Updated: Mar 23, 2019
How I got my start in the industry as a Yacht Stewardess
With a one-way ticket to Antibes in hand, ironed chino shorts, boat shoes (blisters included) and a bag full of CVs, I started my adventure in yachting. All I was lacking was that perfect Yacht Stewardess job. So how did I get it?
So you want to be a Yachtie?
Sunbathing in 30+ degree heat, sipping on unlimited champagne, eating gourmet food and doing all water sports known to man – the ultimate lifestyle, right? Well, that’s what the guests do anyway…
Before you decide to put to sea and relocate to a large floating home, I will be straight with the superyacht newbies out there. The industry is not all glamour and endless fun it can made out to be for yacht crew. Believe it or not, there can be drawbacks to travelling the world without any expenses to worry about. It’s a competitive industry with long hours, limited time off, confined living spaces, homesickness, (and even worse) seasickness and dealing with a guest’s wrath after failing to serve their snack on the correct plate at 2 am. I knew about these scare tactics from friends I had in the industry but with my restless, itchy feet and a bad case of ocean wanderlust, I still decided to leave my desk behind in the corporate world.
It was an easy decision when I had also heard about the pros: travelling to corners of the world you didn’t know existed, enjoying a healthy bank balance and regularly meeting new people.
If you have already looked into the industry then you will have come across words such as “STCW”, “Yachtmaster”, “ENG1” and “Powerboat Level 2.” Before starting your job hunt there are certain paid qualifications you will need to have under your belt. Check out the What Is The STCW Certification? blog post by Ciara Duggan.
For a Stewardess role, in particular, it is beneficial to have certain experience and skills in hospitality. For example, I ran a ski chalet and had a lot of other previous hospitality experience before yachting. Laundry, silver service, floristry, organisation and admin skills are strong bonuses. Be aware that the job description of a “Yacht Stewardess” can be extremely varied depending on the yacht itself: motor vs. sail, private vs. charter, larger vs. smaller yacht. There are specialised Yacht Stewardess courses out there which can put you ahead of the game.
Where should you start?
Breaking into the industry isn’t easy, but it is achievable. Now whilst I sit here writing this from a marina in Tahiti, it makes the hard work worthwhile. There are various methods to attempt to get a job on a yacht however no matter which you try first you will need a good CV that sets you apart from other applicants. After speaking to friends in the industry I got a general gist of what was needed, and after emails back and forth to crew agents, I was confident I could get a job in no time. After ‘no time’ stretched out to a couple of months, I had multiple versions of my CV, a notepad full of online login details for crew agencies and hundreds of rejections. I realised that I needed to show I was serious and do what everyone had previously advised me to do, so I packed up and moved to Antibes.
The yachting hubs in Europe are predominately Antibes and Palma. In the USA, Fort Lauderdale is the big hub. Being British, America was harder for me without a B1/B2 visa which is required to work on foreign yachts in American waters so I stuck to the short two-hour flight to France. Luckily my timings to leave my London desk job in search of a career on the high seas played out perfectly, and I was in Antibes by April, just before the summer season kicked off.
When you get to a yachting hub it is best to stay in a crew house so that you can easily meet other yachties and have your ear to the ground when it comes to job and daywork opportunities.
After meeting the first couple of crew agents face-to-face there was a whole CV tweaking game that I had evidently only just begun.
Shall I put the phrase ‘team player’ in? How 5* really is my ‘5* silver service experience’? Should ‘travel’ be under hobbies? Now, it’s great that I have a University degree, but how well do I clean with a cotton bud? The trials and tribulations of CV writing in the yachting world continued and still, I looked like a criminal in my headshots…With a CV (version 10,000) ready I spent my time dockwalking. Walking the docks to hand out CV’s with the hope of getting daywork to add to your experience or even a job is a concept debated widely in yachting, for some lucky people it was their golden ticket.
After traipsing up and down the French Riviera for weeks on end wearing a jaw aching smile and giving out CVs without any luck my patience wore thin. I had Deckhands that completely ignored me, Stewardesses that would “get back to me” or Captains that took my CV “just in case”. No wonder my friends and family back home had trouble grasping this concept of moving to France to dockwalk in hope of a job. It was hopeless. Even eating camembert and drinking red wine couldn’t soothe the ongoing rejections I was getting. I was slowly running out of Euros to fuel my new-found cheese addiction. Furthermore, in order to drink in Antibes, I recommend taking out a small mortgage…
How do you network?
As well as spending my days tweaking my CV, dockwalking and applying for positions online, I also spent time socialising. Not only to keep my morale up from rejections, but also as another means of finding those sought-after yacht jobs. After all, it’s who you know not what you know, right?
I tried to make as many contacts as I could which ranged from yacht crew recruiters, yacht agents, yacht brokers and of course other yacht crew. I had my jaw aching smile at the ready for anyone that had anything to do with the industry. Being in Antibes made it easy as it had more yachties than French baguettes.
As much fun as meeting people was, unfortunately, nothing quite materialised from my networking apart from the odd hangover.
From word-of-mouth to technology, how long can you truly go without picking up your phone? Especially when job searching, I was constantly refreshing my Gmail and sending WhatsApp messages other new yachties. As I sat there, feeling sorry for myself moaning to my friend at home via Facebook message about how I was failing at my new life and then Instagramming my delicious French pastry, I realised that I should start putting more effort into joining yachting Facebook groups.
Social media and technology drive our modern-day world and in recent years the industry has tapped into this to post jobs, share advice, give recommendations and generally share the yachting world on a global level. Ensure your Facebook profile and privacy settings are recruiter-friendly and join all of the relevant groups.
As long as you actually apply for the jobs instead of getting distracted by hilarious cat memes above them, it could prove to be your way in. Today, all yacht crew recruiters use social media to find, contact and research new crew.
When do you give up?
Never! After being in Antibes for about a month I was ready to give up. I had a great group of social contacts, my CV was truly tweaked, I could find the crew recruiters without Google maps, I could name all the yachts on the main dock, and yet, I was still without a job.
“Something will come up”, “it’s too early in the season”, “just keep applying” – these were all the highly-annoying but true phrases I refused to believe. Just as I got up for my morning coffee, dockwalk and visit the crew agents routine I checked my email and saw that I had an email from a recruiter. A Captain wanted a Skype interview with me. Finally.
I decided to spend the day prepping, writing down all the questions I had for him and the answers to the sort of things he would ask me. I spent the evening celebrating my new-found job as a Yacht Stewardess.
How do you know when it’s right?
There isn’t a right or wrong way to break into the industry, but there are certain avenues you can take before and after to improve your chance of succeeding. Have a great CV, sign up to all the crew agents until you get a feel for which ones are right for you, turn on Facebook notifications for the yacht job groups and, most importantly, don’t lose motivation.
Just when you feel like you should give up is when you really shouldn’t! Time and place are important when it comes to getting a job, even in the real world, so be in the right place with the right tools to help, and, eventually, it will be the right time.
Trying to land your first job in yachting can be hard. Trying to land your first good job in yachting can be really hard. It is difficult to be picky about which job is right for you when you are brand new to the industry. I found myself applying for anything that said “junior stewardess”. If I were to have succeeded in some of the yacht jobs I applied for versus the one I got offered, would I have survived yachting? Probably not.
It is an ongoing balancing act between the type of boat, the job role, the itinerary, the paycheck and the existing crew. Build up good relationships with crew recruiters. Talk to them about the type of experience you want from your first yacht job. Read the Facebook job descriptions fully, and be clear about the job and contract terms at the interview stage.