“Stewardess,” said easyboats. “I can do that,” I thought. Plump a few cushions, dish out a coupl’a canapés, fold a dozen napkins, wipe the odd fingerprint off a polished tabletop, can’t be that hard.
And then I remembered the time I accidentally chucked a glass of wine over Stephanie Flanders (her offa the BBC, Ed Miliband’s ex squeeze) atop the flybridge of a Fairline Phantom on a press trip. She (literally) dived into the (slightly rough) sea to get clean. And then SWAM ALL THE WAY ASHORE to Puerto Banús – I think to get away from my incompetence (true story). I reconsidered my potential position as a stewardess. “There will be no guests onboard,” continued easyboats, “just general daily cleaning and maintenance duties set by the captain”. “Phew,” I relaxed. This will be a doddle after all.
Precisely 40 hours before I rocked up at the Mangusta 80 in Port Andratx, I was flat on my back on the lawn in agony clutching a freshly-sprained right ankle. I greeted the captain (Pep) with localised multicoloured elephantiasis, a pathetic limp and a tubigrip. I reassured him that my performance wouldn’t be compromised. Having manoeuvred an open engine hatch (“fall down there love, and you’ll have more than a sprained ankle”) I was introduced to proper qualified stewardess Diana who was to be my mentor for the morning. All long blonde hair, white teeth, Central European accent and a date of birth in the high 80s, she reminded me of what a stewardess was supposed to look like. I was set to be the oldest mop-swinger in Port.
Diana and Pep kindly pointed out that the easyboats guys had put the Mangusta through a six-figure (yep, six) interior and exterior refit over the winter and she was currently in pristine condition (loosely translated as “keep it that way Sarah”). I was then pointed in the direction of some luminous pink boat cleaning liquid, a hose and a brush (with telescopic handle) and educated in the art of making windows, deck and hull squeaky clean.
Now this brought me back to another nautical Puerto Banús memory and the washing down of a 30-ish-foot sports cruiser after a day at sea. I was pre-loaded with wine and sunshine and thought it would be most generous to clean the boat as a thank you for the owner’s hospitality. To get better access to scrub the dirty black residue from around the exhaust outlet, I leant on the boat next door and, like the parting of the Red Sea, both vessels gave way and I went under – ingesting mouthfuls of fuel and pee on the way. I still joke that there’s fish out there wearing my peal earrings and H&M sunglasses. I left Diana with the honours of soaping off the hull sides, seemed the most sensible option.
Let me tell you that once you’ve rinsed, soaped, rinsed and chamoised 80 foot of Mangusta, the best part of the morning has vanished – with only a little time left for some therapeutic stainless steel polishing. And, with a high of 31 degrees, let me also tell you that even my eyelashes were sweating by the end of it. This is not work for the faint hearted. (I also want to tell you that “I am sweating like a b*stard” said with a Slovenian accent is a very funny thing – but I am not sure if that’s appropriate.)
There is also the curiosity of an audience while you work. Tourists love dockwalking, and they’re a sucker for a big yacht, so you find yourself brushing that little harder and prouder when you have half a dozen onlookers waving an iPhone in your direction. A strange experience for a usually home-bound desk-jockey journo. Oh, and I have no idea what the seagull had eaten before it plopped on the boat that morning, but I couldn’t scrub it off for love nor money (definitely not money, Apprentices like me don’t get paid).
I got through the stewardess experience without a single clumsy error – well almost. I got slightly too immersed in my hosing whatnot and Diana had to intervene to point out that I’d also hosed 30% of the sailing yacht to starboard and 20% of the motoryacht to port. This is a no no. You must respect your neighbours’ teak. You’ll also be delighted to hear that I didn’t fall in, although Pep assured me that, as a Blue Flag port, I wouldn’t have experienced the same intestinal trauma as I did in Banús a decade ago.
Would I stewardess again? Yes. Diana, Pep and the Mangusta, were wonderful. However it does carry slight ‘housewife syndrome’ as, like washing up, hoovering and ironing, as fast as you do it, you know it’ll need doing again. For sure, by the time up I had my ankle elevated and iced at home, another seagull had emptied his bowels across the white fibreglass…