First off, let us just say this: good choice! Becoming a “yachtie” is a step into an entirely different world – a world you may never have experienced anything like before. Yacht jobs are hard work, just like any role, but they come with a unique set of benefits and experiences that you’ll hold dear for the rest of your life.
Travelling around the world, earning good money, exploring port cities, forming close bonds with your fellow crew, learning how to manage some of the world’s most expensive and luxurious equipment, and – just sometimes – meeting a famous face or two. It’s all there for the crew, the only question you’re left asking is: “How do I get a job onboard?”
Well, we can appreciate the difficulty in landing a role, especially if you’ve little-to-no prior sailing experience. With that in mind, we’ve put together this handy guide to help you on your way. We’ll cover the tactics you can employ, how you can improve your chances, and the best roles to apply for based on your current skills and future prospects.
You may wonder why we’re about to tell you about all the ways of finding a job on a yacht, considering we own and run an online yacht jobs board. Well, of course we believe our platform to be the best avenue, but we’d be doing you a massive disservice if we portrayed that as the only option.
We genuinely believe in helping people, being honest, and acting transparently (it’s our company ethos!). So, as much as we’d like it to be the case that every captain and yacht owner in the world was signed up and posting their jobs solely to Crew Board, they simply aren’t. Your best chance of finding a job is to use multiple sources, so read the article below, try out a few of our tips, and good luck!
The first step is to understand the best available options for finding work. Fortunately, there are plenty. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each below.
Yacht recruitment agencies and individual recruiters are traditionally one of the best means of securing a role.
Yacht Captains have extremely busy schedules, meaning the time they have available for identifying, shortlisting, and conducting preliminary interviews of new crew is limited. As such, they will often turn to a recruitment agency to find and filter the best candidates for a particular role, leaving the Captain free to become more involved at a later stage in the recruitment process.
The benefit of using an agency for you, the prospective employee, is that any good recruiters will have a long list of contacts and they’ll be first to hear about new roles. This can be the vital step up you need to get your first job.
However, there are a couple of problems. With any recruitment agency, your CV is one of hundreds in the pile, so what separates you from the rest of the pack (more on this later)?
Compounding the issue, recruiters barely make a scratch from placing junior crew. The fee a recruiter earns for placing yacht crew is relative to the position’s seniority and salary. Therefore, it’s not in their interest to spend much time on junior positions, so when one comes along, more often than not it is whomever’s CV is lucky enough to be on the top of the pile that gets the call.
So whilst yacht recruitment agencies can be very useful, be aware of how they work, and certainly don’t rely solely on an agency to find a job.
If you’re interested in a career onboard a yacht, then the chances are you’ve probably already heard all about dock walking.
As it says on the tin, dock walking is the practice of walking along the dock and approaching boats to ask if they have any work they need help with. Work can range from a couple of hours scrubbing the deck to an extra pair of hands onboard during the next voyage. This is a great way to get your first bits of experience and make new contacts.
To improve your chances of finding work, make sure you arrive early; as a rule of thumb arrive before 8am, and certainly not mid-afternoon. And never ask to speak to the Captain, this is the cardinal sin of dockwalking.
Now, let’s say you manage to secure some work, there are two things to remember. First, be sure to grab the contact details of anyone you work for, you’ll need them as a reference for later. And second, be really sure to do a great job (even if it’s cleaning the toilets!) as you need that reference to be glowing – it may even stand you in good stead for more work with the same yacht.
There’s only one real issue with dock walking: it’s becoming harder to do. Many docks are closing off from the public to improve safety and security. Once a rite of passage for many young yachties, this age-old tradition may soon come to an end.
Again, we’re not trying to put you off dock walking. It’s still a solid tactic, but be sure to check the rules and regulations of any port you plan on visiting. Bear in mind there are other means of meeting crew and making new contacts, such as heading down to the local yachtie bars and networking. Remember you are trying to leave a good impression, so strike a good balance and don’t drink too much. Also, it might be worth leaving your CV on a table or pinning your business card on the crew board.
If you are planning on dock walking, here are some tips:
- – Take plenty of CVs and written contact details. This seems obvious, but make sure you have something you can hand out. Keep reading for some advice on creating the perfect CV.
- – Seek out the smaller marinas, such as Golfe Juan in the south of France, where there is less security and more chance of catching the attention of a crew member.
- – Be cheeky. You can hustle your way into some ports by mentioning the name of a yacht in the port saying you work there or you are a contractor. You can check which vessels are in port on MarineTraffic.com.
- – Stay in a good crew house. Crew houses are a great chance to make new friends and hear about open positions. We recommend Debbie’s Crew House or Oasis.
- – Don’t spend too much money! The key to success is persistence, but you can only be persistent if you have the funds to stay long enough to find a job. Keep a tight rein on your finances, eat only peanut butter sandwiches if you must, and keep a lid on your pub excursions (they are for networking only).
Say what you will about social media, but at the very least it’s helped the world become more connected.
For those searching for their first jobs working on a yacht, Facebook is a useful tool. There are plenty of Facebook groups for yachties, we’ve listed some of the most active below:
Antibes Yacht Crew
Palma Yacht Crew
Cannes Yacht Crew
The groups are a fantastic means of staying up to date with the latest goings on in the yachting world, becoming an active member of the yachting community, and finding work. You can either respond to posts looking for crew, or self-promote your services.
Be careful though, there’s a fine balance between positive self-promotion and spam – you don’t want to cross that threshold. If you are going to self promote, we’ve seen posts with a bit of humour, wit, or irony stand out and attract plenty of likes and comments.
When applying for jobs found through Facebook, there are downsides. For one, there are plenty of members in each group so any post about an open role is sure to attract a lot of attention. The hiring party may sift through the first five or so replies they receive, find someone suitable, and move on. If you aren’t one of the first to reply, you may never even get a chance.
If you’re going to use Facebook to find a yacht job, here are some tips:
- 1. Avoid commenting on jobs posts to say you have sent your CV – this looks desperate.
- 2. Make sure that your Facebook profile is looking good and relatively professional – remember everything you’ve ever posted is in the public domain and could be scrutinised by an employer.
- 3. Be wary of dodgy recruiters – in particular anyone who asks you for money or very personal details, photos, etc. If you’re worried about a recruiter you’ve met on Facebook, feel free to ask us for some advice (we don’t want people put off from the yachting industry following a bad experience with a rogue individual).
Online Jobs Boards
Last, but by no means least, are the online job portals. Captains, recruitment agents, and boat owners often subscribe to a jobs board in order to access the vast databases of potential crew. Here, employers can post openings and wait for the applications to arrive, or actively search for crew matching their needs.
Portals offer are many advantages for employers, from cost-savings (compared to using an agent) to greater applicant detail (compared to social media).
However, for yourself, a yacht jobs board is an excellent opportunity for finding work. Creating and filling out a profile as a crew member is always free, and you have direct access to the latest openings.
Unlike dock walking, where you may land a bit of day work here and there, a jobs board is filled with more fixed roles. Yachts will be looking for a mixture of permanent, seasonal, and rotational workers across a wide range of roles – so there are always plenty of options depending on what you’re looking for.
Now, full disclaimer, we run one such jobs board and if you’d like to learn more or create your own free profile then please head over here.
There are some best practice tips for using a jobs board, which we’ve listed below:
- – Fill out your profile in as much detail as you can – It might take a bit longer to complete, but if an employer can’t find the information they need, why should they progress your application to the next stage? We actually manually vet all crew profiles to ensure they meet a minimum standard, this is for both yours and the employers benefit.
- – Upload a clear, professional picture of yourself – Studies show humans respond positively to images of other humans, so don’t leave your profile picture blank. At the same time, make sure it’s high-definition and professional – with the abundance of modern smartphones, there’s no excuse for a grainy photo.
- – Connect your experiences with the needs of the employer – As junior crew, your experience of working on a yacht is likely to be limited. That doesn’t mean you don’t have relevant experiences though, you just need to connect what you’ve done previously to the requirements of a yacht. For example, maybe you have hospitality experience or you’ve worked in luxury villas and 5 star hotels. These are transferable skills which an employer will find useful. Also, any water sports related activities that you have experience with are greatly appreciated on most yachts.
- – Keep it updated – The more you keep your profile updated by regularly logging in, adjusting your location, updating your experiences, marking your availability, and any other changes makes it easier for you to be found.
Improving your chances
So now you better understand how to find a job working on a yacht, you need to maximise your chances of actually getting the job!
The yachting industry has developed a reputation for being notoriously difficult to break into as a young, inexperienced individual. Don’t let this put you off – it simply isn’t true. The industry is growing at a rate of knots and there are approximately 150 new vessels hitting the water each year, adding to the thousands already on the sea. In short, there are plenty of jobs (with more created every time a new boat sets sail) and junior crew are always in demand as a result.
The difficulty is in separating yourself from the rest of the pack. There is a high demand for crew, but there is also a high supply. Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to stand out. We’ve identified five key areas, all of which you can work on right away to improve your chances:
We discuss each in further detail below.
As an individual looking for work in a crowded field, one of your unique selling points is your skillset.
As a beginner in the yachting industry, employers will mainly be looking for soft skills. These are typically innate personal traits and unlike hard skills, which we’ll come onto, they’re harder to teach. This includes skills such as communication, teamwork, determination, work ethic, problem solving, and emotional intelligence – all of which are vitally important for working on a yacht.
Individuals who can demonstrate a strong set of soft skills are highly desirable; as regardless of their technical knowledge, they have a good base from which they can adapt to life on a boat and then learn the required hard skills for their role.
Understanding which soft skills will set you up best for success as a yachtie, learning how to improve them, and then demonstrating them at an interview (or being able to recall examples) will help you immediately stand out from the rest of the applicants.
If you’re looking for a hint, remember that almost all roles onboard are guest-facing, so anything people related will set you in good stead: communication, politeness, etiquette, empathy, and so on.
The other side of the coin are hard skills. This is the technical knowledge required to perform a role. Engineers need to be able to diagnose and fix problems with a ship’s systems, chefs need to know how to cook and craft a menu, whilst the Captain and Officers need to understand navigation, maritime law, and ship safety. These examples are senior roles with the necessary hard skills learnt through taking courses and gaining years of experience. For more junior roles, such hard skills aren’t expected, which is why the aforementioned soft skills are vital instead.
However, one way you can stand out from other applicants is showing some knowledge of desirable hard skills. For example, learning bits of basic engineering, medicine, baking, cooking, or hospitality, could really make your application stand out. A little technical knowledge in one area helps employers develop a clear idea of how your career could develop from a junior role (such as a deckhand) all the way up to a senior position (such as Chief Engineer). Married with your soft skills, they’ll also be able to see how likely you are to push on and reach those levels. Individuals with high potential and a high likelihood of hitting that potential are the most desirable and sought-after candidates – this is true across any job in any field.
We very much recommend taking some time to understand what areas of working on a yacht interest you the most. To help, there’s more on potential career paths later in this article. Once you know where you’d like to end up, diving right in and developing your hard skills for that area, if you don’t have them already, is a great means of improving your chances.
Many people on the search for their first job often find themselves in a catch-22 position; you can’t get a role because you need experience, but you can’t get experience because you can’t find a role.
Fortunately, many of the entry-level jobs on a yacht do not require much, if any, prior sailing experience. As such, many applicants will have never so much as stepped foot on a boat before. This is an opportunity for you to separate yourself from the crowd.
Any sailing experience you can muster, however small and seemingly insignificant, could really add the shine to your CV. Even if this means heading down to the nearest docks and seeing if there’s anything the local fishing crews need help with. Similarly, we mentioned dock walking in the last section – this is very useful yachting experience if you can find the work.
Remember that relevant experience for a job on a yacht doesn’t start and end with sailing. Serving as a bartender, waiting tables in your local restaurant, or working in a garage are all relevant experiences, for example.
There’s no getting around it. To work on a yacht, you’ll need qualifications.
Long term, there are a wide range of qualifications you’ll require in order to progress through the ranks, but to begin with you only need two – and the good news is they aren’t particularly difficult to attain.
These are the Basic STCW 95, a five day course covering the safety requirements of working on a ship, and the ENG1, a medical certificate enabling you to work on all UK-flagged, and most non-UK flagged, vessels.
Sorting each of these qualifications before your job search is a must. As the competition can be tough, you may want to consider further training to help you stand out – although it certainly isn’t required. Even so, courses related to the management and handling of tenders, basic yacht engineering, or deck officer training could really make the difference, along with underlining your commitment to carving out a career in the industry.
Forming the perfect CV is a skill in itself.
After all, it’s the first chance you have to impress your prospective employer, whether that is via the proxy of a yacht recruitment agent or the Captain directly.
We’ve discussed what employers are looking for in a CV previously, so you can check our advice for crafting the perfect yachting CV here.
The main takeaways are:
- 1. Use standard formatting – employers care about the contents of your CV, not what it looks like
- 2. Make information easy to find – following on from the formatting, ensure all key information is easy to quickly absorb
- 3. Have a great photo – use a high quality, professional photo
- 4. Grammar and spelling – make sure to get your CV proofread by one of your peers to iron out any spelling or grammatical errors as some Captains and recruiters will be immediately turned off
If you’ve managed to stand out from the crowd with your well formed CV (see above), you’ll likely be invited to a next-stage interview.
For interviews, the old adage holds truer than ever: fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. To help, we’ve provided some interview advice based on our years of working with candidates.
Research the vessel
If you know the name of the vessel you can do plenty of research on the internet to try and get a grasp of the yacht you are being considered for. Some crew are very passionate about their boat so make sure you do your homework, take an interest, and ask the right questions.
Be careful about salary talk. As junior crew it’s very important you come across well and that you are primarily interested in the new challenge lying before you rather than the paycheck. Yacht jobs tend to be very lucrative and well compensated as your experience and skillset develops, so at first you just need to concentrate on getting your foot in the door.
Have the right look
Make sure you look the part with a pressed shirt, neat hair, well groomed, and well rested. You want to look fresh and eager to impress.
Don’t over promise
Be honest about what you are able to do as you will get found out very quickly on a yacht – there is nowhere to hide. Furthermore, Captains will give you much more leeway if you’re clear about your capabilities from the start, and they’ll also be much more impressed if you perform better than expected.
Turn up on time
This sounds obvious but there really is no excuse for being late. If you are travelling from afar, get there early and have a coffee nearby. This will give you plenty of time to settle, think about potential questions, and approach the interview with a calm frame of mind.
Prospective career paths in yachting
Knowing you’d like to travel the world, get paid to do so, and enjoy all the luxuries life on a yacht has to offer is one thing. Knowing what role you’d be a good fit for, or what you’d like to do long-term, is another.
In this section we’ll cover the various entry-level roles available to you, including: responsibilities, skills or experiences beneficial for the role, typical salary, and likely career path.
Steward or Stewardess
Stews – shorthand for Steward or Stewardess – make up the bulk of a yacht’s interior crew. Under direction of the Chief Steward(ess), they are expected to keep the interior of the boat in fantastic condition and provide a world-class level of service for guests.
Anyone with prior experience working in a restaurant, hotel, bar, or at events will likely possess the basic skills required to make a good stew. It’s very much about helping out where needed to make the guest experience as seamless and memorable as possible – from silver service dining to cocktail mixology.
Whilst prior experience in a related field will help, there are often no prerequisites for a junior steward. Simply displaying the right set of soft skills can be enough to land a role. That said, given this is an entry-level role there is often a lot of competition. Consider taking GUEST and WSET courses to set yourself apart.
After joining a crew as a steward, showing a good work ethic and stepping up as a leader will help you progress. Simply, the more experience, skills, and qualifications you add will increase the demand for your services, and therefore your salary. Junior stews are typically paid around €2,500 per month whereas more senior stewards can command much higher figures.
Stepping up into an even more senior role will lead you in one of two directions, either as the Chief Steward(ess) or the purser. The Chief Stewardess is responsible for managing all interior crew, whilst the purser is responsible for the financial administration of the yacht.
If you have any prior experience working in a kitchen, any qualifications related to food, or even just a passion for cooking, then you may want to consider a role in the galley.
On the larger superyachts, the galley will consist of the Head Chef, a sous-chef, and assisting crew. As a department, they are responsible for the feeding of everyone aboard the ship day in, day out – crew included!
Working in the kitchen is a fairly demanding, but rewarding role. You’ll have access to world-class equipment, the finest produce (refreshed locally at every port), and the chance to learn from a master chef. Not to mention, you’ll be cooking for the world’s richest diners each day – the kind of practice opportunity that chefs with future aspirations of owning a Michelin Star restaurant dream of.
Junior crew in the galley typically start on a salary around €2,500 per month. However, working hard, taking the necessary qualifications, and perfecting your skills can see you progress to Head Chef – for whom salaries of €10,000 per month are not uncommon, such is the demand for a high quality chef.
Where stewards are typically focused on the interior of a yacht, deckhands are – as the name would suggest – primarily tasked with the upkeep of the yacht’s exterior.
The hours as a deckhand are long, tiring, and pay typically starts around €2,500 a month, but don’t let this put you off. Working as a deckhand is the single best means of opening yourself up to almost every facet of working onboard a yacht.
You’ll help the engineering department with ship maintenance; you’ll assist the Officers with operations; you’ll even chip in with the stewards on interior duties when required. This all means you’ll learn a little about everything, and from there you’ll be free to make a choice about which area you’d like to pursue further.
Almost every path is open to a deckhand; plenty of Captain’s and Chief Engineer’s have started their yachting careers in this role. Importantly, as a role with a wide-range of responsibilities to fulfil and daily opportunities to learn from senior crew, progress comes quickly to those willing to work for it.
A final thought…
In this guide, we’ve covered the best tactics available to you for landing a dream job working onboard a yacht. It’s important you go into the yachting industry with your eyes wide open though. Do remember it is not a holiday – it will be a lot of hard work and long seasons, but we can tell you from personal experience that there really is nothing like it. The friendships you build with fellow crew are second-to-none, and the opportunity to travel the world whilst earning good money is a truly unique experience.
We wish you all the best with your job search and we hope the information we’ve provided in this guide will help. If you have any questions or feel there’s something we haven’t covered, then please do let us know.
Finally, if you’d like to begin your search for a yacht job, then you can do so right here! Creating your own profile on Crew Board is free and takes less than 15 minutes, and you’ll instantly have access to hundreds of available roles. Click on the ‘Join’ button below to get started!