How to Get Paid to Travel on a Luxury Yacht: Working on Superyachts

Written by: Nina Done

Imagine working on a luxury yacht, earning thousands in cash tips – alongside a high salary, travelling to some of the most sought-after locations in the world and mixing with the rich and famous. It’s the ultimate gap year job.

Having worked in the superyacht industry for several years, I can attest that it is a playground for the uber-rich. However, with over eighteen miles of new yachts in production, and an industry that is largely recession-proof, I am here to tell you that a lucrative career working on superyachts could be easier than you think.

Luxury superyacht mediterranean

Can I work on a superyacht?

Superyachts are large, privately-owned luxury boats, usually based in the Mediterranean for summer, and the Caribbean for winter. Training and experience are pre-requisites for the management crew onboard a yacht; this includes the captain, first officer, engineer and chef.

However, the most common superyacht jobs are deckhands and stewardesses. These roles do not require previous yachting experience, making these the easiest positions to jump into for inexperienced crew. Responsibilities for deckhands include deck maintenance, chamois/polishing the boat exterior, launching and driving tenders and assisting guests with the safe use of the boat’s ‘toys’ – banana boats, jet skis, laser sail boats etc. The stewardess’ responsibilities include detailing the boat’s interior, guest and crew laundry, housekeeping, meals and drinks service. Yacht owners expect exceptionally high standards; however, the generous salaries and large cash tips mean that crew positions onboard these vessels are often in great demand.

What do I need?

Certain credentials are now mandatory for new crew looking for superyacht jobs. Any person working on boats must hold an up-to-date seafarer medical certificate. In addition, all crew members must have completed the five-day basic safety training course – STCW 2010, which can be undertaken at centres either in the UK or overseas. Charlie Southon, an ex-chief stewardess who has worked in the industry for over fifteen years advises that “at peak times, centres [offering these courses] get booked out, so plan in advance. I have heard of months-long waiting times.”

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How do I get into working on superyachts?

You need to get your résumé into the hands of a captain. The best way to do this is through a crew agency. The major ones can be found in; Antibes (French Riviera), Palma (Mallorca) and Fort Lauderdale (Florida, USA). All of which can get very busy during peak times in April/May and September/October. Sean Thompson, bosun on sail yacht Shamrock V, remembers his own experience of the time; “There were lines of crew out the doors of the agencies, all hoping to be yachties…in their white polo shirts and khaki shorts.” Crew agencies usually prefer to interview new crew face-to-face, but they also offer valuable advice on tailoring your résumé so that it is suitable for the industry.

That said, opportunities for superyacht jobs can still present themselves through good old-fashioned networking at the numerous bars and restaurants in and around the major yachting hubs. Although be careful as the yachting industry is a small world! Charlie Southon cautions that yachting hotspots for recruitment also tend to be party spots. “Have a good time, but don’t do anything you’d regret – that person sitting on the next table might be the captain in tomorrow’s interview.”

How can I beat the competition?

Captains have numerous résumés to sift through, therefore it is essential that you stand out. Undertaking superyacht training courses are a great way to show your seriousness and motivation. Other extraneous skills can also add value. So, that ski season you did last winter? Get it on the résumé. Rosie Poole, a stewardess on sail yacht Twizzle, whose own mum used to work as a chef onboard yachts, believes that her previous service experience helped secure a position on board. “I worked as a chalet girl for two years, and before that I worked the bar in my local pub.”

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Advice for novices

Anyone looking to get into working on superyachts should be aware of the potential costs involved. The STCW course alone costs approximately £1,000, plus there may well be travel and accommodation expenditure involved, with no guarantee of a job at the end of it all.

You will also need to be prepared to work hard. The industry is well-known for its long hours and night watchkeeping duties. In addition, crew quarters are invariably small and cramped, and undoubtedly you will be sharing with another person. The ability to get on well with other crew members in such conditions is a skill worth learning.

Nevertheless, captains are aware that crew work exceptionally hard on charter. Therefore, off-charter you might get some much-needed down time to explore your location – usually somewhere people pay a lot of money to visit. You may find yourself sunbathing on St Tropez’s world-famous Pampelonne Beach, watching the Monaco Grand Prix live from your cabin, eating gelato in Portofino, or even scuba diving with hammerheads in the Galapagos.

What are you waiting for?

There is a whole world out there to discover and owners that are keen to explore it. With the right credentials and a bit of luck you too could land your dream role; working on a luxury yacht, earning big bucks and accompanying the world’s glitterati on their journeys to some of the finest locations on the planet.

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