I am currently in Italy in Abruzzo overseeing the restoration project, making decisions on the interior, wall colours, bathroom fittings, flooring. I am truly amazed by the stunning work that has been completed slowly transforming my ruin into a home.
The winter was a difficult time away from Abruzzo. I departed from Italy near the end of November for the USA due to an absence of yacht work here in the Mediterranean. I managed a few days with a good friend and her family in Connecticut before heading to Fort Lauderdale in search of work.
My timing was not the best as the weather was quite unpleasant and unseasonably wet. However, I managed to find a few days’ work on a yacht in Miami for the annual Art Basel show. The following week, I was offered a position that ended up falling through a few days later due to the owner’s preference for a Brazilian Chef. Later on the same day I was asked to join a yacht further up the coast in West Palm Beach that was about to depart for The Bahamas.
As glamorous as the destination sounds I managed to get off the boat once on the evening of our arrival, once on the evening of our departure and two very quick provisioning trips to the local supermarket. We were in and around the Bahamas from 14th to 30th December. The rest of my time was spent below decks in the galley preparing meals for 15 hungry crew and 10-15 hungry guests without so much as a minute to even feel the sea breeze on my face or take some photos of pristine desert islands with a few token palm trees adorning them!!
On the day of our departure I managed to take a few candid pics (see above) as we headed back towards West Palm Beach anchoring overnight in a spot which turned out to be in the middle of nowhere without an island in sight! While we were hoping to complete another trip with the owners in February to Cuba and Belize we were disappointed to find out the trip was cancelled due to repairs being needed on the vessel. We then moved from a rather pampered situation where we had gym, pool and bar/café facilities at our disposal as well as a free shuttle service to/from town and shopping centres to a remote shipyard requiring a US$20 cab fare to anywhere of interest.
Late February saw our captain retrenched due to a personality clash with the owner’s PA and a week later, we were assured of our job security and of extended contracts for another 2 months. Another week later, we were told ‘sorry we’ve changed our minds’ and just before lunch on the 4th March 5 interior staff including myself were asked to pack our bags and be off the vessel before nightfall! Exterior staff were kept on to complete the urgent works to prepare the vessel for a journey to Asia and those of us deemed ‘non-essential’ were kicked to the curb!
I had hoped to gain a few month’s employment on foreign-flagged vessels or ideally a sailing yacht competing in one of the regattas held in the Caribbean but alas, this did not occur. Between jobs I stay in Crew Houses – shared accommodation designed for those working on yachts usually twin share basis. I was lucky to have 2 very good roommates during these stays in the USA. I found a cheap flight departing Fort Lauderdale to Rome with Norwegian Airlines and returned to Italy on the 4th April after almost 4.5 months away!
While there is a ‘glamorous air’ to working on yachts of millionaires, the reality is the work can be uncertain and there are no real guarantees or protections although this is slowly changing with recent Maritime Laws. Unfortunately, many yachts operate without strictly observing these laws. Last year was particularly stressful for me with Employers not paying wages for several months at one point I waited almost 6 months to receive €12000 of unpaid salary. It can lead one a little jaded.
I am looking forward to a time when I can pick and choose when and where I work. I look forward to my house becoming the home I have dreamed it would become. I look forward to entertaining friends old and new along with my family in its sacred walls. I look forward to focussing on my dream of becoming a published writer and living my dolce vita in Abruzzo!!