Having worked on superyachts myself for a few years as a stewardess, a deck/stew, a deckhand and a divemaster, I now get regularly asked by friends (and strangers!) how they can find jobs on yachts themselves.
There is quite a bit to it and it’s a long process trying to repeatedly explain the steps involved, so I thought I’d write a helpful guide to those that are new to the yachting industry or those thinking of it as a potential new career path.
I have left the yachting industry a few years now so I do hope this is still all up to date. But in general, this is sort of an essential guide to finding your first job on yachts. I hope it helps you in your search for your first super yacht job!
1. Have the basic Qualifications
To work on any commercial vessel and to be deemed hireable in a highly competitive environment, a valid STCW Certificate (Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping) is a basic requirement. Without an STCW on your CV, Captains or indeed crew agencies will not even glance over the rest of your resume, no matter how fantastic it might be.
An STCW course is completed in a matter of days (usually 5). It consists of four main modules – Fire Fighting, Sea/Personal Survival, Basic First Aid/CPT and Personal Safety and Social Responsibility.
If anything, the course can be a bit of fun and a good way to meet others hoping to get their first superyacht jobs. There may also be experienced superyacht crew members on your course, renewing their qualifications, thus providing a chance to do some valuable networking.
If you are searching for deckhand jobs, it’s pretty much essential to have a Powerboat Level II course. Personal watercraft courses are helpful too, showing you are confident with operating water toys and water sports equipment. For deckhand jobs also, an RYA Dayskipper certificate or VHF Radio Course are both highly desirable.
More prolific these days is having an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore certification on your superyacht CV. This illustrates that you have a good knowledge of seafaring, that you’re competent and well educated on the basics of the maritime industry, making you a highly desirable crew member.
Any water based instructor qualifications go down a treat – Divemasters/Instructors, Kite-boarding, Surfboarding, SUP, etc. Some land based instructor qualifications are also sought after such as fitness instructors. I’ve known yacht owners in the past who loved having crew who were just generally into adventure sports so would only hire crew with that particular background. It’s pretty handy if any of these are already part of your hobbies.
For stewardess jobs, courses (experience is often better!) in silver service, flower arranging, laundry or beauty therapy/massage are highly beneficial. Hospitality experience is highly sought after as this will essentially be your role should you be successful.
It can be beneficial to Captain and crew if the stewardess can handle a tender, particularly on smaller yachts. Again, the Powerboat Level II course is highly recommended. Similar to deckhand jobs, instructor qualifications on stewardess CV’s look great to Captains and owners -things like yoga, pilates, general fitness, SUP, nutrition.
In recent years there has been a surge of demand in the yachting industry for anyone with medical qualifications – such as nursing, medicine, physiotherapy, etc. If you are thinking of leaving one of these professions in search of a job on super yachts – you may just be a strong contender.
For the the STCW or indeed any other marine industry courses you sign up to, make sure they are MCA/RYA approved. Bluewater in Antibes, France, is a popular choice for those trying to get into the yachting industry. They run regular, reputable and MCA accredited courses to help you have an appetising CV for working on yachts. They also offer popular stewardess preparation courses. For courses in the UK, check out the RYA homepage to find a course near you.
2. Be Presentable
When looking for work on superyachts, you must remember the clientele you will be working for. They are paying a lot to have the best crew on their yacht and often host high calibre guests on board. This means having crew that are well presented, well-groomed and smartly dressed.
When you are dockwalking (we’ll get on to that in a minute), visiting yacht crew agencies or trying to network in the ‘yachtie’ bars, you need to think about what first impression you’re giving.
This sounds terribly shallow, but unfortunately that’s all part and parcel of the yachting industry. If you turn up in scruffy clothes, messy hair and just portray a general lack of personal care, no one will really want to hire you.
You need to think about how a multi-millionaire super yacht owner will see you and if he’d want you as part of his crew. Would you portray a smart image for his very exclusive yacht? Would the Captain be happy to present you to the owner?
On that note, aside from personal care, it is important, when at any crew event or in any yachtie bar that you avoid, at all costs, getting overly drunk and making a fool of yourself. By all means have a drink, yachting is all about work hard/play hard but know your limits. What you might not remember doing the night before, could just as well be remembered by someone who has the potential to give you your first super yacht job or pass on a recommendation. Don’t throw that away!
Love it or loath it, we’ve all had to do it…well, some people managed to get away without doing it for their first yachting job but they were the lucky few!
For those of you who are not familiar with this term, get to know it. It essentially involves walking up and down super yacht docks with your CV in hand, perhaps a business card too if you have one, and asking if they are looking for any dayworkers or crew.
Often it is useful to talk to the Captain but most of the time it just irritates crew having to find him/her as they know what you’re going to ask. When you spot a crew member outside, politely ask if they might be looking for crew and even if they say no, ask if you can leave a CV.
Crew leave yachts all the time, even during the busy season and in the middle of charters, so it’s always good to have your CV lying around yachts you fancy working on. You never know – they might be stuck for a deckhand mid-season and lucky for you, your CV is sitting in the bridge.
4. Get your timing and location right – The Med Season
With yachting, timing is crucial. If you are looking to get work on superyachts for the ‘Med Season’, you need to physically place yourself in the right area and at the right time of year.
For the ‘Med Season’, yachts start recruiting new crew members from around March/April in the South of France and usually ever so slightly later in Palma, Mallorca.
The best place to find your first yachting job is around Antibes, on the Cote d’Azur, France. Join all the local crew agencies, attend all crew events and get comfy (and smart!!) shoes for your dockwalking days along the quays.
Many of those new to the yachting industry tend to base themselves in crew houses whilst looking for their first permanent crew job. These are slightly cheaper than renting privately, good for meeting new friends and are great for hearing about potential jobs or daywork.
Popular crew houses in Antibes are the Grapevine Crew House or Debbie’s Crew House. From there you can start to extend your dockwalking locations, grabbing yourself a day pass for the train, printing out a load of CV’s and stopping at the various coastal towns along the way to see if any of the smaller marinas need any dayworkers or crew.
For Palma, The Boat House is quite good. A good resource is also the Palma Yacht Crew page on Facebook. Pop a quick post up about looking for accommodation or keep an eye out for others offering. The response rate is excellent.
If you’ve mis-timed your arrival to the South of France or Palma de Mallorca, don’t fret. You have two more options to find a job on a yacht. As briefly mentioned earlier, crew tend to come and go all the time. Be persistent. You could still get a last minute job where a crew member has dropped out. Keep up the dockwalking and the networking – you could be in luck!
Another avenue is to wait until the end of the season – around September/October time, even up until the end of November in some cases. This is another busy time for crew change.
As yachts begin to prepare for the Caribbean season they may look for new crew, extra day workers or perhaps need additional crew for the crossing. This is a golden opportunity to gain vital sea miles, experience and a chance to do a Caribbean season.
For those looking to do a Caribbean season, a B1B2 visa is required for EU yachting crew (this is obviously waved if you are already entitled to a green card or have an American passport).
If you have already secured a permanent position on a duel-season yacht then the boat will often sort it out for you themselves. Some yachts, for the right crew member will also offer to arrange the visa for new crew joining the vessel. However, many yachts do request B1B2 visas as a requirement before considering employing crew for the Caribbean season.
Network and Earn a Good Reputation
This is an essential part of finding your first job on a superyachts. Join all the crew agencies in town and online. Blue Water Yachting, El Crew, Dovaston, JF Recruiting, Peter Insull, Camper and Nicholson and Northrop and Johnson are just some of the more reputable agencies worth having your profile on file with.
Make sure you check in regularly, either online or in person to show you are diligent and serious about finding your first job on a yacht. Make sure you are friendly and well presented when visiting so that they remember you in a positive light!!
Suss out where the ‘yachtie’ bars are and make an effort to go there from time to time. Try to be out-going and friendly. By all means have a few sociable drinks (if you drink) but do not get steaming drunk and make a show of yourself – that’s not the image you want to portray – see tip number 2!
There are often popular English speaking yoga or workout classes in the area. These are another good way of meeting others that might work on yachts or may know someone who could potentially help you get your first job. It’s good to see potential crew members taking pride in their health and fitness.
Keep an eye out for any upcoming yacht crew events going on. Make sure you’re at them. These are a great opportunity to network, make friends and hear about any potential day work or permanent jobs coming up.
If you’re not staying in one, make sure you visit local crew houses to check out the notice board for any news on upcoming daywork or seasonal jobs.
Be polite and respectful to everyone you talk to…you never know who they might be. And most importantly – never bitch about anyone or complain about how hard that daywork might have been that you just did as this unfortunately, might reflect badly on you as a person…even if that Captain was chauvinistic or you did spend the entire day scraping dirt out of bathrooms with a toothpick!
As a final note…
I wish you all the best of luck in finding your first super yacht jobs. It can be a tough career at times and demands long hours and hard work. However, there are few other careers out there that allow you such opportunities to travel and get paid for it…and paid well!
An equally nice part of the yachting industry is the typical work hard/play hard theme. After a charter or at the end of a busy season, a real camaraderie and sense of achievement is felt between crew members. Plus there’s usually a nice meal out with some celebratory drinks to de-stress!
Once you get some daywork on your CV or even better – a whole season or crossing, you’re well on your way to making progress in your yachting career. The toughest part is getting that first position on board and sticking to it for at least a season or until the end of a contract. But once you do the (yachting) world is your oyster!