For more than 10 years, Dan and Jessica Rutyna have been working aboard yachts, serving the rich and famous holidaying in some of the world’s most exotic places.
They visited parts of the world usually off-limits to the average person, with their first gig being aboard a 37-metre superyacht based on the US east coast.
But it was not all cocktails and canapes at sunset, the Queensland couple admitted.
Among other duties, the pair would wash, clean and babysit for an assortment of rich folk, including billionaires.
“I would get a daily task, like maintaining the boat, preparing for the next trip by grocery shopping and organising the uniform for the crew,” Ms Rutyna said.
Mr Rutyna added: “The workload is excessive, there were 16- to 18-hour days, and we could go six months with two days off, and the hours you slept were dictated by the captain of the boat.
“Out the window you see these amazing places, but sometimes you would never set foot on them.”
He said the work would vary day to day.
“Some of the jobs included being a carer for the kids on the boat, which meant endless entertaining,” Mr Rutyna told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Rebecca Levingston.
“Other times we would be flown to an island owned by the boat owner, where we would set up beach clubs and then go and hide to be out of the way unless needed.
“Sometimes I would be put up in a bucket of a front-end loader and be lifted up to pick coconuts; what other job would have you do that.”
Mum’s the word
The duo had to sign confidentially contracts each time they began a new job on a boat, to ensure the privacy of the clients.
“It’s a professional relationship with the boss, and it’s a hard line as you do you grow close to them, but you have to be very professional, and you’re the leading example for the crew,” Ms Rutyna said.
“Most often the families will not be on the boat. They don’t travel, they fly to the destination and meet you there.
“We do all the travel and they then arrive by helicopter to begin their holiday.”
Mr Rutyna said the owners of the boats came from a variety of industries, including technology and agriculture, as well as from “old money”.
“There’s always people who pop up overnight that can afford boats that are worth $15 million,” he said.
“When you’re throwing these numbers around, and when that’s a cheap boat… it’s mind-blowing.
“But we never got to meet the Kardashians.”
Getting to know the ‘milk run’ and close calls
The couple became familiar with what, in yachting circles, is referred to as the “milk run”, which involves yachts going up and down the US east coast, then on to the Caribbean, before some travel towards the Mediterranean, depending on the season.
“We would literally go from one area to the other and back again chasing the sun,” Mr Rutyna said.
It was not always smooth sailing, though, with wild weather causing a few tense trips.
“We had large weather in Alaska and across the Pacific, as you can’t run from it much,” Mr Rutyna said.
“There has only been a couple of times where I’ve genuinely feared for my life, one being on the north coast of Majorca while coming back from the south of France.
“The storm ran across the Mediterranean, and it felt like we were in a car accident every few seconds.”
Ms Rutyna said: “Heavy furniture was moving backwards and forwards across the boat.”
Up-close with fur seals and glaciers
Ms Rutyna said there were many memorable moments onboard, including on a trip past the Galapagos Islands, where the couple ate dinner on the deck while watching marine life swimming below.
Mr Rutyna said his moment was in Glacier Bay in Alaska, where he was a ship tender going from one glacier to another.
“There were fur seals jumping about, and there were glaciers calving next to you — hearing a glacier calving makes your heartbeat as it sounds like thunder,” he said.
“It’s as raw as nature gets.”
Sailing back home to Brisbane
The couple found the time to tie the knot in Jessica’s home country of Canada during their travels, after originally meeting while Jessica was backpacking through Australia working at Brisbane’s Story Bridge hotel – where Dan was a manager.
Sailing back into Brisbane earlier this year was an experience Mr Rutyna said gave him goosebumps.
“It was mind-blowing to see my career start in the small corner of the states to then say I’d crossed the Pacific and sailed back into Brisbane really was astounding,” he said.
The two hope to stay on dry land for a little while and start a family.
“I’d love to keep my toes wet; Jess isn’t keen to keep working on a boat full-time again,” Mr Rutyna said.