In the last issue of MarinaLive! we reported the great news that Ocean Village’s very own Allabroad Sailing Academy had earned UK Maritime Coastguard Agency Approval for the STCW-95 Basic Safety Training Courses – compulsory for pretty much anyone working at sea on super-yachts, charter yachts and commercial workboats. Their STCW-95 Training Centre will give superyacht crews and captains a clear-cut reason to stop-off in Gibraltar and make it a destination for crew changes and training. But how do you make the first step towards a career in the yachting industry? Erica Lay, General Manager of specialist recruitment company YCO Crew Palma, has the answers.
So you’ve just learned about the yachting industry from a friend, sibling or acquaintance that’s been off living the dream and are back in your home town for a quick visit before their next adventure. You want to get some travelling done, earn some cash and basically have a new experience before settling down and you’re at the point in your life where you think it’s now or never.
“Yachting is a way bigger industry than you probably realised. People work and make a good living on those massive floating hotels out there cruising the oceans. So what are you going to do about it? “. Erica has provided some helpful hints below.
This means arriving in the Mediterranean in the spring – March or April, or if over in the Caribbean or Florida, aim for autumn – September to November. This is just before each season generally kicks off.
If you’re going to the Med, base yourself in Antibes or Palma de Mallorca – perhaps Gibraltar in the future. If looking at the other side of the pond, aim for Fort Lauderdale, Antigua or St Maarten. A bit of research before you go should give you an idea of the best (and cheapest) places to stay, be it crew houses or shared accommodation, or better still – a friend’s place. Position yourself to make friends and contacts as soon as possible as jobs more often than not go through word of mouth.
The fun part comes next, dock-walking. But before you get to that bit you’ll need to be prepared pre-arrival. What will you need? To start with, around the Med, most yachts won’t entertain crew without STCW as an absolute minimum. Many potential crew consider taking the course if or when they have found employment. The problem with this approach is that without certification, the yacht is less likely to consider that applicant and the next eager beaver in line, who already has their certificates, is likely to get the job. So step one, STCW-95.
What crew role do you want?
Step two – think about what it is you want to do. If you’re going for stewardess positions, do you have a strong hospitality background? If not, then look at a quick stew course which will give a good introduction to the overall aspects of working the interior. Even if you have great housekeeping and fine dining experience, the reality of working on a yacht is rather different.
If you’re looking at deck work, then consider taking the Powerboat Level 2 course. This will allow you to drive tenders, which is fun as well as useful to have. If considering engineering, then take the MCA Approved Engine Course – the first stepping stone into the yacht engineer world. There are also lots of general deckhand introduction courses to give you a taster of deck-life from varnishing and sanding to showing you how to tie various knots and when to fend on/off – if you don’t have any previous boating experience this will help not only with confidence but also prevent you from looking like a wally tying off a fender with a granny knot and a bow.
Ok, courses done and dusted, ticket booked, now you need to look at your CV. Whilst everyone you meet in the industry will no doubt have their own view on how to create that perfect resume, below are a few pointers.
Get a good photo. That first impression is important, have someone take a professional looking smiling yacht crew photo , not the one that was clearly taken on a night out with the mojito/hen-nighters/ash tray of Malboros. See the point?
As for the rest of the CV, keep it short and punchy. Use bold to highlight important parts and draw the eye to the essential stuff for example in your work experience:
Jun – Jul 09 MY Bigboat, 54m Deckhand
Try to avoid using buzz words. We know you’re a dynamic team player, nobody writes “I hate getting up in the mornings and working with other people makes me grumpy” so you don’t need to state the obvious. Think carefully about your wording, so instead of long drawn out sentences like: “I was responsible for managing a team of three people and leading them to focus on goals in order to meet expectations” something like this would work better: “Managed a team of three successfully to achieve sales targets for 2010”. Less fluff, more punch and if your previous experience is non-maritime then think about transferrable skills, a yacht captain will be interested to hear your proven track record in dealing with difficult situations, working under pressure etc. Sometimes it’s good to get a friend to read your CV and cut out the unnecessary bits; it’s hard to summarise your own life.
Have different CVs – maybe one for deck work one for stew work focusing on key strengths for each. Finally, finish with contact details for a few references and very importantly – keep it to two pages. That’s it for the CV, contact Erica for further assistance.
Before you plan your trip, make sure you have your vaccinations and visas sorted out. Get yourself a seaman’s book when you’re able. And a few white polo shirts wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Register with a few agencies in advance of arrival at your chosen destination and then keep them informed of your movements. Touch base when you arrive, if you have interviews then turn up on time and looking smart – agents will be your representatives, if not now then in the future, so first impressions are important.
In conclusion Erica says, “The tough fact of finding your first yacht job is that most of them will happen via dock-walking. Hundreds of new crew arrive each season and ‘walk the docks’. Before the season kicks in, many yachts will interview and trial people, rather than pay agency fees, to enlist their new junior crew. Be prepared to do almost anything whether on day work or longer term, including being squeezed into the bilges, cleaning things with cotton buds, or making the engineer cups of tea and handing him spanners. It’s all experience, and it’s all good to put on your CV – at the start everything counts. Good luck.”