’t even cross your mind and should just come naturally as you move up.
  • Feel confident in training the girls in all aspects of the Interior – if you aren’t quite there yet, ask your Chief Stew if you can start a weekly training session for the team and work with her to create an interactive learning experience. (Ask for feedback as well! Find out what worked & what didn’t.)
  • Be 100% willing to commit everything to the team. Previously, I’ve had to go provisioning before the sun rose & would have everything back at the boat just in time for the morning meeting. Why? Because I had green stewardesses onboard that we’re nervous about their first guest trip so I needed to be fully present during the day.
  • Be open with your current Chief Stew! Tell her you are considering making the transition up & if there is anything you would like to learn from her just ASK. As Chief Stews, we want to see you SUCCEED! 
Always uphold the highest standard for yourself & set an example for the rest of your team.
  • Commit to your current program (if possible). Longevity is always important on your CV, however when becoming a Head of Department, Captains want to know that you will be there for a long haul. I recommend 18 months at least on one yacht on your CV.
  • Have an honest conversation with yourself, what are your strengths & weaknesses? Own that! No one is perfect & a little humility goes a long way. I knew I sucked at cocktails, so I took an intensive course & started Cocktail Friday when I became Chief Stew in an effort to learn as much as possible. We would rotate through the girls to ensure everyone had a chance to train the team on various drinks – amazing team building!
A little taste of Cocktail Friday!
Cilantro Coconut Fizz

My first season as Chief Stew was full of extreme learning curves. 

Figuring out how to efficiently plan a work list a month in advance, deal with the crew politics that come with the position & create a positive work environment all took time.

Something that really helped me was realizing that I will learn something from every single stewardess that steps onboard. I never forget that everyone brings something unique to the team and plays an imperative role in the teams success.

Ultimately, I just had to have the confidence in myself. With the support of my husband, the timing onboard & a supportive captain, my transition was a natural progression

Without a doubt, I think you know deep down when you are ready.

Tip: Know your worth & your value to a team – don’t underestimate your ability as you move up.

I hope that’s helpful to everyone considering moving up to Chief Stew! If there are any more topics you would like me to cover, feel free to send me a message on Instagram! @theyachtstew

Big Hugs,

Gemma xx


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