Q: Olly, 23 Deckhand:
“I’m about to book my flight from the UK to start my first job-hunt for a superyacht job, but I’ve heard that at this time of year it might be better to go straight to Fort Lauderdale? Or is it possible to fly to Antibes and get a job or delivery over to the US or Caribbean? I keep getting conflicting advice and it’s no good posting questions on the Facebook groups because people just give you stupid answers or are really condescending and rude. How are we supposed to find the answers to these questions if we don’t ask?! I just don’t want to waste time and money going to the wrong place at the wrong time.”
A: The Crew Coach:
Well Olly you’re right, it definitely is a shame that some experienced crew on the open Facebook forums seem to put newcomers down when they ask questions like this, and it’s true you get a lot of conflicting advice about this kind of question because there is no ‘definitive’ right answer. The fact is you could be lucky or unlucky doing any of those things, however there are some things to know that could help your chances of success regardless of which option you choose. There’s significant pros and cons for both destinations, but there’s also some other possibilities and opportunities you may want to take into account.
The Antibes Low-Down
Given that it’s already October, you’re really looking at the wrong end of the season to come to Antibes as most yachts are either winding down for the winter or are already crewed ready to go across the Atlantic (if they are going). Having said that there is quite a bit less competition for newcomers at this time of year and you can still be lucky and grab a job, if you are the right kind of person and in the right place at the right time.
Keep in mind that while a lot of Med-based yachts do cross to the Caribbean, far more stay in Europe for the winter, and don’t tend to take on new crew at this time of year, unless in unusual circumstances. Getting a delivery from here at this time of year as a complete industry newcomer is relatively rare, so I would view this as a fairly unlikely option.
On the plus side, Antibes is a simply brilliant place to launch your yachting career as it’s a very condensed yachting community, with plenty of crew agents, crew bars, and industry people to meet. And of course, it’s one of the biggest superyacht ports in the world, with easy train access to all of the ports along the French and Italian Rivieras, so you will not find it difficult to find lots of jobs and meet lots of people here. Antibes is much better for job hunting in the spring, but there are still opportunities here in winter. Even if you don’t get a delivery this winter, if you spend the winter in Antibes you’ll have the chance to get your feet ‘under the table’ by doing temporary work and lots of good groundwork so you’ll be first choice as soon as jobs begin to open up in spring.
The Fort Lauderdale Option
The end of Occtober is a good time to head to Fort Lauderdale, just before the yacht show, where you may even be lucky enough to get some daywork helping the yachts prepare. The atmosphere during this time in Fort Lauderdale is brilliant, and although the docks, bars and crew agents are much more geographically spread out than they are in Antibes, there’s a huge number of yachts here and a great crew dynamic.
Another positive is that if you don’t find work in Fort Lauderdale, you’ll still have time to make it down to Antigua or St Maarten for the December start of the Caribbean season. If you’re doing this I would aim to get to Antigua a week or two before the yacht show there in December so you can pick up daywork in advance and get to know people there too.
One thing to bear in mind about job hunting in Florida is that the visa situation can be a challenge for foreign jobseekers. Many of the yachts are American-flagged, and as a UK citizen you simply will not be allowed to work on them. In addition, you’ll need a B1B2 visa for foreign-flagged yachts cruising US waters, including the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean- but you can’t get a B1B2 visa without getting a yacht job first. Finally on the visa front, it’s illegal to look for boat work in the US as a foreign citizen, and dockwalkers have been caught and deported for violating their holiday visa so you need to be very careful. You’ll need to be in possession of a return ticket (make sure it’s refundable), sufficient cash in your bank account—and whatever you do, don’t carry a CV or business cards in your luggage, or mention that you’re looking for work – same goes for Antigua.
If you can afford it, why not try both?
At this point in the year, you are in the position to make the best of both worlds. You could potentially go to Antibes to see what you can find and get a feel for the industry— and if you don’t find a job here you can then fly to Fort Lauderdale or the Caribbean armed with a little bit more knowledge and not seem quite so ‘green’ when you get off the plane there.
Don’t forget Palma!
Palma is another great Mediterranean option for you, as there are a huge number of yachts there, and the slightly warmer weather there often means yachts leave here to spend a few weeks there before crossing the Atlantic. Palma has historically been more of a hub for sailboat crew than motoryacht crew, but there are some big motoryachts there too (and quite a few in the shipyards who may cross even later) if that’s more your interest. Living costs are also much cheaper than Antibes and many people say the yachting community is closer knit and friendlier in Palma than it is in France.
Weigh up the risks
The truth is that looking for your first yacht job is a risk, because there are no guarantees that you will be successful or how long it might take for you to get your first job, and you can spend quite a bit of money in the meantime. But if this is your dream, then you will find a way to make it work. If you’re really hard up for cash and will be left without enough money for living and job hunting expenses after you’ve bought your airfare, I would recommend that you stay in the UK for the winter and save up enough to come down here when the summer crewing season comes around again in late March/April.
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