Girls on Deck: how to get hired!

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Q: Amanda, 25, Aspiring Deckhand:

“I’m trying to get a deck job, but the fact I’m female seems to be a massive problem! No-one takes me seriously and people keep telling me ‘go the stewardessing route and try again later’. I’ve met a few female deckies who were really encouraging, but they all got their start as a stew and then moved across as well. I have no interest in stewardessing – why should I have to start out as a stew? I’ve got a really strong maritime background, thousands of sea miles, my Yachtmaster Offshore, and a bunch of yachting skills I know for a fact that most other green male deckies don’t have… but they are getting jobs! Why should I have to start with stewardessing or deck/stew when they don’t? Am I just speaking to the wrong people? And how can I find yachts that will hire girls on deck?”

A: The Crew Coach:

Now this is a subject close to my heart- I’ve even just started a facebook page ‘Girls on Deck’ to create a platform where female deck and engineering crew can share experiences, find job offers and encourage each other. It turns out that there are loads of you out there, people are posting jobs, and everyone’s being really helpful and supportive.

There is a sea change slowly going on in yachting with more females gradually being accepted in more traditionally male dominated roles. However, it is a fairly quiet, gradual evolution and you still need to know where the opportunities lie in order to break in.

In 1998 when I arrived in Antibes thinking I would get a job as a deckhand (having grown up sailing), girls on deck were practically unheard of and I was laughed out of all the crew agencies where I dared to state this intention. Since then the change has been significant, but it still has a long way to go. You’re actually part of a historic movement in the yachting industry, so be proud of that.

As for what kinds of yachts hire girls on deck, there are a couple of general guidelines (but these are huge generalisations- so try every single boat you see regardless!)

Many captains fear that women won’t be physically strong enough for all the heavy tasks-even if they admire other skills women bring to the deck department. Therefore, we seldom see female deckhands on boats where there is only one deckhand, and your chances tend to be better with larger boats.
Younger captains are sometimes more open to female deckhands, simply because their generation may have come up through the ranks with women working alongside them on deck and seeing how capable they were, whereas the older Captains may find the idea of women in yachting less acceptable. Having said that I do know many experienced older Captains who are very supportive of females on deck and in the engine room so it really just depends on the individual captain.
Other things you can do

I very strongly recommend you join the girls on deck facebook page, make as many contacts as you can, and network with the other women in there who are already working in the roles you want to achieve.
There have been a few articles recently about women on deck in the yachting media that you should read. Have a look at these :

http://www.thecrewreport.com/features/24870/the-female-captain-a-matter-of-confidence

http://www.pya.org/article/Yachting_Matters_30

http://www.thecrewreport.com/features/24814/its-a-boy-girl-thing

http://www.thecrewreport.com/features/23706/_call_for_more_women_in_the_engine_room

Your CV needs to be phenomenal. It sounds like you’ve got brilliant experience, so make sure it shows on your CV (get in touch if you want our professional help.)
Remember that you will almost certainly be held to higher standards, you’ll be expected to prove yourself more, and you’ll probably have to fight some prejudice and unfair expectations along the way. Accept these as challenges, rather than obstacles. And don’t get defensive or feel that everyone’s against you succeeding, because they are not. Some might be resistant but believe me, loads of people in this industry are delighted things are changing and will lend you a helping hand if at all possible.
The reality of the situation

Your real concern at this time of year as the season is ramping up is that you need a job. I’d encourage you to hold out forever for a deck job if I thought that was a good idea, but you might need to face reality – particularly if you’re starting to run out of money. Ask yourself: would you prefer get a job on a yacht, or to go home? It’s probably time that you at least open yourself up to deck/stew roles. As much as you don’t want to do this, this is by far the easiest route to enter to becoming a fully fledged deckhand as there is less competition than a standard deck role and it will give you a great opportunity to prove yourself and gain a great reference for your deck capabilities.

Despite what you might think, stewardess work is also good training and will serve you incredibly well further down the line. After all, some of the best deck crew and captains I ever worked with had done their time on small boats where they had to pitch in with ‘heads and beds’ and help with guest service. Stew experience leads to a more thorough knowledge of the yacht, a greater understanding and rapport with other departments, and often a much closer working relationship with yacht guests; all things that will come in endlessly useful throughout your yachting career, particularly if you want to go right through up to captain.

So in conclusion, don’t give up or get annoyed at the challenges you’re facing. Reach out instead, and retain a positive attitude that will make people want to hire you on deck. And if you do take an interior role, make the most of it and think of it as just another stage in your yachting apprenticeship.

Good luck and keep in touch, let us know how you get on!

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