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What Does It Take to Work on a Crewed Charter yacht?

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Bravo Network’s wildly popular reality show, Below Deck, has shone a spotlight on the crew side of the charter yacht industry albeit in a dramatic way. For most charters, the highs might not be as high nor the lows as low, making for an ideal professional for people-pleasers with strong hospitality skills. So, what does it take to work as crew? For one, a strong work ethic is a must for the 24/7 hours when on charter. Plus, there’s more. 

2020 USVI Charter Yacht Show - Yacht Elite
2020 USVI Charter Yacht Show – Yacht Elite

Big Demand – The industry is definitely hiring. 

“We need all crew positions,” says Diane Leander, crewing manager for The Crew Network, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “Our business has been exceptionally busy for the past several years and the crew requests are not slowing down.”

More specifically, says Ami G. Ira, yacht sales and charter specialist for Blue Oceans Yachting, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “The interior crew seems to stay in the industry only a few years before going land-based, so there are always opportunities for Stewardesses. Chefs stay short-term as well, so we always have Chef positions. Engineers are hard to find worldwide and in every industry. Captains who have good references, mechanical abilities, and longevity are in demand in every size of yacht.”

In the Caribbean especially, teams are the biggest need, according to Dare Blankenhorn, owner at Charter Caribe, a luxury charter yacht sales and management company located in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. “This means crew who have an existing history or potentially a long-term relationship. The ability to share and support one another within a dynamic work environment is one of the most valuable skills to have onboard. In luxury yachting, the tasks are large, and doing it well takes a great tremendous amount of synergy.”

Rules on Yacht Crew Fatigue – Limits on Hours of Work or Rest 

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Crew Yacht Vitamin Sea - 2020 VIPCA Show
Crew Yacht Vitamin Sea –
2020 VIPCA Show

Basic Minimums – There are two key credentials to obtain to work as a yacht crew.

“The first is an STCW Basic Training certificate,” says Wendy Umla, who holds a USCG 3000 ITC license and is a senior instructor at Orlando, FL-based Seven Seas Preparatory Academy. Seven Seas offers STCW basic and advanced courses, as well as other crew training. 

STCW stands for the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for seafarers. A basic certificate covers fundamental firefighting, personal survival techniques, elementary first aid, and personal safety and social responsibilities.

“Second is a medical fitness confirmation called the ENG 1, which attests to the physical capacity needed to perform. This and the STCW certificate are both mandatory for working on commercial vessels, i.e., in charter service,” says Blue Oceans Yachting’s Ira.

A U.S. Coast Guard physical is often acceptable in place of the ENG 1, the latter of which can only be performed by an MCA (UK-based Maritime and Coastguard Agency) approved doctor. 

Specific crew positions require additional certifications. For example, a PBL2 or powerboat level two training for deckhands running ribs, dinghies, and tenders. Stewardesses need food safety/hygiene certifications as duties involve serving food. For Captains, a USCG Masters License, or RYA Yachtmaster is the minimum requirement.

Yacht Crew Relations – Sex and the Superyacht

Yacht Valhalla
Yacht Valhalla

Resume Pluses

Be sure that your resume is sharp, recommends The Crew Network’s Leander. “Make sure your references are contactable, and up to date. Be sure that when you apply for jobs that you write a cover letter with your goals, location, available to start date, and that all your certificates are up to date.”

Be sure to add special skills, talents, and experience as well as certifications.

“For the interior, high-end restaurant service experience helps, as you already know how to set the table, serve guests, pour wine, and basic dining etiquette. Hospitality, housekeeping, barista, bartending, manicures, massage, all are skills that transfer well,” says Blue Oceans Yachting’s Ira. “For the exterior, boating experience, vehicle maintenance, anything mechanical whether engines, electrical, carpentry, are all great skills that help get your foot in the door. Hospitality is also a good foundation, as, at the end of the day, everyone is employed to show the guests a great time. Windsurfing, sailing, water skiing, diving, and fishing are also good skills to have.”

Yachting 101

2020 USVI Charter Yacht Show - Charter Yacht Respite at Sea
2020 USVI Charter Yacht Show – Charter Yacht Respite at Sea

Landing a Crew Spot

There are crew agencies that can help with that first job. These can charge placement fees. 

“Applying online to crew agency’s job boards or Facebook/social media pages is a good way to start. This allows the agents to reach out to ask additional questions. I’m also appreciative when proactive crew takes the initiative to reach out via email or WhatsApp to introduce themselves. It helps them to stand out. Crew that respond quickly to emails and phone calls get our attention. We have thousands of crew and it’s impossible to stay connected or reach out to everyone that applies for a job. So, the ones that write cover letters and reach out are going to get that extra attention,” says The Crew Network’s Leander.

There are DIY ways to land that first crew job too.

“Everyone knows to walk the docks on Monday morning. But, for example, try Thursday afternoon as well when it’s later in the week and the crew may be in the weeds getting work done and need help. Or, for those who want to work as chefs or stews, go to the supermarket on Monday morning. You can tell the crews by the yacht name on their shirts. Ask them for recommendations and take your professional business cards to hand out,” suggests Seven Seas’ Umla.

Boat shows and yacht networking events are other good bets to find a position. 

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to yacht size.

“The bigger the boat, the narrower the job. The smaller the yacht, the more you’ll learn because you must do a little bit of everything,” says Ulma.

Finally, says Charter Caribe’s Blankenhorn, “The greatest advice I can give someone is work hard, multitask, and pay attention. Yachting is extremely dynamic, and at any given time all crew members on a yacht are performing multiple tasks or functions. If you can do this, then you will be successful.”

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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