Do you have to be in a major yachting centre to find a yachting job?

Last week, we had an aspiring young stewardess call into our Southampton office and ask if she really needed to go to Antibes to find her first yachting job. Here’s what you need to know, and where you need to be to find your dream yachting job.
‘These days all the jobs are online aren’t they?’ she asked us. ‘Can’t I just stay here in the UK, keep working in my current job, and apply for yacht jobs from here? I can fly over to the Med for interviews if I need to—it just seems silly to spend all that money on a crew house and living costs when there are crew agents like you right here.’

Fair question, we thought. It’s one that we hear quite a lot as a UK-based crew agent, and one that is high time someone answered ‘on the record’. It’s true, yachting recruitment has changed, and there are quite a lot of jobs listed online these days (although they’re rarely complete listings, and are often terribly out of date.) There are local crew agents all around the world now, and it is expensive to quit your job and relocate to a major yachting hub like Antibes or Fort Lauderdale. All of this is true.

But while a lot has changed over the years, the main thing has stayed the same: green crew almost always need to go to a major yachting hub to get some dockwalking and dayworking experience. This is vitally important: not only for the valuable skills they’ll learn, but also to get that extraordinary rush of what it’s like to be part of the yachting industry, to see the huge boats coming into port, and make new friends and contacts. It’s almost a rite of passage, and one that those of us who have been crew will never forget.

And that’s what we told this young girl in our office. We didn’t have any jobs for a totally green stewardess on our books at the time, so we sat down with her, registered her on our database, got to know her yachting hopes and dreams…and then told her to get some experience, and that her best chance of doing this in the Med was in Antibes, Palma, or possibly Barcelona.

So why are we saying this?
wilsonhalligan is a UK-based crew consultancy. We do go to Antibes and Palma a lot to meet with our Captains and crew and host crew events, but our base is in Southampton, right in the hub of yachting businesses here that services the Solent boating community—including world-class training schools like Warsash where you can do your STCW and other courses. We’re in a great spot with lots of yachting action, and we think Southampton is well poised to become a major yachting hub in the not too distant future. (But that’s a topic for another blog still.)

So if Southampton is so good, why are we telling you to come and see us in the UK, but then pushing you towards bigger yachting ports to start your job hunt? Well, because our core principle in this crew agency is being honest and realistic with our candidates, and there just aren’t enough superyachts in Southampton yet to give green crew the best start here if you’re trying to get daywork. We want people to do well in yachting, so we’ll always give you good advice. And if that’s to go and get dockwalking in a yachting hub, then that’s what we’ll tell you to do.

So we thoroughly recommend that new crew come in and meet with us- because we will remember you when you have that experience, and then we can place you in that dream job. (And you never know, we might just have something for you right now, even though you are green as a radioactive cucumber. There are always a few Captains on our books looking to mentor completely new crew, bless’em.) Just come and see us, we’ll have coffee and get to know you. Even if we can’t place you right now, we’ll give you an idea of the yachting world you’re about to enter.

Once I’ve got yacht crew experience, can I job hunt from anywhere?
This is another question we hear a lot. I wish we could say anywhere will do—that you could sit on a beach in Thailand while scrolling through jobs and doing phone interviews between massages (where a tiny Thai woman appears to be trying to pull your arms out of your sockets while simultaneously jumping on you—and yet somehow it’s still good). But the truth of the matter is that yachting recruitment is still overwhelmingly a face-to-face business, so you’ll need to base yourself near a good crew agent to ensure that your job hunt is successful.

That doesn’t mean that you have to stay in a major yachting hub though: you can definitely go to countries like the UK or Australia between jobs, as long as you’re within easy reach of an excellent, well-connected crew agent who fields jobs globally. Which is where we come in.

At wilsonhalligan we constantly place experienced candidates all over the world from right here in our Southampton office. Experienced crew don’t need to spend their off-time lining up in jam-packed crew agencies in Antibes where the agents are so busy registering crew they’ll be hard-pushed to remember your name (and quite possibly your face) by lunchtime. This is where a local crew agency like us has the time to give you one-on-one attention, really figuring out what you’re looking for—and never pushing you towards roles you’re not so keen on. Because we know our Captains and our crew so well, we make great matches.

So, to recap:
If you have no yachting experience yet, go to a good local crew agent (like us!) to see how we can help you, before heading off towards the big blue yonder and throwing yourself into the job-hunting circuses that are the major yachting centres. We’ll remember you when it comes time to place you in your dream job.

If you’re experienced, then you don’t need to bother with the circus anymore. You’ve done your time. Just come in and see us in Southampton if you’re in the UK, and we’ll set our global network to work finding you the right role.