Crew roles within the yachting industry.

There are many roles (and many sectors) in the yachting industry and each one requires specific skill sets in addition to some shared qualifications. For example, a commercially endorsed RYA Yachtmaster Ocean might be running a 130 ft ocean-going superyacht with 6 or more crew or working as a training skipper teaching theory to students in a classroom.

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) are the authorised examining body for ‘yachties’ in the UK, is regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). It offers candidates the ability to train and qualify up to and including Yachtmaster Ocean (commercially endorsed) meaning that the holder of a Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate may skipper a yacht of up to 200 Gross Tonnes anywhere in the World. A Yachtmaster Offshore, however, would be limited to waters within 150 miles of shore. Coastal and Day Skipper candidates are further limited in terms of the type of yacht and the sea area within which they can operate as skipper.

Within the yachting sectors there are various roles including;

Sailing Instructor

Many qualified Yachtmasters go on to take the RYA’s Cruising Instructor or Yachtmaster Instructor qualifications. The former qualifies you to teach and examine candidates up to and including RYA Day Skipper. Most instructors in the UK are self employed and work freelance for a variety of RYA training centres.

Captain (Private or Charter Yacht)

Private yachts (motor and sail) need someone to run them. This is the captain’s job. Many captains are Yachtmaster Ocean with an STCW qualification and a variety of additional qualifications also desirable, including Divemaster and other associated skills. The captain is legally responsible for the vessel and its crew and passengers. He also manages the yacht’s maintenance, crew and guest movement, customs procedures, etc
The Yachtmaster Ocean qualification allows the holder to skipper a yacht up to 200 Gross Tons.  Many captains will now go on to qualify under MCA regulations to become Officer of the Watch Unlimited which enables them to take command of larger vessels worldwide. Qualifications increase the size of the vessel you may command up to as much as 3,000 Gross Tons.

First Mate (Private or Charter Yacht)

The first Mate on a yacht is generally responsible for the deck and the sailing of the vessel. Sometimes there will be more than one mate or, alternatively, there may be one mate and two watch leaders, one assigned to each watch. The mate usually deals with day-to-day issues and reports directly to the captain.

Bosun / Engineer

The bosun or engineer are responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the vessel. They may have assistants on larger yachts. On some motor yachts engineers can usually be identified by their lack of suntan! Properly qualified engineers can command a generous salary and excellent working conditions.


The deckhand or ‘deckie’ is almost the lowest member of the deck crew. The only person below them in the food chain is the ‘nipper’, the well worn phrase for the youngest or least senior deckhand.

It used to be that quite large yachts would still take deckhands with little or no qualifications or experience but those days are quickly going. Most skippers now require deckhands to hold a Yachtmaster Offshore Qualification (commercially endorsed) and an STCW95 qualification.

Experience in and qualifications for operating RIBS, tenders and personal watercraft are also desirable as is some diving experience.

Steward / Stewardess

The stewardess or ‘hostie’ is largely responsible for interior work including preparation and presentation of food and refreshments and the cleaning of the yacht’s interior. He/she is responsible for serving the yacht’s guests, tidying and turning down their cabins and seeing to their needs. Hosties are usually part of the deck crew on smaller yachts when underway.

Cook / Chef

The cook (or perhaps chef/s) on a superyacht are there to feed the guests (and the crew). They run the kitchen, arrange victualling (grocery shopping) and put together exquisite menus for discerning guests that may sometimes be paying tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds for one or two week’s private charter! On smaller yachts the ‘hostie’ and skipper may double as deckie, engineer and chef!

Interior / Exterior (Other)

Larger yachts are more like cruise ships, with every service you can imagine available to their guests including masseuse, personal watersports, physical trainers, dieticians, nannies and tutors.

Looking to start a career in the yachting industry? Take a look at our Professional Yachtmaster Fastrack program.

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