A Superyacht Captains Top Tips on how to break into the Yachting Industry

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Looking back I was definitely a bit naïve, I finished my apprenteship as a boat builder and set my sights in the superyacht industry… I had a romantic notion I would be sailing and racing on beautiful yachts in the Medetrainen, Caribbean and Pacific, getting to dive the most pristine reefs in the world and surfing uncrouded perfect waves and then I got my first job of a n 85 year old 130’ classic schooner.

The bubble burst pretty quickly as I spent the first 6 weeks crawling around the steal hull chipping off the rust and painting, the only diving I got to do was under the hull in a murkey south of France marina scrapping off barnacles and weed from the hull. Don’t get me wrong I had a fantastic 12 years that followed. I got to travel, meet amazing people from all walks of life, the salary is a great and if you are on Charter the tips can be huge. But it’s very hard work. The hours can be long, the tasks can be beyond mundane, and from week to week you may not actually get to see any of the places you visit. My partner as an entry level Stew; for instance, spend a 2-week cruise around the western med Ironing in a windowless laundry room!

Then it comes to living on board. Your living space can be small and you won’t always agree with or even like the crew. The first boat might not be the perfect fit due to conflicting personalities. Yachting is a unique industry… you wake up and from the moment you climb out of your bunk until the moment you go to sleep ‘you’re with the same people’ so crew dynamic can make and break the experience onboard! I have been very fortunate to work in the industry with people who I now consider some of my closest friends and it has been 12 awesome years I would not trade!

But if it’s a career path you are thinking of taking bare in mind it is a huge amount of work, it can be very long hours and you have to commit to succeed.

Here are some considerations when choosing your career path.

Sailing yacht or motor yacht?… this is not as straight forwards as it sounds, many incredible sailors choose to take a motor boat path for their career for living conditions, salary and vacation benefits. If you are a die-hard sailor and always vowed never to sell your soul to the motor yachts remember there are pros and conns to both.

Yacht Size?        Working in the Mega Yacht sector immediately puts you under the umbrella of ISM, getting your foot in the door can be more difficult, all flag states have slightly different manning requirement but VERY basically speaking the higher the tonnage, the more certified the crew need to be (don’t mistake experience for qualified). On the flip side getting a position on what some consider the dream job ’60 to 100’ performance sailing yacht’ the crew are required to be skilled in all areas, for example all crew are expected to be skilled in all areas from seamanship to service and engineering to cooking. It’s these roles that are said to be the most rewarding but also require the most flexibility and all round skill sets.

Private or charter?            It is customary but not guaranteed that when the principle charter guest leaves there is a gratuity ‘normally’ in the region of 10 to 15%. On a 150,000$ charter, that can be nice bonus for a weeks work. But regardless of what the daily logs say you do enevitbely end up working much harder during this period and can go weeks without time to step ashore or even look around at the areas your cruising in. The Gratuity is customary but after a week of 5*service and very happy guests there is always the chance you will not get the bonus. If this happens the right thing to do is take it on the chin, too often crew moral drops after a bad tip.

On the flip side, with Private yachts there is non of the uncertainty of the guests and preferences, but more often than not there is no Gratuity, In some cases this is balanced with a yearly performance based loyalty bonus.

Itinerary?            This is a HUGE consideration, and one not to be taken lightly. When starting out you should have a plan of how you’re going to progress to the position you want onboard. Training and qualifications are a big part of that. If you’re out in the pacific islands this can make it more difficult to manage your time to fit in courses and modules. Another consideration is how far away this will be from Family and loved ones.

Contract Term     Another part of the industry is ‘rotation/relief work’. After you have proved your value to a your captain / management company or owner, there are increasing opportunities for retained salary for time away. This usually is more common in experienced / qualified crew that have a proven track record with commitment and longevity.

As well as this, there are some crew schemes to assist young crew with training. This should be a major consideration when joining a new program, as it shows the boat is interested in building your skills and is looking to retain longevity with commitment from the yacht side!

Salary and Tax implications           This is a whole topic and far too vast to cover in this short blog, but DO NOT become another one of the hundreds of crew that enter the industry and forget their tax responsibilities. All nationalities have their own systems but make sure you have your back covered!

Right Place Right Time!!!             Finally, finding the right job is the most difficult part of the industry. Once you have considered all your options the next stage is finding the perfect fit! There is a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Whether your using the traditional way of recruitment with Agency’s or you are up to date with the networks its still key to keep profiles and CV’s up to date. Regularly updating your location can be the difference between getting that interview and missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime!

I would not change my years so far in yachting for the world, I was recently asked if I had plans to leave yachts, and without thinking my answer was clear ‘why would I?’. Its true this industry is not for everyone but the lucky few that get to experience life on Superyachts will tell you it’s the best years of their lives! Best of luck!

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Paul James

Paul James

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