There are two questions I am often asked by prospective crew members: "Do I need to be a blonde beauty with legs up to here?" or "Do I need to be tall, dark and handsome?" In essence, what both men and women are asking is "Do looks matter?"
(Featured in PARADISE magazine, Gold Coast Weekend Bulletin, January 27-28, 2008)
Jennifer Pender-Brookes and Rob Brookes have worked onboard the world's most luxurious yachts, meeting supermodels, actors and billionaires.
CHECK OUT THIS AMAZING FOOTAGE! From diving with manta rays and dolphins to diving off the mast of a mega yacht to diving into the deep end...literally, these videos will give you a snapshot of a lifestyle most people only ever dream about.
"Working on a luxury yacht while travelling to places like the Caribbean and Mediterranean was the best time of my life. Our
crew was an amazing group of people from all over the world. I have made many great friends."
LIVING THE HIGH LIFE ON THE HIGH SEAS
Fri Sep 18 2015
PARADISE Magazine, Gold Coast Bulletin, January 27-28, 2015
Bruce Willis loves a drink. Billy Joel loves a laugh. Bill Gates twitches, constantly. And Chevy Chase's wit is so deadpan you may want to check his pulse should you ever meet him.
Most young Aussies return from overseas working holidays with gimmicky T-shirts and exhausted credit cards. But Coast siblings Jennifer and Rob got home from their big working stints abroad with artilleries of juicy anecdotes about the rich, the famous, the infamous - and wads of cash.
Don't believe dreams really do exist? Read on. This Gold Coast couple may change your mind.
Jennifer Pender-Brookes and her younger brother Rob Brookes have spent a total of fourteen years working onboard some of the world's finest multimillion dollar yachts.
Two of six children to parents who ran South Stradbroke Island tour outfit Jetaway Cruises in the 80s and 90s, Rob admits it was 'always in our genes' to end up on the water. A chance meeting with a past captain, visiting the Gold Coast from Fort Lauderdale, dropped the notion of working on Florida's booming docks into Rob's and Jennifer's ears.
Three months later Rob, then 19 years old, was on his way. Six months after that Jennifer followed and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now aged 31 and 30 respectively, the duo have visited over 80 countries, circumnavigating the globe more then three times from 1997 to 2004 as crew on a swathe of superyachts. They have wet their feet in many of the planet's most idyllic waters including the Caribbean, the Med, both US coasts, and much of South-East Asia.
They have served supermodels flutes of champagne, scuba dived with sharks and eaten in world-renowned restaurants. And, if you need an extra sweetener to get you scrambling for your sea legs, Rob and Jennifer typically earnt about $5000 per month, tax-free, as 'citizens of the world'.
When on duty Jennifer and Rob, like all crew, were paid to meet every whim of some of the world's wealthiest humans and their guests. When off-duty they travelled all-expenses paid for four weeks every year to anywhere they wanted.
Even when 'on the clock' the siblings agreed it was common to score a few high-faluting perks from their often generous bosses.
"When you started on a new yacht the stewardess would typically ask what type of razors you preferred, if you had a favoured deodorant and so on," said Rob. "All of these things were just provided for you at no cost, plus our lodging and meals, and you enjoyed the fact that if the person chartering the boat was heading out for a day trip and there were two seats left on the tour bus, crew would be asked to come too."
Jennifer's boss while working as a stewardess on the 60m $85 million Battered Bull was a fanatical scuba diver whose favourite holiday pastime was diving with big sharks. "Much of the time that was what he wanted to do," said Jennifer, "So I'd get to dive free in these really amazing places almost every day."
Another top-shelf freebie was the time Rob's boss - a mulitimillionaire US businessman - took his whole 10-person crew from 50m vessel Lady Lola on a three-day short break to his own private holiday resort in Idaho.
"The owner suddenly announced he was taking us all away for a few days so he boarded us on his Gulf Stream jet and flew us from Seattle to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to stay at his resort on a lake. It was this incredible freshwater lake. We just rode jet skis and waterskis and everything was paid for. He had even paid another relief crew to come onto Lady Lola for the time we were away, just to look after her. It was incredible."
Rob was also an exterior crewmember on the $140 million dollar, 61m Cakewalk in 2003 and 2004, which included a three-week charter by Microsoft mastermind Bill Gates in the Bahamas.
Rob described the vessel as 'the Rolls-Royce of yachts', but said Bill seemed less interested in the vessel's luxurious finishes than he was in the privacy she afforded him and his young family.
"He loved to just sit under a tent on the beach," recalled Rob. "He is a very quiet guy, very polite, and he would just grow his beard a little bit while on holidays and relax. He also swayed a lot. He never stopped rocking; that is how you can tell it is Bill Gates."
Rob said when Bill's business partner Paul Allen 'rocked up' with his new yacht, carrying 60 crew and two helicopters, the yacht was so big it couldn't moor next to Bill's and had to park a few kilometres away.
"My time with Bill was a big highlight of my life on the boats," Rob said. "There was this one day I looked out on the aft deck and there was Bill, Paul and Micheal Dell (of Dell Computer's empire) just sitting there, chatting, about what, I do not know. Just think of all the money tied up in those three men. I guess that is why Bill always had three security cars when he was on shore, one he would travel in and two decoys."
Rob also 'crossed paths' with US comedian Chevy Chase on the Caribbean island of St Barts, and even singer Billy Joel, who had revamped a 34m fishing trawler named Red Head and permanently moored it at Sag Harbour in Long Island.
"Chevy had this reputation as coming across a bit snobby and I think it was because when you asked him a question he was just like he is in National Lampoon's Vacation - very dry, very deadpan. You sort of didn't know if he was being straight with you or not. Whereas Billy was such a nice guy, very generous, likes to drink a lot and definitely likes to party. Once a year Billy would host a fireworks display to say thank you to Sag Harbour. He was extremely well liked."
Hollywood actor Bruce Willis made a similar impression on Jennifer when she met him in France in 1998. When pushed for details she decribed him as 'a bit of a player' who loved the amber nectar and liked low-key entries and exits. "He was easygoing, charismatic and down-to-earth." He was also a party animal. Much like the son of a billionaire businessman that Jennifer worked for who enjoyed nothing better than inviting 'as many famous people as he could' onto his father's yacht.
In fact, Jennifer has hosted many cocktail parties for celebrities and business tycoons in her time on yachts. Her impressions of 1990s supermodels range from praise for 'naturally beautiful' Nicky Taylor to disbelief at Naomi Campbell's aloofness.
"Naomi was stunning to look at, almost superhuman," Jennifer said, "But she had this way of dismissing you as if you were not there, as if you were simply a slave. After working for many years on yachts with extremely kind owners I was not used to it."
While working for a man she only ever knew as 'Mr Riccardo' on the 50m Lionwind, Jennifer had memories of briefly rubbing shoulders with stars Cuba Gooding Jnr, Woody Harrelson and Tom Arnold, as well as on-again, off-again celebrity couple Sylvestor Stallone and Jennifer Flavin.
In fact, it is hard to imagine a downside to this life of cocktail parties and cruising, but Jennifer and Rob confess life did have its drawbacks during the long stretches at sea in confined spaces.
"You live on top of each other and the crew live almost underwater," Rob said. "It is not like we are up there in the big suites. We are in these small cabins with tiny portholes."
"Also," Jennifer added, "when you have not got much outside stimulus you can get really cocooned and you can forget that it is just a job."
However, when asked if it is indeed a dream job both Jennifer and Rob were quick to answer, "Absolutely. Yes."
Jennifer has now returned to Burleigh Heads where she has used her yachting cash haul to buy a beach house, establish herself as a writer and set-up an adventure company. She has published a book titled Get a Job on a Luxury Yacht: The Definitive Guide to help others break into the lucrative crewing game.
Likewise, Rob has used his savings to buy a home and set-up Fisheye Studios, a corporate and private video production company. And a third sibling Richard, 27, has just returned home after his own epic adventures on the high seas with the jetset.
All three always crewed on tax-exempt vessels that sailed under the British ensign. "These boats are like floating tax havens. Your earnings are pretty much unlimited if the owner or client really likes you," Rob said.
Then there are the tips: Rob earnt US$2000 (AUS$2530) from a doctor and his girlfriend for a three day charter, but his biggest tip was a hefty US$8000 (AUS$10, 125) for one sweet week of work, a tip that was made all the more sweet because Rob's now-wife Barbara worked onboard with him and received the same golden handshake.
According to the International Yacht Training Academy, the equivalent of 27km worth of new 24m-plus yachts are in production in 25 countries, meaning 5700 new crew will be needed in 2007.
According to the Brookes clan, anybody aged 19 to 30, who is commitment-free and looking for the adventure of a lifetime, should consider booking a ticket to the US and signing up.
"It really is an amazing opportunity," Rob said. "Not only for the travel and experiences, but also for the headstart financially."
"It was an incredible time of my life," Jennifer agrees, then adds with a smile, "What's more, it has allowed me to have an incredible life back here."