Feb. 3, 2008
By Ken Krayeske • 12:00 PM EST
The table where the People (the owner and his guests) eat.
The life of a deckhand, continued...
10:30 p.m. – Congratulations, you have finished helping the chef clean the galley. And your day is just about done. The People are still sitting at the table, drinking bottles of wine.
10:45 p.m. – The People have finally gone to bed. Cover the table that they were sitting at, make sure the Marshall Islands ensign (flag) is taken in (it should have been done at sunset). Shut out the lights on the deck, and make sure that the doors are all locked.
11 p.m. – Crack yourself open a hard-earned beer and sit back and relax in the crew mess with your co-workers for a beer or more. But don't stay up too late. You have to be on deck at 8 a.m., because with guests aboard, the boat has to be shiny spotless before they wake up.
The boat runs in three different modes: Delivery, Charter (guests) and Yard Work. The transition days between Delivery and Charter are the hardest, often involving 18 or more hours, for the whole crew.
We don't get extra pay, it is just part of the job. But what about labor laws? You ask. Well, the MCA, an international agency that governs large ships, sets eight-hour work days for its seamen. But since Maverick II and many other yachts in the industry are not MCA, we do not follow those rules.
If anyone wanted to enforce labor rules, the question would be what body or authority? The boat is owned by a skeleton corporation in the Guernsey Islands in England with an untraceable board of directors and is registered in the Marshall Islands.
The U.S. Coast Guard can enforce anti-pollution laws in its waters, but it will not always check to see if the crew has safe working conditions and normal working hours. But what about if the boat is in Thailand, Egypt and Portugal?
I always joke that I want to start Deckhands Local 151 in order to guarantee that crew members will have adequate days of, health insurance and reasonable work hours. If not reasonable work hours, then extra pay. We had approximately 14 days off between August 6 and Jan. 4. No weekends, just one day for about every 10 days of work. A tough bargain.
The stewardess on board has said that hey, she knows what she signed up for when she got into the business. She shouldn't complain, because it is often considered that the free toiletries, gourmet food, beer while in dock (on board, not in a bar), uniforms and travel around the world are adequate compensation for the crazy hours.
But some days, I doubt the fairness of that bargain. I don't expect Senators and Congressmen running to defend deckhands, because they might be guests on one of these yachts. Only the very wealthy (0.001 percent of the world's population) can own these yachts, and they have stacked the deck in their favor. If you don't like it, someone else can be found to do the job.
Ain't that capitalism? Maybe it's just running a floating five-star hotel.
This owner is considering hiring Thai crew members because they will work the same jobs for less, and as he sees it, he has a responsibility to raise the standard of living in the Far East. He knows and understands that billions of people a day live on less than a dollar, and he feels bad about that.
After a long day of work, Jenny the stewardess cuts loose in the crew mess, ripping an air guitar solo to the Bangles' Eternal Flame (the crew had a thing for bad 80s love songs). Note the collection of postcards on the bulletin board from all the places we visited. (Photo by Chef Rubi McGrory)