Virtual Pursers, Mental Health Onboard

A Snapshot of Onboard Life

Most jobs in yachting onboard are high-pressured and physically demanding, and encompass long hours away from family and friends, sometimes for indetermined amounts of time. It is both exciting, rewarding and exhausting, with a work hard, play hard mentality. Crew often mention that in this industry, the highs are high and the lows are low; it is a career of extremes and can be difficult to maintain balance at times. In an age where everything is available at your fingertips and yacht owners and guests expect things to have been done yesterday, it has become intense and crew are all too familiar with burn out. It is, however, not without its positives. Travel and money are the main lures of the industry. Not only do crew have an insight to how the other half live, but they also get to experience the amazing destinations, earn more than they would at home, have once in a lifetime experiences and meet people from all over the globe.

A superyacht at anchor on the Gulf of Mirabello off the Cretan town of Agios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece, October 2017

How COVID Changed the Industry

Suddenly, after COVID hit, the perks became limited, half the reasons crew got involved in the industry to begin with have been eliminated, and the already strenuous working conditions are now magnified. Although we think the wealthy are impervious to a changing economy and external influence, COVID hit the yachting industry just as hard as any other. The yachting bubble ruptured, with unimaginable consequences like crew lay-offs; It was a shock to the maritime system. Travel and socialisation were replaced with quarantine, owners chose to live aboard and destination cruising was put on hold while the world battled with a deadly virus. Suddenly the dream job wasn’t such a dream anymore. Quarantine onboard, coupled with an even higher experience of fatigue, in a concentrated environment saw a spike in depression amongst crew. Some were unable to travel home or see others outside their work environment, creating an extremely isolating situation.

Pressures Faced by Senior Crew

Although finding themselves in the same position, senior crew are responsible for the well-being of the junior crew and none more so than the Captain. With very little if any training on mental health, they are now expected to provide support to their colleagues. Captains are already under an enormous amount of pressure, not only for the safety of guests and crew but ensuring all maritime procedures are followed, plus a million other tasks and responsibilities. As the industry develops, the number of procedures and the amount of paperwork involved is becoming exponential, taking away their attention from more pressing issues, one of them being crew mental health. It’s difficult when you are inundated with admin and onboard issues, to know or to think about where to turn. That’s where support services come in. Many yachts are long accustomed to the use of agents to assist with all sorts of destination-specific tasks, contractors for repairs and works etc. but there are many other types of support also available to help alleviate pain points faced by crew. Support services are becoming more fundamental in fostering a healthy work environment, facilitating access to a wider amount of resources and skills otherwise inaccessible.

Tried and True Resources

Yachting professionals have started to band together to combat numerous issues in the industry including diversity and mental well-being of crew onboard. With organisations such as She of the Sea, ISWAN, the ISS and PYA all advocating for the betterment of the yachting industry in one form or another, Captains and Senior Crew should not hesitate to reach out in times of need. There are also plenty of resources and companies aimed at assisting crew throughout their yachting journey in the form of growth, development and innovation, taking the industry to new heights. For those reading this that are struggling at the moment, don’t hesitate to reach out! Gone are the days of mental wellness being a taboo topic of conversation, we need to help each other create an open and honest environment, after all being in yachting is like being part of a family and families are there to support each other.

About the Author Dominique Smit

With over twenty years of combined experience working on-board an impressive array of yachts, Virtual Pursers understand first-hand the ever-increasing administrative pressures faced by Captains and Maritime Professionals, and that time is a precious commodity. Operating worldwide with a physical presence in Europe and Asia-Pacific, Virtual Pursers are trusted industry experts providing yacht administration support to ALL vessels, yacht management companies, and maritime businesses. Virtual Pursers can be contacted at and at +44 203 514 0413.

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