Chief Stew­ardess Cristin van der Merwe

Yachts International - - On Charter -

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

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