Have you ever wanted to cast it all to the wind, ditch the 9-5 job, and go sail around the world? Well, I have, and with a little resourcefulness just about anyone can find their way onto a boat for an unforgettable adventure. A few factors come into play when organizing a diversion from a certain life path to another, and it may not always be easy or glamorous the whole way through, yet the new experiences and people met along the way make it all worthwhile.
If you are lucky enough to have a couple extra million dollars in expendable cash, then you could easily purchase your own yacht, staff it with a crew and off you go on adventures beyond your wildest dreams. However, if you’re a part of the other 99% of taxpayers with a more modest income, you’re dreams of sailing around the world may not be lost!
First off you need to have a little experience from which you can fake it ‘til you make it. My path as a “yachtie,” the term yacht crew members affectionately call themselves, steered toward service as a maid, hostess and/or stewardess. If you have service industry experience working in restaurants or hotels where customer service is key, you’re on the right track. If you’re looking to work above deck as a mate or deckhand, having some basic boating skills will get you far. Knowing how to drive small powerboats like the dinghies or tenders, which transport crew and guests from their anchored yachts to shore, will be one of your main duties. Handling lines, tying knots, varnishing and re-varnishing on deck, and some general boating safety knowledge will be to your advantage.
The US Coast Guard sanctions courses across the country in boating safety skills and gaining captains licenses. The more certifications, qualifications and experience you have, the easier it becomes to join a crew. However, like most jobs, real-world experience often trumps a lack of official qualifications and can be used to your advantage.
Once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug and want to make it your lifestyle, there are many websites that place crew with boats and vice versa. A simple Google search for “yacht crew” returns a list of crew placement websites where you can create a profile, upload resumes and certifications and search for jobs. Certain times of year are better than others when looking for work. Just before summer and just before winter will yield the best results as boat owners and captains look to hire for those busy seasons ahead.
Most boats make similar itineraries from winter to summer. Ft. Lauderdale, FL is one of the yacht capitals of the world, seeing boats come in and out on their way south to the Caribbean for winter, north to New England and east to the Mediterranean for summer. Newport, RI is also a yachting hub in summer and is a great location to position oneself around May and June to find a job. You’ll need some freedom and mobility in your schedule to make yourself available to employers from Florida to Rhode Island and beyond. Planning accordingly with a buffer in your savings account and a couch or two to crash on in strategic locations is key in the off seasons. Most importantly, having the mobility and freedom to travel to employers and boats will allow you to vet your future job, and you’ll be floating home for the next indefinite amount of time.
The beauty of finding a job as crew aboard a yacht is the lack of expenses you’ll have while underway. Room and board is taken care of, though the crew cabin may be on the small side, usually you’ll find it harder not to gain weight due to the abundant five-star cuisine the chef will serve you. Salaries vary for different crew positions but usually start around $3,000 a month and go up from there. With little to no expenses and the earning potential on board a yacht, that savings account that took a toll in the off-season will quickly bounce back.
It takes a rare breed to thrive in this industry, especially when you live where you work, aboard a boat with cramped quarters and co-workers in your face 24/7. The key to finding success as a yacht crew member is knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Understanding and getting along with the other crew members is crucial. If you work with a cohesive crew, life is good. If there is any bad blood, distrust or resentment, you’re life will be miserable since there is no escape when you’re miles offshore. Going with your gut, jumping in head first and taking advantage of opportunities will get you far, yet knowing when to draw the line is just as important. Sailing with a safe, experienced crew will teach you what you need to know about yachting while bringing with it unrivaled sunsets, five star meals, long hours of hard work paired with time off in beautiful ports to explore with adventurous people.
For more information on becoming a yacht crew member see:
The Runaway Guide’s How To Work on a Luxury Yacht.
Yacht Crew Candidates FAQ
by Lyndsay Strange