Many crew who are new to the yachting industry are curious about the range of jobs that are available on a superyacht. However, the sheer size of larger yachts quickly pigeonholes crew into the deck, engineering or interior departments once they get their first job. And it rarely allows them to expand their knowledge base to another department or explore different career paths on board. That task is left to training centers and those working aboard smaller yachts.
Since most new crew members haven’t grown up sailing or had a family boat, the attraction to a career aboard superyachts comes from the lure of travel and being part of the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’. But just like going to college and having to choose a major early on, it is difficult to make a career path selection when one hasn’t been exposed to all the choices.
The starting point is a training center that offers courses approved by a variety of certification organizations and govern-mental agencies, such as the RYA (Royal Yachting Association), the MCA (the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency), the U.S. Coast Guard, US Sailing and the PYA (Professional Yachting Association). This assures the time, effort and money spent on exploring the yachting industry through training will also result in additional credentials to build a curriculum vitae for hiring.
The RYA Powerboat Level II offers hands on skills needed to safely operate a small boat with an outboard engine. Maneuvering at slow speeds, high speeds and docking like a pro are all topics that are covered. But most important is, why to wear the ‘kill cord’ at all times.
If crewing aboard a large motorsailer is alluring, then a knowledge of sailing is a must. The starting point for learning how to sail is a Basic Keelboat course through a US Sailing certified school. Once the course is completed, students know how to tack and jibe and reef the sails, and have gained the confidence to sail in a variety of wind conditions. Then if sailing gets in the blood, they continue on to the Basic Cruising course to learn how to operate a sailboat with an auxiliary engine and hone techniques of crew overboard recovery under sail.
How do diesel engines work? Diesel engines are the heart of every superyacht. They not only provide the power to cruise, they generate all the electricity on board when at anchor. The MCA Approved Engine/Engineering Safety course introduces the workings of a compression ignition engine and a variety of engine room systems. If a person likes to tinker and understand how things work, the engine room may be the right domain.
What does it take to be a stewardess or steward aboard a superyacht? The PYA Level 1 Yacht Interior Introduction course will give an overview of all the tasks and daily routines needed to provide superior service and keep the owners and guests on board happy.
How do yachts find their way safely to their next port of call? The RYA essential Navigation and Seamanship training educates students about the Rules of the Road, aids to navigation and how to read a nautical chart. This course will provide the foundation needed in future years should a student decide to become a yacht’s Master, and be expected to use the Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) that are installed on the bridge of all superyachts.
With this new found knowledge, prospective crew should spend a year or two working aboard yachts under 100 foot (30 metres) LOA, both sail and power, to find the right niche. A smaller yacht may allow the wearing of multiple hats, perhaps working as a stew and a deckhand or as a deckhand and assisting in the engine room. Since any field of endeavor takes a minimum of five years of on the job training to become proficient, it is important to make the right current choices for future work satisfaction.
The upshot of all this exploratory training is it will make anyone a more valuable crew member aboard a superyacht, fully aware of the many aspects of yacht operation. Or perhaps the person may decide the yachting industry isn’t as glamorous as once thought, and may want to reroute his or her career to commercial vessels like tugs and oil rig tenders. In either case, informed choices at that point will make for a successful and rewarding lifestyle in the maritime industry.
Capt. Jeff Werner is a Senior Instructor with International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale, and is a 23 year veteran of the yachting industry.
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