So, what have I actually been doing on board this motor yacht? Well as I mentioned earlier I’m a deckhand or in other words a well paid cleaner. The “deckies” job is to ensure that the exterior of the boat is spotlessly clean. We clean even when it is already clean. We wash off invisible dirt, salt, dirty rain, water spots, African dust that comes with the north wind and any other from of dirt that you can imagine including food stains dropped from the guests when they dine.

There are two of us deckies, Tom and myself, and we have been nicknamed the “hobits” by the rest of the crew due to our small stature and great appetites (we would eat elevenzies if we were allowed to!). We work under the Bosun, a girl from Australia, who has been on board for almost five years. The Bosun is a ship’s officer in charge of equipment and the crew (i.e. us deckies), but this one does not have much control over us and we end up taking most of our orders from the First Mate. Who also spends a lot of his time with the Bosun, and they help us keep all the brass, stainless, varnish, decks, windows, hull, tenders, sundeck and Jacuzzi clean.

We always start at the top of the boat and wash everything down with clean water that comes from our fresh water makers. We then use boat soap and a soft brush on an extension pole to clean all the areas we cannot get with our furry cleaning mitts to. This then gets washed off again with fresh water and shammied dry. Also using an extension shammy for the hard to reach spots. Windows get washed and squeegeed dry and should be streak free. After the whole boat gets this treatment we start with the decks. They had to be “two parted”. Washed (read scrubbed) with a strong teak cleaner and then we use a teak brightener (an oxalic acid mixture) (a poisonous crystalline acid with a sour taste, present in rhubarb leaves, wood sorrel, and other plants. Its uses include bleaching and cleansing and burning bare feet!) to bring out the shine. These products all have to be washed off with copious amounts of water as they burn the skin off your feet and we walk around bare footed when the guests not on board. After the teak decks are looking nice and scrubbed it is time for the hull to be cleaned. So it’s out in a small rubber rescue boat (tender) with a hosepipe, boat soap, extension scrubbing brushes, suction pads (to keep tender close to side of hull) and sense of humor as we are about to get totally soaked. This job is only given to Tom and I. While on this mission the first time we decided there must be a better way to do this work. What could be invented that would do the work easily and not complain. Well the only cheap reliable method we could come up with was deckhands and we are them so back to work.

After the hull is all bright it is time to start on the brass work. This is a job that I really hate the most, but at the same time it gives me the most satisfaction as when I’m done I can see my face reflected back at me. With my “brasso” type products, black rags and cramped fingers I polish the brass bolts holding the deck chairs together, the brass fittings on the sun loungers, the lift call button panel and the various door knobs around the boat. Phew, all finished, no wait there is still the stainless steel railings, table legs and bar stools. Only now are we finished cleaning – three full days later! I’m sure I’ve left out some of the cleaning but by now you’re so bored you’ve moved on to the next blog.

After going through this process a number of times you become a “PSO” or should I say Professional Shammy Operator. You’re allowed to join the PSO union, receive product and training updates and demand a higher wage – us deckies do like to dream! In fact in our hours of cleaning boredom Tom and I have talked about every subject under the sun, well almost – our different coloured shammy preferences, girls, the weather, Italian girls, brass cleaning products, Croatian girls, what’s for lunch, girlfriends and wife’s past and present, hose coiling methods and other girls.

We use a variety of cleaning products and tools to ensure that all looks smart. “Awl Care”, “Teak Brightner”, “Tender & Fender Cleaner”, “Wintex” and “Cif”.
Yes CIF. A very useful cleaning product. We in South Africa call it “Handy Andy” but they have changed the name in Europe from Jiff to Cif. So there are plenty of sif jobs that can be sorted with Cif.

Nice. If only they new. I chuckle every time I use it. Although I had to clean our yellow water hoses with it once (as if there isn’t enough cleaning to do) and my hands still cramp at the thought of scrubbing the hoses with a brilo pad and Cif. This is the sort of menial job that I do on my 12am to 4am shift. Clean hoses, polish brass, wash and dry towelling chair covers and towels that have only had a guest bum sat on them for a few seconds (usually eight to ten loads in the industrial washers and dryers in the laundry)(and I thought I’d be learning about boats!).

While we have guests on board we work around the clock, sometimes 16 to 20 hours a day. My typical shift is 12noon to 10pm then two hours off, then 12am to 4am – then breakfast, then sleep. Not that it is always possible to sleep, as there are tenders to be lifted on board. We have a big crane for this, which makes a lovely noise that is impossible to sleep through. Anchors that get lifted, bow thrusters that are used and the general drone of activity all help to make sure you do not get a full seven hours of sleep.

The guests don’t have a clue at the amount of cleaning we do and think that everyone goes to bed when they do. The interior crew or Stewardesses use ear buds and toothpicks to ensure no dirt anywhere in the interior cabins and saloons. They will spend one full day on each cabin – that’s three of them. This will be checked by the Chief Stewardess and Captain and they usually have to come back and clean something else that has been overlooked. The master cabin takes three full days to clean. Obviously this only takes place when the guests are not on board.

Well that’s enough cleaning stroies for now – there are plenty more where those came from. Until then keep well and keep smiling 🙂

About the author: oliver