Chief Stewardess Cristin van der Merwe
Cristin van der Merwe was a very believable Alice in Wonderland at a costume party aboard the 138-foot (42.8meter) Sanlorenzo Moka. At 29, she is just as independent, genuine and as curious as Lewis Carroll’s famous character.
Van der Merwe left her native South Africa at 19 to study and work in Scotland with specialneeds children. She managed a restaurant and caught wind of the yachting industry. Eager to explore the world, she flew home to Johannesburg and enrolled in an STCW training course. She also started dating her future husband, Donoven, who was from her hometown. “We were absolutely besotted with each other,” she says. “We found old teenage photos where he is standing behind me at a party, but amazingly, we had never met in those years.”
Two months after their first date, she received a job offer in the South Pacific, kissed her sweetheart goodbye and joined the 191-foot (58.3-meter) Trinity Unbridled as a junior stewardess. Travels ensued in Bora Bora, New Caledonia, Fiji and New Zealand. She learned from the chief stewardess, and two things became apparent: She was going to pursue her newfound career, and she was not going to give up on the boy back home.
Cristin and Donoven married in between jobs and went on a six-week backpacking honeymoon through Asia and Indonesia. They then landed positions together aboard Moka. Cristin became chief stewardess, and Donoven was hired as bosun.
“This industry can be difficult at times, and my goal is to create a blissful environment through encouragement, humility and mentorship,” she says. “Happy crew can accomplish anything they set their minds to.” —Jill Bobrow