Only one week after being soaked, freezing and fighting for basic survival on a doomed sailboat heading to Bermuda, I found myself in an altogether different situation. Scrubbing a multi-million dollar motor yacht… in my bikini.
My friend and fellow Bermuda survivee, Marc, had gotten a job delivering a sailboat to the Caribbean island of Antigua. One lovely Italian dinner and a tearful goodbye later, and I was completely on on my own again. Just me and my bikini in a strange Floridian city.
I was excited about my new work as a Bikini Boat Wash girl (no judging!). Really, I’d have washed boats dressed in a soggy paper bag if it got me closer my goal of being a deckhand on a sailing yacht.
It was time for the International Boat Show in Fort Lauderdale so the other bikinis and myself were assigned various roles on several of the attending mega-yachts. I showed up the first morning, excited to whip out my deck gear and “wax on, wax off” for the day. But it was not to be. I was assigned to be one of the models.
As a backwoods girl that had spent the previous three years living in a camper in the woods, I was already a tad bit uncomfortable with the excessive showiness of the yachting world. Now I was expected to show off the yachts to the hoards of wandering millionaires. And you know… talk to them.
At the beginning of the day, I think I would have preferred to take on a herd of zombies with nothing but my toothbrush, but it ended up not being so bad. The prospective buyers were nice enough, and no one (not even one person) tried to eat my brain. All I had to do was smile, show them each room, and then get their names and emails, etc. Good bye!
Still, it wasn’t the kind of work that was going to give me my coveted deckhand experience. I contacted the head Bikini Boat Wash lady and got myself transferred to the cleaning division for the next day. The pay was worse and it meant I would have to wake up at an obscene pre-dawn hour, but on the plus side, I would finish earlier, giving me time to roam the docks, searching out those elusive sailboats where I might be able to hustle a deckhand job.
And I almost got one!
There was a gigantic catamaran sailboat near the dock where I cleaned, and I was determined to get on it. I showed up with my biggest smile, eager to display just how amazing I would be to work with. There were at least a dozen crew members, running around wrapping things up for the day. The captain handed me a cold beer and invited me to hang out with them a bit. That was the interview process apparently.
I stood around, unsure what to do. Everyone was working but no one accepted my offer of help. So I just drank my beer and asked questions, probably annoying them more than anything. Then word reached us that one of the mega-yachts was about to leave. This supposedly would be quite a spectacle as maneuvering in the crowded marina was no easy task. So the captain gathered the crew (and me) together and brought us down to a dock nearby, a strategic vantage point from which to watch (and make fun of) the yacht’s attempts to leave.
Little bumper boats surrounded the mega-yacht, pushing it this way and that, keeping it from ramming the docks. I watched with the others but didn’t join in on their laughter. It just felt so mean spirited. I felt completely out of place and when I was invited back for the party on the boat later that night, I declined.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. I was feeling more disenchanted with the yachting industry by the day. In the evenings, I went back to my quiet crew house and dreamed of real adventures at sea, away from all the glamour and displays of egotism.
The next day, I finished my allotted time polishing already-perfectly-clean-windows, and as usual, went out to lunch with some fellow crew members. Others joined in and soon we had quite a sizeable group, most of whom I didn’t know.
We sat in the shade around a large white table, our plates full from the buffet. Free sugary drinks in hand. An older stewardess with a loud voice monopolized the conversation. She told us that she had had a realization, “that everyone working in the yachting industry has a power complex.”
She said that “we all work hard and put up with shit so that we can rise the ranks and eventually have power over others.” This statement surprised me but it was what followed that nearly made me choke on my glass of sugar. Every other person there either nodded or verbally agreed with her!
I looked around the table, and for the first time realized that I must be surrounded by aliens. Smiling, laughing aliens, adorned in perfect human suits. What nightmare had I gone blundering in to?
At that moment all I wanted was to get away. Away from the group. Away from the boat show. Away from Fort Lauderdale itself! I was not ready to give up on my sailing dream but I understood then what should have been perfectly obvious; fancy yachts (whether or not they happened to have sails) were not for me.
So now what?
Antigua. That was the way to go. I didn’t know if I would look for a boat job when I got there or not. Perhaps I would simply volunteer on someone’s crappy (and so much better) little boat and travel that way. But one thing I did know was that I missed Marc and he would be there in just a few weeks.
So I turned in my bikini (figuratively speaking) and said goodbye to Bikini Boat Wash. A few days later I was on a plane, heading to the Caribbean!
Note: I just want to say that there are a lot of great people working in the yachting industry and just because it wasn’t my thing and my experiences tended to be negative, doesn’t mean there aren’t great adventures to be had there 🙂
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