The Chief Steward and The Admiral

This is a trick title. The Chief Steward is the Admiral and the Admiral is the Chief Steward. Michael captains the boat.  He has a true title and credentials to go with it. Actually, up to 350 tonnes of credentials. Me on the other hand, I have a pleasure boat license. It allows me to skipper something on the small scale. Thankfully, as I don’t want the stress of driving a boat full time, I don’t need anything higher. I can manage the sails, turn the motor off and on and can drive the boat. I feel very comfortable using a tiller, but have never docked the boat. I would be more comfortable using my skill to pick up a mooring or drop an anchor. I am happy to leave the complicated or tedious stuff up to the Captain and our friendly buddy Otto/Auto (helm).  Although, ironically over the years on a cruising boat the female companion has been referred to fondly as the Admiral. The boss. But actually, we are the Chief Steward. Also, the boss. Below is a list of duties, I found from a Chief Steward’s job description in an ad for a job on a mega yacht:

  • Food service, including providing silver service
  • Drink service and bar tending
  • Overseeing the cleaning and polishing of accommodation
  • Cabin preparation
  • Flower arranging
  • Obtaining local currency
  • Arranging trips, transport and other similar events for guests or the owner
  • General yacht operations

What I know is that I do a lot of cleaning, meal planning, cooking, serving, bartending and after dinner clean up.  I am the one who plans what to take to the boat and what to leave there. I am the one who looks after the budget, makes sure we have cash in hand and pays the bills. I suggest places to visit and stay, as well as, play hostess and bartender to all our guests on board. I am also the major child care provider, when the younger ones are on board. From the list above, the only thing I don’t have to do is worry about is flower arrangements.

At home, I am not too overly concerned about making beds, doing dishes every day and preparing meals. I can run to the grocery or liquor store if needed, order in a take out meal or run to McDonalds or Subway for a quick food fix. But on a boat it is very different. I have less square feet to worry about, but as we all know, a small space can look messier easier!

A typical day starts the night before and continues as follows.

  • Prepare Michael’s coffee in the French press, fill the kettle with water and place on the burner. He has already been in bed for a few hours and I get up a few hours after him.
  • Close up the boat for the night. Close windows or make sure screens are in place or plastic is covering companionway. I rarely close the companionway doors and use screens or plastic curtains instead. I want a quick emergency exit, if required.
  • Turn off engine, if left running. We use our engine as a generator.
  • Turn off toggle switch for cooler/fridge.
  • Light a new tea candle in each of the two lanterns. They act as a night light for 3-6 hours. One in the galley and another in the head. We also have an LED solar lantern in the cockpit and I leave the anchor light on (also LED) at the top of the mast, if we are at anchor.
  • Prepare night snack and drink for Layton and myself.
  • Pull out DVD player with his favourite movie.  DVD players are now a thing of the past. Streaming shows and playing online games from smart phones and tablets is now the rage.
  • Brush our teeth, get ready for bed etc. Why is it that little boys don’t like to brush their teeth? Discovered in later years that little girls are the same!
  • Unplug any devices which are by then suitably charged. Others are just turned off. No charging capabilities after turning off the engine. Since moving to a permanent berth in 2020, electricity has not been an issue. Boat is plugged in most times, when not sailing. When anchored, we revert to our prior practices.
  • Turn on propane furnace, if cool enough, to get rid of the chill or dampness.
  • Crawl into bed with Layton Rowan to watch a movie. Often these days, Layton has his tablet and is doing his own thing, and Rowan is happy to watch something on her own or with me. I usually fall asleep before he does. He sleeps in the longest the next morning.
  • I often wake up at day break and wait until Michael gets out of bed so I take over his bed. We do share the same bed at night, when Layton isn’t aboard. Sleeping arrangements have changed over the years. I prefer the V-berth and Michael prefers the bed in the salon. Kids sleep where they fit!
  • I fall back asleep, while Michael has his coffee, cigar, starts the engine, listens to the radio and relaxes for a few hours in the cockpit watching the morning sights or driving to the next location.
  • I stay in bed as long as I can get away with. As of 2020, I  have been working from home, which translates to working from boat! The v-berth is also my office.
  • When I get up, I make a tea and check our location. Often we are half way out the bay, as Michael has left the mooring and we are motoring to a new destination, while I sleep.  He generally remembers to turn on the switch to the fridge. We have an electric cooler. It works well enough for our needs, but I do supplement it with frozen re-usable ice packs as it works on ambient temperatures.
  • At that point I start deciding on what to do for breakfast. Layton will sleep most of the trip. There is something very comfortable about sleeping on a boat while travelling. As Layton got older, he has been mostly sleeping in the cockpit. Michael gives him his bed, in the morning. This is only a 25’boat. Sleeping space is tight.
  • I make a hearty breakfast. I heat water in the kettle and wash dishes, store food away as well as left overs. It often takes longer to clean up than to make the meal.
  • I get myself washed and dressed, if I didn’t do it earlier. I check on sleeping children.  Yes, they are still breathing. I wonder how thye can sleep. We certainly aren’t being quiet.
  • I make my way up to the cockpit to relax for a bit. Michael lets me know what happened while I was sleeping or working away the morning. Always sounds like a missed all the adventures and feel like I missed out on the best part of the day.
  • We continue our drive for a few hours. We debate whether to put up the sails. I am always lazy and while the children are sleeping, I feel it best to just continue to motor. Less work for me.  Safer for the kids still in bed.
  • Michael asks me several times what I am thinking. I am mentally planning meals. So I announce what I plan to make for supper and realize I have to start some sort of prep sooner than later.
  • In the meantime kids start to wake up. Both are hungry and we are about ready for lunch. My favourite on board lunch is heated dagwood sandwiches. I take them out of the cooler freshly packed the day before. I cut them up in individual servings and add mustard and mayo (if needed to each), wrap in foil and place in the oven to heat up.
  • Kids generally help themselves to quick foods out of the snack box under the companionway steps. I check and they have grabbed strawberry UHF milk, raisins and granola bars. Good choices. They already have their tablets out and already playing Minecraft.
  • Michael and I eat our sandwiches and have a drink. We chat some more, attach the speakers  set up the bluetooth speaker to the navigation ipad and play some tunes, singing loudly to Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffett. He remarks about how much country music I have downloaded and I wonder where all my old tunes are. I play “air fiddle” to Devil Went Down to Georgia.
  • I continue to think about supper. Meal planning on a boat is often dictated by what you have to use first. Ground beef wins. It is already thawing and the first item which will go bad. Now do we make hamburgers which means pulling out the bbq from the locker or something else. The bbq is ruled out as it is too much work. We gave the bbq away after many episodes of “too much work.”
  • I decide on shepherd’s pie.
  • I then have to dig through the cooler/fridge to find the ground beef which I packed on the bottom. It might as well thaw out more. While below, I kick Layton off his bed so that I can make it. I sweep up the floor, send him to brush his teeth and wash his face. He ONLY likes to wash with cold water. Perfect for the boat.
  • Michael asks if I want to put up a sail and suggests the gennaker. I run up to the cockpit and see that there is a very light wind, so I succumb.
  • Rowan wants to come up to the cockpit. I go back down and help her put on her life jacket. Hard to believe that it used to be Layton’s.
  • Michael asks what I am doing as he thought we were putting up the sail.
  • I run back up and to the bow and get ready to raise the chute.
  • Gennaker makes it up without a problem. Sail set and the wind is comfortable. I love the quietness at the bow of the boat. I turn around hearing a small voice. It is Rowan chatting to me.
  • I convince her to sit with me at the bow dangling our feet over the starboard side of the boat. She brought an apple. I remember how Layton used to sit with me on the bow.
  • I can’t sit comfortable with her there. She is fidgeting and I start to have visions of her slipping underneath the life line and falling overboard. I hate the look of netting but can see why it is safer for children and animals. I then have to get her to the cockpit to calm my nervousness.
  • It is hot in the cockpit. The brightness from the white is overbearing and I grab my sunglasses. That now makes three pair of glasses I have in the cockpit. The dog is now whining to get out there with us. She is still holding her pee from sometime the day before. I pick her up and place her in the shade under the dodger. Twenty pound Yuki isn’t comfortable sitting anywhere else than beside me, while sailing. Ten pound Whiskey was quite contents to lay in small places.
  • I go down below to start the shepherd’s pie. Ingredients include: 1 can of veggies, spices, broth, ground beef and mashed potatoes. I grab a package of instant mashed potatoes. I never bring real potatoes on the boat. Why not? Not sure. I have a masher and I have a peeler. They just take up room and I would hate to have one go rotten as they are quite stinky. I also need milk and margarine from the fridge. Will wait. Decided to lay down and read for awhile.
  • As soon as I lay down, Rowan needs something. She hates the heat, so is down below and needs help getting her life jacket off. I feel guilty that Michael is lonely so I take my book to the cockpit. I read and chat for 30 minutes, go below put the supper together and put it in the oven.
  • Rowan then wants to go up to the cockpit. Lifejacket back on. This time she wants to lay down. Nap time in the cockpit. Out comes all the extra pillows  and blankets. The floor on the cockpit transforms into a tent. We  have a rule that when in the cabin, the kids don’t have to wear their life jackets, but once outside, it is a necessity.
  • Wind picks up. I suggest we bring down the gennaker. Off to the bow I go to take it down.  All down and away and we are back to being a motor boat, although the engine has been on the whole time all that was needed was to put it back into drive from neutral.
  • We are approaching our destination anyway. Time to get out the anchor. Each 10 or is it 5 feet we have marked with tape on the anchor-rode. Each season I can never remember how many feet of chain we have and what distance I marked the length. I undo the anchor from its tied position and start to let it off the bow and wait for Michael’s drop command.
  • The first anchoring of the season is not always pretty. I am asking how many feet of water we are in and he is yelling back to hold on. So many boats around, not much space and I am concerned about bottoming out at low tide or pulling it from the bottom at high tide, so am now trying to figure out from the shore line if the tide is high or low.
  • At last the drop command is yelled out. I start letting it go and counting the tape markings. One, Two, Three,… etc.  I let out six markings. I think it must be 30 feet and possibly 20 ft of chain. Personally, I am happy when we have 20 feet of high tide under us and 30-40 feet of rode out.  But then we have to worry about the scope. I tie the rope off and wonder why it is called a rode, when actually it is just a rope. Set that thought aside to find out later and wait. I fix a landmark and see if we are dragging. Luckily, we stay put and I get my instructions from the Captain to come back to the cockpit
  • It is now officially happy hour. Bartending duties have started. Company coming for supper and they are bringing a salad and more kids. Halfway through my drink the cell phone rings. It is already time for Michael to go ashore to pick up our guests.
  • Rowan wants to go with him but we  explained there wouldn’t be any room on the return. Dog is dancing as she really needs to go ashore. She is hoisted down to the dinghy after Michael is in it.
  • Guests arrive, kids are glad to see each other, us 4 adults squeeze into the cockpit and the dinner party begins.
  • Loads of food besides the shepherds pie emerge. Kids are chattering below, adults are chattering above.  Dog is resting on the bow and the evening is wonderful and relaxing. The boat is a MESS!  But that clean up is pushed to the back of my mind, while serving food and drinks to all.
  • Time for our friends to leave. Boys are invited to stay the night and they agree. Michael takes the parents back to the shore for their drive home. I start giving out orders to the three boys.
  • I soon have them cleaning and clearing out the galley.  At last the Chief Stewart/Admiral has someone to delegate her duties to.  They clear out garbage, throw biodegradable items over board and even wash and dry the dishes. We have already sent home a small bag of garbage with their parents for proper disposal. I make sure the recyclables are stored properly on the boat.
  • I explain to the boys the sleeping arrangements. The youngest sleeps with Layton the eldest on cushions on the floor.
  • Michael returns to the boat and goes directly to bed.  I grab a night cap and go outside and watch the boat traffic for a bit until the bugs start to bite at sun down and chase me back inside with all the kids.
  • I quickly put up all the screens, offer drinks to the children, pull out a folding chair and sit with them for a while until I realize that they are talking about creepers, zombies and I have no idea who this Steve guy is they are mentioning. Conversation is way over my head.
  • It looks like it will be an early night for me. I follow Michael to bed and doze off for a bit. I awake to realize I had forgotten to do my night time routine.
  • The boys are still on their ipads, so I turn off the fridge, (had forgotten to turn it off earlier) but turn on the motor for a bit to recharge things. When there is a lot of electronics and other things to charge, the alternator just can’t do the work and the boat batteries will wear done.  Something has to give with a small engine. We upgraded our motor in 2019, and the alternator now handles the heavy demand. I suggest the boys all start their brushing teeth routine and make up a bed on the floor.  The older ones can sleep in the cockpit. Rowan asks if she can sleep in the cockpit. I say no. I light the candle, grab a can of diet ginger ale and go outside in the cockpit with the dog while listening to the shuffling and shoving below while they settle into their spots, find their pajamas and change.
  • Once again, I am enjoying the detachment from below and the quietness of the darkness of the harbour with the familiar sound of banging halyards in the distance. Another pet peeve of mine. Why can’t people secure their halyards before leaving their boats? If they are on their boats, how can they put up with the noise?
  • I check down below and the three boys are ready to go to bed. Rowan is patiently waiting for me to join her in the v-berth.
  • I go below, fill the kettle, put Michael’s coffee in his French press and say good night to the boys.
  • I brush my teeth and hop into bed.  I fall asleep listening to the faint whispering conversation of the boys and at one point awake to total silence. I get up to check and they are all asleep in various positions partially covered up with blankets and sheets.
  • I feel a slight chill in the air, so I make sure they are all covered well, and curl into the bed with Rowan for the last time that night. I soon fall into a light sleep listening to Michael’s quiet snores from the salon, while wondering how that anchoring job is holding up with the change of the tides!

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