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I Wrote A Money Diary While Working On A Yacht — This Is Where I Am Now

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In May 2019, we published this Money Diary featuring a woman who worked as a chief stewardess on a private yacht on the Atlantic Ocean. Readers loved the insight into the financial realities of yacht life, her ability to manage a team, and her taste in TV shows. We caught up with her to see how the pandemic has affected her career, finances, and lifestyle.
Last we spoke, you were working on a private yacht as a chief stewardess, are you still working on the same boat? If not, what are you up to now and why did you leave?
I left that yacht of my own accord towards the end of last year — I was lucky, as some of my crew lost their jobs [due to COVID]. My partner and I had originally hoped to find something approaching a normal life by him finding a job where he flies in and out on a two-month on/two-month off rotation. With COVID, a job with that much international travel seemed pretty unrealistic, so when he was offered a land-based job in our home country of New Zealand, we leaped at the chance. I found an entry-level job in an industry I am interested in.
How has the yachting industry handled COVID? How have you been doing through COVID?
I can't speak for the industry as a whole, but the best way I can think to describe yachts are like little constitutional monarchies where the owner is the king or queen who can oversee the big decisions but isn't involved with the day-to-day stuff; that's up to the captain. The boat I worked on took COVID pretty seriously from fairly early on, with strict rules in place, and by mid-March, the rest of our season was canceled. When it became apparent that this wasn't going to go away anytime soon, all future plans were canceled and the boat went into a shipyard period for renovations and repair where I believe it still is.
For me personally, I have gotten off very easy. On the boat, it felt like we'd been practicing for lockdown for years. Since we've been at home and out of quarantine, we haven't had our daily lives affected too much. I didn't feel like my job was at risk because everyone else in my department got fired. I'm glad I didn't experience the stress and turmoil that so many other people did but also feel a bit guilty talking about it because I was so lucky.
Do you foresee returning to yachting? If you foresee leaving for good, what were some of your best and worst memories of yachting?
It's definitely over for me, and probably for my partner as well. He always enjoyed it and perhaps, if he had an opportunity to go back for a temporary gig, he might want to do so. It was only ever something I did for the money, and I was incredibly disciplined about saving and investing so I'm pretty happy with my finances. The best thing that came from yachting though was meeting my partner, and he's worth all the worst memories, of which I have plenty. Mostly from living in such tight quarters with coworkers, working 16-hour days and then still being stuck with them. During the week of my money diary when we went out for that dinner, one of the stews ended up drunkenly crying about how she didn't feel like she was fitting in. That kind of thing happened all the time and she ended up leaving shortly after. It can be very isolating — sometimes you wouldn't see anyone except for your coworkers for weeks or months. Small disagreements become enormous because you can't escape one another and it's all being compounded by long hours and never having time for yourself. When you iron beds all morning, you have so much time to ruminate on things, so after weeks and weeks of this, there'd be tears and drama and fighting, and then you'd finally get a day off and realize it wasn't a big deal at all. I also hated that even though I both lived and worked with my partner, I barely saw him during guest trips, even though I could hear his voice on the radio all day or see him through the windows.
How are things going with your partner?
Good! We were actually engaged when I wrote that diary and we've now been married a year. We're also expecting a baby soon.
What are your plans for the next few years? Where do you see yourself living and working?
I'm not sure yet if I'll return to work after our baby is here. I've got six months of government-funded maternity leave and we can afford for me to stay home for a while after that. Or maybe I'll prefer to go back to work, who knows.
Commenters loved hearing about what you were watching, so what are you watching now?
Quite a bit of rewatching, like The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. We also watched The Handmaid's Tale, Better Call Saul, the most recent seasons of Fargo, WandaVision, Ted Lasso, and What We Do in the Shadows. We've probably watched way more than that but those are the highlights.
Has your income changed since your Money Diary? How much are you making now? Do you have to pay taxes again?
Our household income has more than halved and we also now have all the everyday expenses that we didn't have before. Living costs are pretty high in New Zealand and house prices are out of control. It's one of the reasons I went into yachting in the first place — to stockpile some money so I would be "ahead" when I moved home. I honestly don't mind all the expenses though. I'm happy paying rent (and now a mortgage) because it's for our own space that we don't share. I love being able to cook and bake so I don't mind the food costs and love that I finally get to choose what I eat every day. My internet is reliable and much faster — it used to just cut out randomly on the boat or stop you from even loading an email if there were two people watching Netflix. The only expense I hate is car-related stuff because I don't like driving. I am paying taxes, but also benefiting from them now with healthcare (I think my entire pregnancy/birth will only cost a few hundred dollars) so it's all give-and-take. I feel like I'm getting good value on everything.
Have you had any big financial changes since your Money Diary (buying property, big purchases, taking on or paying off debt, etc)?
We've bought a house and a car and are about to get a second car. Most of the money we've used has been sitting in cash for a year or two waiting until we had the opportunity to move home, so other than the mortgage we don't have any debt.
I have to ask, how accurate is Below Deck and would you ever go on the show?
Some of the drama on Below Deck feels very authentic, but there's also a lot of manufactured drama from deliberately hiring underqualified people and from the type of guests who are happy to have their whole holiday filmed. When it first came out, there was a lot of whinging about how it made yachting look bad and what if the yacht owners saw it and think we all act like that; I think those people took it way too seriously! It'd be like doctors complaining that Grey's Anatomy is giving them a bad name. I wouldn't go on it but only because I'm skeptical of editing thanks to years of watching RuPaul's Drag Race being manipulated by the producers.

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