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When your principles clash with your position

Q: Anonymous, Captain, 42:

I’ve recently resigned from a Captain’s position as I couldn’t accept a recent change of policies. I was asked to fire my really great crew, who were to be replaced by crew from the commercial shipping world with no luxury yachting experience. The final straw was I was told this was being done so the Owner could afford a salary rise for me and my Rotational Captain – something I hadn’t even requested. I will not be the kind of Captain who profits from my crew’s misfortune, and I feared for the season ahead with so many charters coming up and a completely new and inexperienced crew onboard. So I quit. I now have to join the ranks of the jobseekers, which is professionally not where I wanted to be at this point in the season and I can’t believe I’m in this situation.

A: The Crew Coach:

Firstly, I have to congratulate you. Even though you’re not looking forward to looking for work in a competitive marketplace, you’re much better off finding a new opportunity rather than remaining in a situation where good people are being disrespected and your core values and principles are being conflicted. Some yacht Owners will always be looking to save money, and commercial shipping crew may seem like a great way to do this. (Like you, I’m concerned the upcoming charter guests will agree.) Regardless, firing your crew to save money is not a path you could support, given they were high performers and didn’t deserve it, so in my books you’ve done exactly the right thing.

It’s deeply unfortunate the Owner thought they could appeal to greed on your part to get you to go along with it, but this reflects poorly on them, not on you. Good on you for getting out and taking a moral stand! I can only imagine how pleased your crew were to hear this too—it’s not every day that a Captain resigns in sympathy with his crew! It’s brave, honourable actions like this that build your reputation as one of the good guys, and I think you’ll benefit from this move down the line, perhaps when you’re looking to hire some of them back on your new yacht.

As for your next career move, I think there’s a lot to be learnt from this unfortunate situation when job-hunting for your next role. It’s worth having a frank, confidential discussion with a trusted crew agent about why you left your last job, in order to set some expectations on what kind of job they should be helping you find next.

Ideally, you’ll be looking for a yacht where the Owners prize longevity, as this shows they are willing to pay their crew to stay, and value loyalty and stability in the long term.
If possible (and I know this is a bit tricky) it’s a good idea to hold out for a yacht where budget is not considered the determining factor of yacht policy.
Ask around in your network about the yachts you’re interviewing with, and tap into your yachting circle for recommendations on great yachts to work on.
Go with your gut feeling when you meet the Owner, or the Owner’s rep. Do you think they share similar values to you? Ask good questions about their current crew and longevity, any training and development schemes, and what sort of measures they have in place to keep crew over time.
Ask about the culture onboard to evaluate whether crew harmony is of importance or whether this is not part of the picture.
All these questions will point towards whether the Owners really value the importance of a stable, happy, fairly-paid crew.

I have no doubt whatsoever that you’ve made the right decision in leaving the yacht and I hope it gives others the strength to act in keeping with their values, rather than in a way that makes us feel like we’ve betrayed others, and betrayed ourselves.

Best of luck finding a great yacht and getting on with a proud, successful career.

Let us know how you go!