Some experiences are too good to pass up and whether you have fun or live to regret it, you go along for the ride just for the kick of saying you did it.
When something falls out of left field and I know I just have to say “yes,” I follow my gut. It’s all about the journey, right? Want to be a yacht host for Yacht Week in Croatia? Main responsibilities: prepare, cook, and serve meals for 12 people; manage the galley and the food supply; clean the heads. Below Deck has nothing on this gig…
Everyone comes together in the galley—it’s the workspace for hosts and the café for guests. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Port of departure: Trogir
Saturday was the start of Week 23, as The Yacht Week group calls this particular week in its summer sailing season. Fifty boats with ten guests each (plus hosts and skippers) comprise its biggest flotilla of the year. I fell into a job as a yacht host and found myself in an alternate reality from my previous week with Croatia’s elite sport—I went from guest to staff in a single day. My work began at the marina, including provisioning the boat, unloading food and liquor packages, inspecting inventory, and greeting my “crew,” as guests were called.
Breakfast. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
People who apply for these jobs typically pay €1,000 to attend a 3-week training academy. I filled out a brief application, attended a free 1-day training, and received my assignment. The only extra effort on my part was to complete an online food safety course for a required certificate. The pay was laughable given the amount of work but hey, it was change in my pocket and maybe the gig would lead to something else.
At first, I was excited and then I grew anxious. What if the guests didn’t like my food? Or me? What if they were demanding, or obnoxious? I received a set menu with recipes for lunch and dinner but I needed to come up with my own breakfast. Sometimes I make quick egg dishes at home—like scrambled or hardboiled—but the company suggested shakshuka (huh?), frittata, Benedict, fried, poached, pancakes, muffins, and more. I had no clue how to make those from scratch and I started stressing about BREAKFAST!
Guests got their drink on first thing in the morning—Karlovačko, tequila shots, Hennessy, champagne, Red Bull, vodka, and more. They were content to party on the boat all day rather than explore the towns or the islands. Why travel all this way from home and never leave the dock? It seemed a waste to miss so much of what Croatia has to offer. But it wasn’t that kind of trip…
Sunset at Fort George, Vis Island. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
When nighttime came however, guests went to a DJ/dance party at Fort George. I’d heard the sunset views were spectacular up there, but today the party was the main event. It felt like I stepped into a music video—crazy DJs, bodies moving in sync with every rhythm and gesture, the crowd singing each word of each song, and all sorts of outrageous clothing—except this wasn’t choreographed.
Destination: Pakleni Islands
The next day started with a circle raft, which was all the boats joining to form a big swimming circle. Guests lounged on their floaties and swigged from their bottles while a DJ boat blared music. By the time we arrived at Palmižana later that afternoon, I was happy to get off the boat for a break and a shower.
The party’s just starting. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
By 1am I was in the “grave,” sailors’ jargon for my tiny sleeping quarters at the front of the catamaran. To enter, you open a hatch on deck and hop in, there’s no door. When I found out this was going to be my “room,” claustrophobia kicked in and I did everything I could to stay calm. It was still better than sleeping in the galley.
I had just fallen asleep when one of the guests was above my head shouting and pounding on the deck, “Cyndie, are you awake?” Not really, but now I was. One of the other guests wanted to go to the hospital. Oh boy, this wasn’t a drunk prank or a plea to make hangover food. I rallied to get up, wondering what exactly was going on and what to do. Who to contact first, get the medic, get on a boat to the nearest island with a hospital, was it even open at this hour? So many questions were racing through my head…
The front hatch on a catamaran leads to the “coffin,” a small sleeping bunk. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
The girl felt ill and was upset. Me, the skipper, and the guest who woke me jumped into action and helped her calm down; then she just wanted to sleep. She’d been partying hard all day in the hot sun, without drinking water, and it caught up with her.
The “coffin” is named for its size and shape (literally). All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
The day we hit Štipanska for a barbeque and a party, it was another scene straight out of a music video, only this time I was right in the middle. One of my guests asked if I knew how to twerk. Sure I’ve seen it, but can’t say I knew how to do it. She proceeded to teach me in 10 seconds. Bend over, hands on knees, arch your back, look over your shoulder, shake your butt up and down. Want to take it further? Raise your arm up in the air. It was the most fun I had with my crew and we all shared a good laugh.
The DJ boat is full-powered with speakers and sound. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Midway through the week, this cooking business was exhausting. The job description was clever marketing: prepare food for a few hours a day, enjoy time with your guests, swim, serve lunch, relax and party in the evening. With hours upon hours of prep, cooking, and endless dishes, I had virtually no down time and little sleep. I started to resent the job as it became clear that there would be no “play” time.
Guests party on floaties and travel between yachts to pick-up friends. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
At 8pm, the agreed upon dinnertime for this one night, I was ready with salmon, couscous, and tabouleh. The guests were out and started to trickle in after 9pm. It was a chaotic mess and I didn’t finish serving and cleaning up until nearly midnight. I was totally deflated that nobody contacted me about their change of plans or even cared. I crashed in bed, ready for the trip to be over.
Destination: Stari Grad, Hvar
At Stari Grad, we were moored in a bay, with each boat was tied to the next. Guests roamed onboard each other’s yachts to drink and eat while some partied in the water on large floaties. The DJ boat was back and the scene roared on for the entire day and night. I was trapped on the boat to cook, serve, and clean while people got wasted all around me. We never disembarked for the island or saw that side of Hvar.
Carpe Diem Beach is a favorite party spot in the Pakleni Islands. All photos ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt.
On the last day, I woke up before 6am and tired as I was, I moved nonstop on all the outstanding duties I needed to complete. I liked my guests and it was a little sad to say goodbye after getting to know them for the week, but I was sooo happy to be going home.
My mother asked if I had fun and I replied, “I’m glad I did it, it was a new adventure. I was off the computer for a week, I lived on a yacht, learned some things, and met some nice people. But no, I did not have fun.” I have a funny story and I’m okay to end it there.
Story and photographs ©2021, Cyndie Burkhardt. https://photo-diaries.com
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