The last thirty years has seen an enormous growth in the number of jobs available in the yachting industry. Whether you’re an MCA qualified Deck Officer or Master Mariner, a Yachtmaster or a humble day skipper, opportunities exist. You don’t even have to be a sailor, with many larger yachts now employing stewards and stewardesses, engineers, nannies, cooks, dieticians and chefs, making them all but small private cruise ships
Smaller sailing yachts will usually require the stewardess or the engineer/bosun to also be a sailor and able to stand watch safely. Larger yachts are more likely to have qualified deck officers and deckhands for that purpose although pretty much all professional crew are now required to hold the STCW qualification as a bare minimum.
To work as a even a deck hand in most cases or as a deck officer, engineer, mate or skipper you will require specific additional qualifications. On British registered yachts (and many other flagged vessels worldwide) the MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) and the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) offer courses of varying complexity dependent on your level of experience.
In addition to crewing private yachts, there are also opportunities to skipper or crew smaller vessels inshore (for example day trips, etc) or to teach others how to sail, either on the water or onshore. There are also fringe areas where a qualified and experienced sailor might just be a perfect fit. For example, marina management or crew recruitment.
In the past, securing a job on a private yacht could have been the result of a ‘dock walk’ asking skippers and their crew if jobs were going. This does still happen and personal networking is still an effective part of searching for that perfect job but, more and more, as with so many other parts of modern life, keeping in touch with people and building a network through Facebook is more effective in many cases. After all, if you are in Cowes, finding out about that job opening up in Antigua requires long distance communication and a wide social network.
Other than social networking, there are more traditional methods available to the wannabe ‘deckhand’ or ‘hostie’. They include;
THE YACHTING PRESS
Magazines such as Yachting World have large classified sections selling boats and advertising a plethora of marine services. They also advertise jobs and recruitment consultancies so, for the complete newbie, it’s worth picking up a few yachting and superyacht magazines to get an idea of what’s available right now.
It will not surprise you to know that jobs are available on the internet! All the main recruiters have a web presence and social media has several groups available to those searching for jobs or unpaid experience. Just be careful. There are rogues on Facebook pretending to be looking for staff when really they have other intentions. Watch out for scammers and stalkers alike!
There are a huge variety of recruitment consultants specialising in the yachting industry. Many specialise in subsets, such as large super yachts, sailing yachts, smaller sailing and motor yachts, etc.
Several sail training centres also run databases and recruitment services for alumni.
The motor and sail driven industries are fairly well defined and not all skills are easily transferable. What is for sure though is that crew on motor yachts can generally expect to earn more. For more details on crew agencies, click here.
SOCIAL NETWORKING (IN PERSON) - THE DOCK WALK
Still an effective way to secure that next position, being on the ground when people are needed is a very effective way of getting your next job. Many people will migrate to the seasonal destinations around the World at the appropriate time of the year, aiming to secure gainful employment.
In April/May the Mediterranean is starting to be repopulated and towns like Cannes, Antibes and Mallorca are excellent locations to walk the dock. In more recent years ‘crew houses’ have become more mainstream. Effectively specialist hostels (some more luxurious than others), crew houses are a cost effective way to get somewhere and stay there cheaply until you get a job.
At the end of the Mediterranean Season (September / October / November), Mallorca and Antibes are again active hubs as many yachts go into refit or strike out to the West Indies, perhaps via Gran Canaria. The ARC is an opportune way to cross the Atlantic for free if you are a sociable and competent crew mate although, in most cases, the roles available are likely to be unpaid and on smaller, private yachts.
In The West Indies St. Maarten, Antigua - and Rodney Bay, St Lucia in December, are great hunting grounds as is Auckland (New Zealand), Papeete (Tahiti) and San Diego (USA) in the Pacific. Florida and Annapolis on the East coast of the States are worth considering, although you will need a B1/B2 US Visa in many cases if you are joining a boat in the US.
In all cases, knowing where the crew bars are and mixing with crew is a great way to get ‘in’. But remember, this can be a help and a hindrance. In the same way that you’d never walk the dock looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards and stinking of booze, neither should you pick a bar full of potential employers and work colleagues to go on your bi-annual alcohol-fuelled cocktail marathon! Be sensible.
PAID / UNPAID WORK & EXPERIENCE
In addition to paid work, there are various websites that offer unpaid positions on yachts. In large part these are likely to be skippers or owners looking for delivery crew but not always. Many owners of racing boats also source crew this way. One well-established website for this type of opportunity is www.crewseekers.net
Other websites include www.noonsite.com for cruisers and www.oceancrewlink.com for people participating in the ARC or World ARC. If you are interested in building more miles try contacting some of the delivery companies such as www.pyd.com. Many offer crew with basic competence an opportunity to crew with food and boat costs paid.