How to Start a Career in the Superyacht Industry: The Beginners Guide

As agencies we have all seen an increase in CVs from junior crew who have little work or life experience. Unfortunately , given level of service expected within the yachting industry these are often not the candidates our clients (the yachts) are looking to hire. These crew may therefore struggle to get a job or end up working on a yacht which is not suitable for them, which in turn then impacts the owner of the vessel.

What is Essential?

Life experience: ideally this is someone who has lived away from home, may have been responsible for their bills, washing, ironing, cooking etc., and has a level of independence. On a yacht, you will be away from home, away from your family and close friends. It can be isolating and not everyone adapts to it. If you haven’t lived away from home previously, it can certainly be more challenging.

Work experience: this is preferably someone who has had a full-time job for at least six months, ideally doing something relevant to yachting. Some yachts will have you working 7 days a week during the season, 50% of the time at night, sleeping in a loud environment (engine/ anchor drop), always in close proximity to your work colleagues and with very little down time. It’s an incredibly challenging environment. The more exposure you have had to previous tough working conditions the more likely you will be to survive or even thrive.

Yachting can sound like an old fashion industry with a chain of command & hierarchy that you need to respect. You will take orders from people across different departments. Your colleagues may be from a different culture, nationality and age.

So, what is appealing?

Secondary skills and / or relevant experience is very appealing. All of the below suggestions should have been undertaken in a professional, paid working environment.

  • High end hospitality e.g. Michelin starred restaurants, 5 star hotels, Luxury estates, members clubs (in service or housekeeping). Pub or café work is a great start, but to really appeal to the level of clients within yachting, higher end hospitality work is more relevant.
  • Event management, again the more high-end the better.
  • Floristry, barista, mixologist, beautician, masseuse, yoga / Pilates instructor, PT.
  • Boat building, carpentry, building work, good with hand & power tools.
  • Water sports instructor e.g., diving, wake boarding, kite surfing.
  • Boat maintenance, working in a marina, driving small boats.
  • Paramedic / nurse, additional medical training skills e.g. from the military.

This list isn’t exhaustive. There are other skillsets which are desirable, but these are the main ones. At the risk of repeating ourselves, you should have undertaken these roles for at least six months depending on the position. Short courses in areas such as cocktail making or floristry are fine as CV enhancers, but do not have the same appeal without the in-depth work experience as well.

What should I do next?

If you lack one or more of the above competences think about changing your plan of action. Instead of trying to get a yacht job, focus on getting a land-based job which builds skills in one of these relevant areas. Yachting will still exist in 12 months’ time. Use those 12 months to make yourself a stronger candidate and increase the chances of finding a good role on a reputable yacht which you can commit to long term.

Q & A

Q: I’ve seen reality TV shows, will I get the chance to relax in the jacuzzi sipping rosé at the end of guest trips?

A: Unlikely. Apart from the fact that you will be busy cleaning after the trip and preparing for the next one, many owners do not permit crew to use any guest facilities.

Q: I want to see the world, will I be visiting some exotic places?

A: That all depends on the yacht and the itinerary. Although many yachts visit amazing places, you are working, and you may not get the chance to go ashore and visit. If you’re in the engine room or working as part of the interior team, you might not even see the sea. There may be times when the yacht is in the shipyard, but they might not be located in such great locations.

Q: But it’s a glamourous job, right?

A: Make no mistake, yachting is a fantastic industry and yes, you’ll be working with celebs and wealthy clients, but the job is hard and in many cases you are a glamorised cleaner or waiting staff.

Q: Ok, but I’ll get loads of tips?

A: There can be some great tips but again this varies and if you’re on a private yacht, they are not standard.

Q: I’ve not worked anywhere at all yet, but I’ve done a one-week deckhand / stewardess course, will that make it easy to find a job?

A: Not necessarily, it’s incredibly competitive and everyone wants crew with experience. Previous (even non yachting) experience will probably help more than many courses. A few months as a waiter/waitress may be more helpful so choose your course wisely and don’t hesitate to take the advice of your friendly crew recruitment contact before booking any non-obligatory courses.

Q: It looks like one big happy family on board. Is on-board life as good as it looks?

A: Crew areas are small and you will spend a lot of your time with fellow crew members, so it is natural for the occasional friction to occur like it does in all families. You should evaluate your capacity to comply with rules, regulations and standard operating procedures. For example, you will be assigned hours of work and hours of rest you will need to adhere to. There are various reasons for these rules, most of them are to do with safety. There is a hierarchy on yachts and the captain is the “Master” so it is not for you to challenge them nor give your opinion unless you are invited to do so.

Q: Once I am in, how fast can I expect to progress within my chosen department?

A: Experience, experience, experience… You can probably tick off the exams, but you can’t fast track getting experience. Take time to build strong foundations and the world will be your oyster. Take a look at this link – Super Yacht Industry Careers which has been put together by some of the most reputable and experienced individuals in yachting. It shows some realistic timings and training requirements to help you along the way.

Q: Could I do this as a gap year opportunity?

A: It’s not impossible, but again, unless you have a very strong background which is relevant to yachting, it may not be feasible, especially as many yachts want to bring on crew who see yachting as a long-term career. It’s a big investment to start working within the industry, so probably only best to do once you are ready to commit fully.

Q: You’re not painting a great picture here…

A: We’re trying to be realistic. It’s a great career with fantastic rewards but it’s hard work and every season many new crew leave after realising it just isn’t for them. We don’t want that to be you. Be wary and don’t believe everything you read or see in the media. Sadly, there are scams, and you need to be suspicious of anyone asking you to pay anything before they find you a job.