From cheerleader to flight attendant to yachtie

Bluewater catches up with Vee to hear how she changed from planning a career on oil rigs to the Superyacht industry.

By Sarah Smith-Garrison • 25 June 2021

Pilates with Vee

Pilates with Vee made the move to yachting in 2011. Before that she was a professional cheerleader, dancer and children’s entertainer.
She has spent ten years in the yachting industry across various stewardess roles and seven years in the health and wellness space as a Pilates, barre and spin instructor, Pilates teacher trainer, masseuse, brand ambassador, mentor and online facilitator.

Immaculate stewardesses, custom made outfits, decadent table, influential audience

Hi Vee, tell us what drew you to the Superyacht industry?

Picture stewardesses walk out in perfect unison, immaculate, custom made outfits, plates ladled with the most decadent food one could imagine, landing on the table simultaneously, for an audience of the most influential people of our time, with Capri in the background.
My background is professional cheerleading, dancer and children’s entertainer, always on stage, but it doesn’t compare to the glamorous stage of yachting.
I was made for this!

in my early twenties when I was a flight attendant for Virgin Australia, I was eager to see more of the world, so I signed up to do the STCW course with the intention of working on oil rigs in housekeeping.

I knew the job wouldn’t be glamorous but the salary and time off was lucrative.
Halfway through the course, the instructor pulled me aside and said ‘Vee have you heard of super yachts? I think this might suit your personality better.’
He explained what the yachting industry was and within a couple of months I was off to Antibes, France.

How did you get your first job and what were your duties?

As a greenie, I walked every dock in the South France and Italy, signed up with as many agents as I could and did day work wherever possible.

However, I secured my first job by chance at the Blue Lady; I ran into an old friend from school who was a first officer on a 50-metre private charter vessel whose captain was looking for two junior stews. Before I had even made it back to the crew house I was called by the chief stew for an interview and on my way to Monaco the very next morning for my first job.
When you’re green and looking for work – especially in high volume recruitment areas like Antibes, Palma and Fort Lauderdale – you have to be switched on. Every moment you’re at a bar, buying a coffee, at a beach club etc. is an opportunity to meet a potential employer.

In my first role I rotated between service/housekeeping and laundry. It was a private charter vessel with two owners. We had five days off in six months and the boss was still on the boat in Turkey in mid-November. In my first six months I saw all the highs and lows you could possibly experience in yachting, with both guests and crew. And I still loved it!

What’s been your favourite yacht to work on and why?

I would have to say the program I’m with now, because it ticks all the boxes.

After spending time in various roles across service and housekeeping, I moved into the fitness and wellness space in 2014.
My current role of Spa Manager/Trainer is tailor-made for my skill set and has been ten years in the making.
It entails training guests in various styles of group fitness, clinical one-to-one Pilates, assisting on hikes and work in the spa. During a refit I was invited to join the design process of the Pilates studio and made significant contributions to equipment selection and layout. It was incredibly rewarding to have so much trust in my input and I learned so much about the process of yacht design.

Aside from my actual job, all other aspects of the yacht are awesome; guests, itinerary, management, captains, crew, crew facilities (i.e. gym and cabins) food (for greenies this might sound weird but trust me, food becomes your whole life on trip!) and of course the after-work culture. It’s all a ten out of ten.

I feel like I’m working with an Olympic squad at the moment. It’s not unusual to see 8-10 crew from different departments get together for a 20km hike after work, usually led by the Captain.
That healthy balance between ‘let’s get fit’ and ‘let’s have a drink’ is really hard to find and these guys do it perfectly!

What’s the hardest role onboard you’ve held?

If you’re just getting into the business, it’s crucial to understand that all work on yachts is hard work.
You take part in creating a level of service that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the entire world.
It’s manual labour, sometimes literally on your hands and knees, for 12+ hour days at the start.
That doesn’t ease up; eventually it becomes 12+ hours with a whole lot more responsibility and higher expectations of your performance as a crew member.

My hardest role was team leader on a 100-metre yacht.
It was the first time I had been promoted, I was young and I didn’t have any management experience. I just had to learn as I went and try not to take any criticism too personally. I didn’t like ordering people around because I wanted to be everyone’s friend. I didn’t know how to delegate and burned myself out trying to do everyone else’s job as well as my own.

Due to the size of the vessel, we spent a majority of the time at anchor and did long seasons with the guests. It was common to go straight from a crossing to a guest trip, spending very little time on land. Although the role was challenging, it’s where I learned the most as a stewardess. The hard work paid off; it was that and the reputation of the yacht that set up the rest of my career and helped me land a lot of future jobs.

What does a typical day on charter look like for you?

I start the day with a workout and 15 minutes of outside time listening to a podcast.

I will then set up the Pilates studio and the spa so it’s ready to go when the guests start waking up.
While I’m standing by, I always try to get some reading in (I’m currently studying Thai Massage) or start creating new classes.
After my one-on-one classes are done, I reset the studio to get everything ready for group classes, setting up props, mats & towels on the heli-deck or swim platform.

After the group classes it’s my responsibility to clean and put away all the equipment.
Once the guests finish lunch, the afternoon massages start.
When the guests are at dinner I pack down, clean and restock the spa.
I try to get in some light stretching or myofascial release work with a tennis ball before bed, even if it’s on my cabin floor or in my bathroom.

When crew are on charter, it is full on, what’s your tips for how they can start their day the right way?

Number one: do not look at your phone as soon as you wake up!
Flight mode is key. I picked this tip up from Jay Shetty, an English author, former monk, and purpose coach.
Buy an old school alarm clock and charge your phone in your bathroom.
Allow yourself to set the tone of the day with positive affirmations, and resist being influenced by the overload of information that shows up on our screens once we hit wifi.

I appreciate that when it’s busy and you’re the 6am breakfast girl or the deckhand who starts at 2am to rinse, a 30 minute workout before work might not be on the cards.
However, even just five minutes of light stretching can be something nice to do for yourself before you hand all your energy over to the boat, your team, and the guests.

What is the best night-time routine for winding down and getting a great night sleep?

Again, I go back to the phone. Flight mode, on charge in the bathroom 30 minutes before bed.

Stimulate the brain with something other than social media, Whatsapp and work emails.

Pick three easy stretches you can do without having to look at any kind of device for guidance and repeat them over a ten-minute period.
No technology and some light stretching allows for the body and brain to collectively wind down together.

Give us any tips to improve our well-being / flexibility?

At the start of each trip, I like to set two goals:
one for mental health, one for physical health.

I like to keep them small, simple and achievable so there is the opportunity to create consistency and routine for the whole season.

For example: ‘I’m going to meditate every day for 5 minutes’ and ‘I’m going to practise 40 push ups and 40 sit ups”.
When you’re doing 12-hour days with a full boat and averaging over 20,000 steps a day, setting small goals like that is perfect. Be kind to yourself and appreciate that on some days that may be all the energy you have.

I recently did a poll on Instagram asking yachties from all departments how much exercise they did on trip.
Over 50% selected ‘My role doesn’t allow time to exercise, I just want sleep’.
This leads me to believe we need to take the pressure off what exercise looks like to the individual when you are on trip.
If exercise to you is a cheeky 30km run on the treadmill followed by throwing weights around in the engine room, that’s amazing! If fitness incorporated into the yachting work lifestyle is new and 15 minutes is all you have in you, that is also awesome!
15 minutes is still a great amount of time to choose one area of the body to work on, stretch, move and get the endorphins going.

What’s next for you?

Before my season kicks off, I’ll be running a webinar for Pilate’s teachers, yoga teachers and personal trainers who are wanting to get into the yachting industry and for stewardesses/deckhands who are looking to transition into dual roles.
Throughout the med season I will be rolling out a series of IGTV interviews with other Pilates teachers, yoga teachers and PTs who are in similar roles to myself, talking about their journeys so far in the yachting industry.

In September my 3-day workshop launches.
This will be covering in more depth the trainer role on yachts with everything I’ve learned over the last ten years: What works, what doesn’t, teacher training courses that work best with the yachting work schedule, how to set up a gym on a yacht, branding yourself and more.

My summer season on board will be busy, which is exciting! I’m part of an incredible team who collectively bands together to create one of the most luxurious programs I’ve ever been a part of. The itinerary looks super fun and I’ll be teaching Pilates in some incredible destinations.

Someone pinch me!
Well you have certainly inspired us to find more balance in our work and lives!

Follow Vee on instagram for more tips on keeping your sanity and improving your flexibility during your yacht charters, or check out her website.

For a chance to kick start your career in yachting have a look at our courses for those considering moving in to yachting, or visit the job board for some exciting roles.