Paula Imrie – Chief Stewardess Extraordinaire!
Paula Imrie is a fiery Scottish lass that has mastered the art of running the interior. Captured by the allure of yachting through tales of the high life on board, she jumped at the chance to get involved. Through word of mouth, she was able to get her foot in the door and the rest is history! Her unbridled enthusiasm is motivation in itself and, when she puts her mind to it, there is nothing that this Chief Stewardess can’t accomplish!
You’ve had a fun and interesting career climbing the ranks from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess across the globe! Can you tell us about where you’re from and a little about your background before yachting?
I am from a little town just outside Edinburgh in Scotland called North Berwick, it’s a stunning seaside town if anyone is interested in a Scottish adventure. I was always a worker from a young age and I have worked in nearly every space on my local street from Boots & Tesco, to Nanny & Bartender, the list goes on! My first job was as a housekeeper in a local hotel in my hometown. Throughout my working life, I always had supportive managers and bosses but none more so than my last full-time position in a clothes boutique.
My last boss, Megs, was an avid traveller as an ex-flight attendant with her children both in yachting. They always came home for Christmas telling me about these insane parties and restless nights working on these massive shiny superyachts. Megs guided me to her daughter Fiona who was a Chief Stewardess at the time and took me under her wing for my first stint as a day worker. Then Sarah Plant at ReCrewt placed me in my first junior stewardess position onboard a lovely 56 m Benetti Called Galaxy and I haven’t looked back! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be where I am today.
How did your career begin and what was your path from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess? Have you had to complete any training?
I worked onboard Galaxy for a little over 3 years under three Chief Stewardesses, all with different skill sets. We were all a very tight crew and are all still in touch to this day. I’ve been to weddings, met babies and catch up regularly with my first crew. It was a really special time for me and I put that down to our Captain and First Officer who didn’t change the entire time I was on board. You guys know who you are! I then did a bit of travelling (spending my tips!). After that, I moved onto Slipstream as a Second under a Chief who had been on board for 7 years! BIG shoes! She was an absolutely fantastic Chief, I loved working with her and I can’t thank her enough for the opportunity to move into her role when she decided to leave. It was extremely challenging, Slipstream is a busy charter yacht and always on tight turnarounds. I was lucky to have a great, experienced team with me as well as fantastic Chefs. After that I decided to just temp for a little while on Cloudbreak, this is where I met the lovely Bec McKeever! I made some real friends for life on this boat which was a fantastic opportunity. We travelled around Norway, Greece, Turkey and Germany. I was employed as a Second Stew and absolutely loved it! Lucky my Chief at the time was super experienced and lovely we got on like two peas in a pod (shout out to the other P!) and we worked together really well. After the contract ended I was asked back but they only had a stew position. I said ABSOLUTELY! It was great, I loved it. I learned a lot from stepping up and down. You are never too good for any position, you always need to respect the position above and below you even if you have more experience, that is the job you accepted. Other than that it’s the usual STCW courses as well as Food Hygiene and my WSET Level 2 wine course which I completed for fun in sunny Edinburgh.
Throughout your career from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess, what challenges have you faced?
For me, finding the right crew is always the biggest challenge. It’s challenging for all departments including the Captain and management to recruiting those that are passionate about the yacht they work on. Over my time on boats, I would say for any manager or Captain recruitment is the hardest possible thing to do on or off yachts. There was also one occasion where one of my girls dropped the whole oil and balsamic vinegar table set on a brand new white silk carpet one hour before the owners were stepping on. It was a Sunday, it was late and we were in Barbados… that was a bad day. Provisioning would also be a big one especially during COVID, my yacht was in Florida when the pandemic hit, trying to get any food on board was a nightmare. I sent two girls to Wholefoods and the shelves were nearly empty, my Second at the time said she had to hide a roast chicken up her t-shirt as things had turned feral in the supermarket.
Who do you turn to if you’re having a bad day and how do you handle that when being onboard?
As a Chief Stewardess, I lean on my second stewardess we work as a team and a problem shared is a problem halved. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic Second Stewardess on my current vessel who I completely trust with everything onboard. I also rely on my partner who I currently work with. He’s a laid back kiwi engineer so it’s safe to say I get great advice from him. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems, especially when I tell him something and he’s standing in a sweaty engine room covered in oil. When you start to spread your frustrations out on everyone who will listen, that’s when things generally go south. Chinese whispers happen and it’s made into something it’s not.
You’ve gaining leadership skills and sound knowledge over the years, all the way from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess. How would you describe your leadership style and what an ideal team environment looks like to you?
I would definitely have to say work smarter not harder. If my team don’t know what they are doing, I learned that it’s not their fault but mine for not guiding them correctly. Before I started yachting, I was very hard on myself and it’s something that still happens to this day. For me, someone running around not taking breaks and looking super stressed doesn’t say “I’ve got this”. We all work as a team on board, I couldn’t do it without them and they couldn’t do it without me, and I like a tabletop decision, ultimately it’s up to me but I like to know what the team think. You have to weigh everything up, sometimes you have to work harder but rest is just as important. Everyone works better with that little bit of extra time/sleep/reading time or just time to chat with friends and family. I like to think I’m pretty laid back but I definitely have a fire in my heart if things are not done correctly or the way I ask, what can I say I am a Chief Stew!
You’ve been incredibly lucky to travel to some amazing destinations, where has been a highlight, and why?
My highlight was the BVI’s before the hurricane hit. We were all out and met these sailors in the “Bitter End Bar”, who invited us on a catamaran midnight cruise with them. We arrived at 11:30 in our summer dresses. We were greeted with 10 Hobie Catamarans. It’s safe to say they gave us some appropriate attire to wear as we were actually sailing around the islands. None of us has one single photo to prove it ever happened but it did and was one of the fondest memories from my time on boats! P Diddy also inviting my crew out to the Billionaires club in Monaco to hear him perform, meeting Leo… And Rhianna, oh and Lewis Hamilton… Ok, I’m done. Oh and Paris Hilton… Ok, now I really can’t say anymore!
As someone who has been in the industry for a really long time, if you could give a younger (less wise!) version of you some sound advice, what would it be?
Listen to your senior crew, there is nothing more annoying than “on my last yacht”, I can’t stand it. Save more money, I have had an awesome experience in yachting but now being a homeowner and the “real world” starting to happen for me. I should have probably spent less money on Jager bombs and designer items. It’s safe to say I have calmed down in the past couple of years, anyone who knows me knows I was a very social yachtie in my day. I think as long as you can do your job well at the end of the day, then enjoy it! Yachting is a great experience and should be enjoyed! Work hard play hard, right?! I would also say, never give someone a job you haven’t done yourself, and appreciate all the different positions on board. Oh, and no dream is too big!
From Stewardess to Chief Stewardess, what are your thoughts about having a mentor?
I have always had a mentor in yachting, the first was my friend Fiona who brought me into the industry in 2012, then it was Captain Luke on my first yacht. The way he handled all the crew both on and off-board is simply incredible and he’s a credit to any yacht as a Captain. Even after all this time we still chat every now and then. He really did shape me to be the Chief Stewardess I am today. I always try and think “what would Luke do in this situation”.
Any hot tips for staying organised and on top of everything?
For me, when I am at work, I always get up early and have my plan for the day, then I go have a coffee to just be with the crew in the morning. I always like to be organised in my morning meetings and always have a plan the day before. I try to plan out a week at a time. I don’t usually do too much more than that as our yacht changes plans all the time so I just go with the flow on our worklists.
What’s next for you? Are you a yachtie for life or do you have plans for the future?
That’s a great question! I have definitely calmed down in the past couple of years and for me, it does have a ticking time frame now for my time on boats. I flick between so many ideas in my head of what’s next, and I still really don’t know. For me, I would love to start a family in the next couple of years with my partner (surprise Dave!) and get a dog! Where that will be, we really don’t know. Like a lot of couples in yachting, we are both from different countries and it’s hard to choose a place to stop and start all of that especially with the pandemic and the situation with New Zealand. I flick between closing the door for good on yachts to thinking I could possibly be a crew agent. I need to wait and see. It’s safe to say it’s been one hell of a ride for me on yachts and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to work with all the people I did. My 10 years have gone by pretty quickly so make the absolute most of it guys!
With an impressive career behind her and an abundance of enthusiasm, we can’t wait for Paula to conquer the next phase of her working life. We have a feeling that whatever she decides, it’ll be an awesome adventure! All the best Paula.