3:18 AM Sun 14 Aug 2011 GMT
Find a Crew by Nautycal, the world's largest online marine crew and boat network, has one very important difference from its international rivals - the vigilant customer service pivot point between yachts and their potential crew mates, Kylie Gretener.
The legion of content sailors, some old hands and just as many newcomers to the boating lifestyle, all nominate Kylie's omnipresent guidance and attention to feedback as one of the reasons for their returning to use the service again and again and many multiple times over the past seven years.
Queensland based but global in its scope, Find a Crew has been in operation for six years, revolutionising online marine recruitment. Over 56,000 members from around the world have signed up during that time and on the day of writing this story, there were 780 boats listed with a myriad of positions available and 4,500 members signed in over the past 45 days.
As Kylie explains: 'Find a Crew caters for professional and recreational boating, and for boats of all types and sizes, all associated crew positions from passenger and deckhand to chef, nanny, teacher, watch keeper, navigator, race crew and Captain, and in every country of the world.'
Kylie says she and the Nautycal team have heard hundreds of stories from happy members who have found the dream job or adventure, new friends and opportunities.
'What is inspiring about this industry, is that the people who love it are really out there doing what so many people only dream about. They try life on land for a while, but the sea draws them back time and time again. The internet has really opened up communication to a level where anything is possible for anyone. On Find a Crew, you never know where a few clicks of your mouse will take you next!'
Recent member, Suzanne Newman, who is looking forward to her own Greek Odyssey aboard a breath-taking Formosa 51 in just two weeks' time, says she heard of Find a Crew via a friend's daughter who was in Seattle aboard a boat.
'I registered to check out what it was all about - spy on her if you like. And it ended up being the best decision I ever made. I have always wanted to see the Greek Islands and as it turns out, I will be celebrating my 67th Birthday the day I arrive in Greece!'
No newcomer to sailing, Suzanne has been racing out of Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron for many years, with WAGS and SAGS [Wednesday/Sunday Afternoon Go Sailing]. She began sailing in 1999 with Sailability on the Gold Coast. 'I worked in real estate, so I could get away during the week. I sailed a lot from Manly in Brisbane and Moreton Bay, but no further afield. I crewed on boats including 'Wild West' for two years from RQ, then on 'Zen' as permanent crew for seven and a half years. 'Zen' was sold last year, and 'More Intrigued' adopted those crew. They left for Hammo last week. So I felt like I was deserted.'
In the process of following the exploits of her friend's daughter and what she was doing in Seattle through Find a Crew, Suzanne 'uploaded herself' and got offers the next day!
'An ex-naval officer in Greece was the first to come through. I was immediately interested, as I lived in the US for 17 years, my late husband was American. His profile very professional and detailed. He's retired, 76 and sailing backwards and forwards between Cyprus and Greece twice year. He was looking for crew. I have lived all over the world and had money saved up, so I thought, why not?'
Suzanne, who says she has always lived 'a spontaneous and interesting life', uploaded more details to her profile and then accepted the offer of the US skipper and owner of a prosaic Samosa 51. 'It looks like a Pirate Ship,' says Suzanne, who has seen photos from all angles and read previous crew reviews of their experiences onboard.
'I just wanted an adventure,' says Suzanne. 'My father always taught me, 'when opportunity comes up, take it!' and that's how he lived. I joined one day and within a week, I had my ticket booked. The owner is so professional. He has kept in touch and sent me updated itineraries, and all the information I need for great preparation, including book recommendations. We have had a lot of communication.'
Suzanne says that when she committed to it, she uploaded comments about how impressed she was by Find a Crew and its facility for thorough communication between parties. 'Kylie saw that and followed up with me. That meant she is actually watching what goes on, which is very comforting.'
Suzanne recommends that people who have an inclination to travel consider crewing. 'Go through the process, be level headed, ask plenty of questions, supply accurate information, update your progress so Kylie can follow it. She is a dynamo!'
Another very satisfied crew member, Scott Fratcher has had several great experiences via Find a Crew. He is currently in France, and took the time to send feedback to Kylie about his impressions. 'About five years we got a job through Find a Crew that lasted a year, then another that was a great gig, and now a third. They have all been good jobs and all pretty easy to get through the interview process.'
Kylie, who speaks German, has also liaised with 74-year old Irmatraud. 'She told me she has found the perfect trip for her, and wanted to thank everybody for the many offers. She wrote: 'My English is not good, but I'm so happy, I found the right Boot. Wolfgang fom Germany had bought a Lagoon 380 and so we will sailing from Spain to Australia in the time from two until three years. It?s my dream trip. Last year I was sailing from Hawaii to Tahiti on the Sailboot and I will see more from the Pacific'. Pretty cool, isn't it?'
Kylie and the Nautycal team have devised through guidelines for prospective crew and boat owners to follow to ensure open and honest exchange of information. 'We have sections devoted to internet safety, lists of suggested questions to ask, passport, visa and insurance prompts and a section for references and testimonials.
'We do our utmost to provide helpful information, but we're not a crew agent but a global online network,' explains Kylie. 'Find a Crew focuses on providing an efficient platform to make new connections and introductions between members, without us getting directly involved in any negotiations. However, members can always email, or call us on any of our over 65 phone locations in 23 countries around the world and we do our best to help.'
According to Kylie, 80% of their business arrives at Find a Crew from word of mouth and referrals. 'When people register with us they reveal how they heard of us. Many members send me an email with their feedback and we are have a testimonials page underway. It's a major part of Find a Crew - the friend of a friend network.'
Justifiably proud of their achievement in just seven years, Kylie says Find a Crew has helped thousands of people to get on the water, find crew for their boats, and introduced the start of many careers, new adventures and friendships.
In the pipeline, Find a Harbour and other sites to link the adventurous with the services and experiences they seek.
'Find a Harbour will be an entirely free service to mariners around the world, providing a worldwide directory assisting with information to establish their next destination. All information is entered and updated by real people, and anyone can contribute,' says Kylie of the new site. 'In the coming years we hope to gain global support from governments, tourism boards and businesses to present their destinations to mariners.'
by Jeni Bone
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