How do I start a yachting career?

The trend of yachting, the new age “gap year”, has sure taken off. The daunting task of getting yourself over there and getting your first job can seem like an unseemingly difficult process. I have written this article to break down the finer details and to make your life a little bit easier.

7 years ago when I decided I was going to start yachting; I could have never imagined how difficult it could be to get my first job. You can read my yachting story here

But lets not get taken off the beaten track, here are things to consider and make yourself more organized when you jump whole-heartedly into this journey.

1. Book your courses and research specifically what your position requires
Don’t rely on anyone to hold your hand when it comes to making the step into yachting. Show your own initiative and do the research yourself. Google is great for finding out where to do your courses. Contact 3-4 agencies and find out what they are charging for the STCW-10. A lot of these agencies have put packages together for a deckhand and/or stew. Depending on your budget this might not always work out for you, price the courses individually and if you have to do some courses further down the line then that’s also fine. But make sure you have your mandatory STCW and Eng1. In South Africa there are only two registered eng1 doctors. A Samsa certificate will not be valid.

2. For South African passport holder’s, you will most likely need a visa
Research where you want to go and find your first yachting job and therefore what visa you will need. In most cases it will be a Schengen visa or US B1/B2 visa. The best thing I can say here is to make sure you have followed the visa application guidelines and produce all the paperwork required. If you get a job beforehand you can apply for a seaman’s visa through the French embassy, but if you don’t have this you will have to apply for a tourist visa. Apply for a realistic time frame and then ‘hope for the best’. Besides that advice, the only other advice would be to go through an agency, but these can be really pricey and there is no guaranteed outcome.

3. Draw up your CV and register with agencies
If you are organized, you would have drawn up your CV and registered for agencies before you get on the plane to go overseas. It’s a very tedious task and trust me, you will save a lot of time by just registering even your basic information on these sites. As far as your CV goes, make sure you have a professional photo in the top right corner and then also make sure your CV is the correct yacht CV draft. This can also be googled.

* If you contact me in the “work with me” section I will e-mail you a list of agencies to contact

4. Book accommodation
Book at least 2 weeks’ accommodation before you go. Crew houses are good for networking but they get booked up really quickly. If possible, book a week in a crew house and then try share with some other “yachties” some cheaper accommodation. Crew houses are good for networking, but they can get expensive.

5. Socialising
Do not get caught up in the social scene. Socialising is definitely good, as this is what the industry thrives on. But if you are a green yachtie, you should not be spending all your money on going to the pub every night because you do not know how long you will be unemployed. Also, the industry is incredibly small and you do not want to get a bad name for yourself before you have even stepped foot onto a yacht. When you are at the pub, everyone may seem like your friend. But the next day when you are dockwalking and the captain or first mate sees you and you try handing them your CV – it may not go down as well if you had just not had that extra drink. Brings me to my next point…

6. Dockwalking
This is also very dependent on your location, but you can dockwalk in the south of France. Palma I have heard is not as easy but can still be done. In Fort Lauderdale, it is illegal. Yachting hours without guests is usually 8am – 5pm with an hour lunch break 12pm – 1pm. Do not try handing out your CV before 8am and during lunch hours or after 5pm. This just shows etiquette and you will be respected a little bit more. A rule to know if there are guests on board is if there are flowers on the aft deck or one of the deckies is standing at the passarelle with epaulettes. Do your research here again, to find out which ports you should visit and how long it will take to get there, rather get there earlier than later. Also, it is usually wiser to get a week pass for the train.

7. Social Media
Social Media has gotten increasingly more important when job hunting. Most jobs are posted on here and it is important to be checking your Facebook a few times per day. Make sure to join all the correct yachting pages and read the rules of the page. You will save a lot of embarrassment by reading through the rules and posting correctly if you need to. Also read ALL the requirements when applying for a job. If you do not have the required experience or a necessary requirement – do NOT apply. This is not only annoying for the employee posting, but also saves you embarrassment. Remember this industry is small.

8. Dress Code
The yachting industry definitely is an industry where personal appearance is important. This also goes for personal hygiene. Make sure you have had a proper haircut, wear the appropriate amount of make up (if you are a girl) make sure your hygiene is up to scratch and wear the right clothing. Invest in a polo or two and a skort or shorts.

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