Hey there, future Yacht Crew! Ready to trade your office view to become Superyacht Crew? You’re in the right place! Before we get into the ins and outs, I have great news for you. It's true, you CAN get a job on a Superyacht with NO experience!
Entry-level positions are the perfect entry point for…well, anyone! No matter the experience or lack of. When I started, I didn't have any experience on the water and I couldn't even swim!
And if you DO have any previous Maritime or sailing experience, you’re in a great place to transition into Superyacht Crew! I’ve worked with dozens of people from commercial backgrounds (cruise ships, tanker ships, ferries, Navy etc.). The great news is that switching to Yacht Crew will land you a MUCH higher salary and quality of life. Not only that, you already have the minimum requirements needed and your experience is VERY in demand.
Today I'm going to walk you through the minimum requirements needed to become World-Traveling Superyacht crew and secure a spot onboard these luxury beasts. And if you want to know whether this is like the infamous "Below Deck," you'll have to get to the bottom of this article to find out! @michelle_wesseles20
If you're wondering whether working on a Yacht is a good idea, let me ask you these questions:
Are you tired of the 9-5 rat race?
Are you dreaming of traveling the world WHILE getting paid for it?
Are you tired of living for the weekend and the same boring life as everyone else?
If so, the best way to escape this boredom is working aboard a luxury Yacht. After working aboard for 9+ years, I can honestly say this is one of the best travel jobs on the planet! But don't believe everything you see on Instagram, it's NOT a constant holiday! Yachting IS a lot of hard work but it's a great way to see the world AND get paid at the same time. I'll get into the salaries later, but you can start out making a base salary of $3,000 (2,800€) or more PLUS tips.
As a seasoned Superyacht Captain who's worked on Yachts ranging from 27m (88 feet) to 90m (300 feet), I’m here to guide you through the ins and outs of starting a career in the Yachting Industry and ultimately help you land your first job! We’re talking about a world where luxury meets adventure, and I’m here to show YOU how to become part of it!
To get a general idea of how much opportunity there is available to Super Yacht Crew, at this point in time there are over 50,000 crew in the industry with over 10,000 Yachts around the world! And no matter who you ask, they'll confirm that we ALWAYS need more crew to fill the available jobs.
Yacht Crew Pay and Benefits
In Yachting, you get way better perks than whatever job you're working on land. For me, it's all about the 3 P's:
Pay: How Much Can You Earn?
My favorite perk of working as Superyacht crew is the opportunity to save nearly ALL of my salary every month. As Yacht crew, you don't pay for any of the expenses you pay for on land:
Accommodation - You live for free onboard the Yacht.
Meals - Cooked by the Yacht's Chef EVERY DAY (even weekends!)
Clothing - Uniform is provided by the Yacht and often includes high-end, quality attire.
Toiletries - Essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc. are provided by the Yacht and free razors are God's gift to Yachties (Valued at $30 each!)
Okay, I lied. My favorite perk is the salaries. No matter what other travel job you compare this to: au pair, nanny, English tutor, or flight attendant, you will never see such high salaries for applicants with zero experience. The numbers below refer to a full-time job on a typical Yacht.
Crew salaries are determined by your position aboard but for entry-level positions on the Deck Crew or the Interior department, you can expect to make an average salary between $3,000 - $4,000 (2,800€ - 3,700€).
If you're not impressed, don't forget these are only base crew salaries and they're tax-free for many nationalities!
If you work on a Charter Yacht (I'll explain more on this in a bit), then you can make another $2,000 - $5,000 (1,700€ - 4,500€) in tips EVERY WEEK that the Yacht is rented out by Charter Guests.
The tips depend on the size of the Yacht and the guests, but a good estimate is 10 - 20% of the total weekly price of a Yacht.
If you imagine a 50m (165 foot) Yacht with 9 crew, it typically charters for $150,000 - $250,000 per week. For simplicity, let’s add a 15% tip for $200,000/wk. When you divide that by 9 crew, it averages nearly $3,400 per crew member!
It's very common for busy Charter Yacht Crew to make an additional $20,000 - $30,000 per season (there are 2 seasons per year!) while working aboard. Typically, you’ll use this “Charter money” to cover your expenses while saving ALL of your salary.
What will YOU do with that much extra cash?
Package: How Much Time Off Do You Get?
Every Yacht is different, but typically you can expect each Yacht to give you between nearly 40 to 60 days of holiday (vacation) each year! The minimum required legally by many Yachts is 38 days, which is nearly 7 weeks of holiday.
Coming from my corporate background in the US, I nearly fainted when I found out I upgraded from 3 weeks per year to more days off than than most European countries! And I’m not confusing Holiday with weekends or days off. In Yachting, you still tend to get weekends off unless you're in the middle of the busy Charter season.
Places: Where Do You Go?
Yachting takes you to all corners of the globe because many Yacht Owners purchased these vessels to explore exotic destinations. Some beautiful locations you can expect Yachts to visit are:
Western Mediterranean: Spain, Italy, France, Monaco, Croatia and Greece are common Yachting destinations
Caribbean: St. Maarten, St. Barth's, Bahamas, Antigua, and the rest of the Caribbean are home to countless Yachts
Icebergs and Fjords: Alaska, Norway, Antarctica, and the Arctic Circle
Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East: Turkey, Dubai, Qatar, and UAE
Asia: French Polynesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea
Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands
Americas: Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico Ecuador and the Galapagos
USA: Florida, California, the NE Coast, the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard and Rhode Island
Now that you understand just how lucrative Yacht jobs can be, I'll walk you through my step-by-step guide on how you can start looking for your dream job.
Are you worried that working on a Superyacht will require a shit ton of certifications? Don't worry, working aboard a Superyacht only requires TWO basic certifications! And you can do them really quickly, like the next time you have time off from work!
How Much Does it Cost to Start?
One of the biggest perks of Yachting is how easy it is to get started. Depending on your location, you can expect to spend between $1,000 - $2,000 for your required certifications. And these only take less than 1 week to complete. Do you know of any other career change where you can transition that quickly and cheaply? There's no lengthy interview process and all it takes is to be in the right place with the right certifications during the hiring season (I'll get to the hiring seasons below).
Yachting is more than looking sharp on deck; the job demands safety smarts and professionalism. Before you start, you need these two essential certifications:
STCW ’10 / ’95 (Basic Safety Training)
This isn’t just any course; it’s your lifeline at sea. It’s where you learn to stay afloat when the sea’s unpredictable, tackle fires when things heat up, and administer first-aid for those unexpected mishaps. Plus, there’s a whole section on handling emergencies (And no, it’s not about dealing with the chef’s salty soup!). STCW is essential, no matter what job you’re eyeing in the Yacht industry.
Your STCW Basic Safety Training course is broken up into a few different modules over the course of 1 week:
Personal Survival Techniques
Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention
Elementary First Aid
Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities
Each of these modules will simulate different emergencies onboard and teach you how to handle them. STCW certificates expire every 5 years, so once you've completed this training you won't need to worry about it until later in your Yachting career.
Before anyone lets you step aboard their shiny, floating fortress you need to prove that you're physically fit and able to carry out the jobs of a Yacht Stewardess, Deckhand, Chef or Engineer without any issues.
You show this with a special Seafarer Medical certificate. One of the most commonly used is called an ENG1 and it is issued by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA). Even though it’s a British certification, it is offered worldwide and depending on where you are located there are other alternatives you can use in it’s place.
Because the ENG1 certification is your proof of health and fitness, you'll need to renew it every 2 years in case of any changes in health. No one gets on board without it! This medical examination must be conducted by an MCA-approved doctor or an equivalent medical specialist.
Additional Courses & Training
Got your STCW and Seafarer Medical? Great. Now, if your background and work experience aren’t directly relevant to Yachting, you might want to consider additional training. But If you’ve already worked in hospitality, customer service, or bartending, you’re on the right track and this will make landing your first job much easier. These experiences show that you’re a team player, used to the fast-paced environment and being on-your-feet for long-hours…aka a lifestyle similar to Yachting.
This is exactly what potential employers are searching for! In the Yachting Industry we know that we can teach almost anyone to do silver service or tie a line, but what we can't teach are the soft skills needed to follow orders and work as a cohesive team.
Some of the more popular courses that crew complete are:
Food Safety and Handling
Basic boat driving licenses (Powerboat Level 2)
Basic Engineering courses
But remember, the STCW and Seafarer Medical are your bread and butter. Everything else is just icing on the cake! Don't fall for the trap of paying for expensive courses that are NOT necessary.They WILL NOT MAKE GETTING A JOB EASIER! If you want to find a job easier, get relevant work experience.
More courses does not = Experience!
Relevant work experience = Experience!
(READ THAT AGAIN!)
For more information on certifications, click here for my Yachting Pre-Requisites Checklist.
Choose Your Path
Every Yachtie's journey is a little bit different. But no matter what position you choose or where you begin your journey, we all have to start at the bottom. Here's your breakdown of what positions are available.
In the world of Yachting, everyone is committed to providing exceptional service, regardless of their role. Whether you’re interested in working on Deck, in the Engine Room, Galley, or Interior of the Yacht, your job is to contribute to an unforgettable experience for the guests. If you're curious about what position best suits you, take this short quiz!
When you first become a Yacht Crew Member you start out in junior positions and work your way up to more senior roles such as Chief Stew, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer, Head Chef, or Captain. Each comes with its own unique work duties. For a full write-up of all the positions aboard, check out another article I wrote here.
A Superyacht Stewardess (or Yacht Steward) is in charge of maintaining the Interior of the Yacht to exceptional standards under the direction of the Chief Stewardess. Larger Yachts require a larger Interior crew, some reaching 10 or more Stews, while other Motor Yachts (under 40m - 130 feet) may have as few as 2 Stews.
This department is great for anyone with customer service, restaurant, bar, or hostess work as Stews work very closely with the Chef(s) to provide 7 Star meals and high-end “white glove” resort-style service. Imagine the standards of high-end restaurants at the Michelin level but with less than half of the resources. This makes for long work hours and may require someone on service 24-7.
A Deckhand is in charge of maintaining the Exterior of the Yacht to just as exceptional service as the Interior. Yacht Owners like to see their Yacht's paintwork kept to the same shine as when they purchased it, so there are plenty of opportunities to work with your hands. Superyacht Deckhands become skilled in carpentry, painting, and overall maintenance of the vessel. They are also jacks of all trades, because their job descriptions also include water sports and excursions with Guests as well as basic seamanship while navigating the vessel. Working on Deck is a great time for anyone who enjoys working outside, with their hands and being in the water.
No Superyacht can remain afloat long without a solid Engineering team. From the second these Yachts are splashed, they need constant preventative maintenance and troubleshooting. No matter what the problem is, whether it's the main engines, generators, freshwater systems, hydraulics, or countless other mechanisms, a great Engineer is able to diagnose and fix the issue. Once the Yacht is underway and far from port, Engineers are the first responders to any mechanical issue and the unsung heroes who can fix anything.
From the perspective of a Charter Guest, the Chef is the most integral part of the team. The pressure is on 3x a day (or more!) to provide exceptional food on par with the finest restaurants around the world. Not only do Yacht Chefs cook for up to 12 guests at a time, they also provide meals for crew. I have to say a Sole Chef on a Yachts 50 - 55m is probably the hardest position of them all. It’s common for them to have a 9-11 crew and 12 Guests onboard while only having 1 Chef! As soon as you go up in size 60m+ the Galley department will have a team of two making the work load much easier!
Charter vs Private Yachts
Yachting comes in two main flavors: Charter and Private. Charter Yachts are like luxury hotels on the water, constantly bustling with Guest activities, requiring top-tier, round-the-clock service. These are the type of Yachts that are rented out by A-listers who are looking for you to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This gives the crew a great opportunity to make A LOT of money with a sweet payday at the end of each trip to reward their hard work. Not to brag but I’ve met more A listers than I care to mention…think Kardashians, Jimmy Buffet (RIP), George Lucas, Jon Bon Jovi, and the list goes on!
Private Yachts can be more like exclusive, floating family homes. The atmosphere might be more relaxed, with service tailored to the preferences of the Superyacht Owners. The schedule for Private Yachts vary but they typically follow school or national holidays using the vessel for short getaways with few long trips spread throughout the year.
Superyachts vary greatly depending on the size. Every Yachtie has their own preference, but here's a breakdown of some common trends. If you want to find out which size is best suited for your interests and lifestyle, take my short quiz to find out!
Every Yacht is different, but larger Yachts are typically run more bureaucratically with a larger emphasis on hierarchy. Department heads are given a lot of autonomy to run their departments and there is less crossover between the departments. The crew’s schedule & working hours will also be more predictable.
Large Yachts can be a really great place for new crew to learn since they will always have support from a larger crew with varied experiences and personalities.
Small Yachts can be packed with valuable experience for new crew as they will be expected to fulfill a wider range of duties. This can be both a blessing and a curse because the schedule is more hectic and there are fewer crew to assist during Charters and busy periods. These types of Yachts are where you'll commonly find hybrid positions like Deck/Stew, Deck/Engineer, Captain/Engineer, Cook/Stew. Depending on the size of the crew, there is a huge opportunity to make a lot of money since there are fewer crew to split each tip.
Finding Your First Job
Finding your first gig can take you on completely different journeys depending on your current location, experience, and hustle. No matter where you start, the formula you need to follow is the same.
When to Find a Job
When you start working on a Superyacht, you can toss any coats, jackets, and winter gear into storage for a while! Yachts are like geese and head south for the winter...and they're never too far from the sun. The Yachting Industry follows 3 seasons:
For most Yachts, this is the Caribbean season. No matter where they're based, Yachts head down to the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean during the winter months of December through March. American Yacht owners enjoy visiting the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, while many of the larger European Yachts will head further to St. Maarten and St. Barth's. The more exotic itineraries head down to smaller destinations like St. Vincent and the Grenadines or the West Indies.
The crown jewel of the Yachting summer season is a Mediterranean summer. All the billionaires take their largest toys across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Western Med during the summer months of May through early September. The South of France, Monaco, and the Amalfi Coast in Italy are littered with giant Yachts at every anchorage.
Beach clubs and restaurants along these coasts serve as playgrounds for the rich and famous to showcase their wealth and relax for a much-needed holiday. Some explorer Yachts take this season to explore destinations in Northern Europe like the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany, and even the Netherlands.
Smaller, American Yachts head to the NE for an also popular, but much less luxurious summer season. Martha's Vineyard, the Hamptons, and Newport are filled with Yachts taking advantage of the slightly shorter summer season (July - August) to relax and enjoy the water. This small window is also when some American Yachts head to Alaska.
In-between both of these seasons is when most Yachts complete all renovations or planned maintenance in what we call, "Shipyard Periods." Even if they don't need major work or hauling out of the water, most Yachts take advantage of this slower period to give crew time off and reset from the madness of the previous season.
This is also when they start planning the itineraries and movements for the next season. If the Superyacht is planning to cross the Atlantic for the next season, they'll also do it during this season. For more information on Atlantic Crossings, click here.
Where to Start Looking for A Job
Finding a job on a Superyacht varies for everyone. It took me 2 weeks and for others, it can take up to a few months. The most important factor in how long it takes you is how hard you hustle and apply yourself. In Yachting, you're always one phone call away from a new job offer and the good news is that it happens when you least expect it.
All you need to become Yacht Crew are:
A Kickass CV
Your Basic Certifications (above)
A Yachting Network
If you plan to look for a job for the Summer Season, you'll need to choose either the USA or the EU. If you're choosing America, make sure you have a B1/B2 visa (mandatory for Yacht crew on that side of the pond) and start your search in April. Your #1 place to start is Ft. Lauderdale. Located slightly north of Miami, this is the Yachting capital of America and is actually a great place for new crew to start year-round.
In case you're interested in starting in Europe, you'll need to choose either Palma de Mallorca, Spain, or Antibes, France. You'll need a Schengen Visa upon arrival to the EU and arrive at a similar time frame. Remember to check the visa and entry requirements for whatever country you're flying into AND through because they vary depending on your Nationality. It's common for some crew, like those from South Africa, to have a harder time getting some of these visas. Make sure to do proper research and find out what hoops you may need to jump through.
Any crew planning to start working aboard will go through the following steps to secure their first position. You might not have to do them in the same order and you might even skip a step or two, but here's the lowdown.
This is a classic way to break into Yachting. It means going to marinas where Yachts are docked and walking the docks. You'll be a regular Yacht-to-Yacht salesman - CV (resume) in hand, introducing yourself to crew members, and selling your experience to work onboard as temporary crew.
Sometimes these assignments can be for a few days or extend to a few weeks. Dock walking shows initiative and puts you right in front of the people who might be hiring. It’s your chance to make a good first impression and learn about any openings or Day work directly from current crew members.
It's critical that you follow up with anyone you meet and regularly check-in to see if any positions are available.
Daywork is like freelance work in the Yachting world. It consists of short-term jobs that give you a taste of Yachting life and a chance to prove your skills. It’s often the first step to securing a more permanent position on a Yacht. You can find Daywork through websites, social media, Whatsapp groups or connections made while Dockwalking.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is volunteer work! You are working on a luxury Yacht and you need to be paid for it. I’ve seen and heard aspiring crew working for FREE to “gain experience”. That is bullshit and don’t you even think about doing it! We are working for the top 1% in the world…never work for free!
Day work is usually done at an hourly or daily rate (150usd - 120€) and includes lunch.
Networking is key in this line of work. It’s about building relationships and getting your name out there. The industry is littered with networking events, especially in Yachting Hubs like Fort Lauderdale and Antibes. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to pay attention to where Yacht Crew jobs are posted, engage in conversations online with the current crew, and ask questions.
We’ve all been in your shoes at some point and offer more knowledge than a pack of migratory whales with our years of experience onboard! Networking isn’t just about finding a job; it’s about becoming a part of the Yachting community. A guy you met at the bar last night could be your Captain tomorrow!
You can also target crew agencies, but keep in mind that most of them don't work with Green Crew (newbies)! Focus your efforts on networking with both aspiring and current crew in Crew Houses or out on the docks instead. @b_like_monica
Crew Houses: Your Base and Networking Hub
When you start out, a crew house in a Yachting hub like Fort Lauderdale or Antibes should be your home base. These are shared accommodations where aspiring crew members like you live while looking for work. Crew houses are more than just a place to sleep; they’re networking goldmines!
Here, you’ll meet others who are also starting out, share tips, and find job opportunities through word-of-mouth. Landing your first job is about being in the right place at the right time! No matter where you start, you MUST stay at a crew house if you want to avoid wasting time and money during your job search.
Understanding Life Aboard: The Realities of Yacht Work
Working on a Yacht isn’t your typical 9-to-5 job. It’s a lifestyle choice that involves long hours, hard work, and a commitment to excellence, whether on Charter or Private Super Yachts. But it’s not all work and no play. Life onboard can take you to some of the most exclusive and exotic locations in the world, from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean to the chic ports of the Mediterranean. Be prepared for a life where your office view changes daily, and no two days are alike. Not only that, but you'll be exposed to a colorful cast of crew from every corner of the globe!
Making it on board is half the battle. Once you're employed, make sure to follow these quick tips to make the most of your time!
Health and Fitness: Staying Shipshape
Your health and fitness are crucial. Working on a Yacht requires physical stamina, whether you’re handling lines on Deck or running through the Interior. Staying fit not only helps you perform your job efficiently but also ensures you can handle the demands of emergency situations, which is critical for the safety of everyone on board.
Career Progression in Yachting
Yachting offers a clear path for career progression for all junior positions. You might start as a Deckhand or a Junior Stewardess, but with experience, training, and a strong work ethic, you can work your way up to senior positions like Chief Steward, First Mate, and Captain!
Embracing the Yachting Community
The Yachting community is close-knit and global. Embrace it. Building relationships is key to your success and enjoyment in this industry. You’ll find that fellow Yachties are always willing to share advice, experiences, and job leads. You’ll find that most of the jobs you land throughout your career are from a quick text message or Facebook post from connections you make throughout your career. Yachties love working with their friends so make sure to NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!
Yachties have a love-hate relationship with the infamous Below Deck. Half of the community hates it for perpetuating stereotypes or unrealistic situations while the other half of us are amused by the caricatured, fucked up Willy Wonka-like representation of our jobs. Some crew hate that it's made our little-known industry internationally known and ruined our little secret. But if we constantly need more crew in the industry, is that REALLY a bad thing?
At times, Below Deck perfectly mimics situations that I lived through many times on some nightmarish Superyachts. But at other times, Yachting is actually stranger than fiction and no episode of Below Deck can compare to the ludicrous requests or moments you'll experience aboard. Love it or hate it, a good rule of thumb is to not mention the television show as a reason for why you entered the industry. If you've never heard of it, don't sweat it. And if you're a fan of the show, don't worry! I am, too ;). @karlienondeck
Yachting offers a demanding but rewarding lifestyle and is a world of opportunity. Perks include exotic ports, life-changing adventures, cultural exposure and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. And there are plenty of career moves you can make off of the Yachts as well. Countless crew move on to become Yacht Brokers, Crew Recruitment Agents, Charter Brokers, work for Shipyards & Builders or start their own Yachting companies (LIKE ME!).
Challenges include tight quarters, long hours, and physical intensity on the job. You’ll be working on your feet for longer periods than you’re used to, but you quickly get used to it and grow some great calves from running up all those stairs! If you’re passionate about sailing, travel, changing your life or new opportunities you’ll thrive at sea in this exciting career! Not to mention you'll definitely pick up an incredibly diverse skill set.
For a more in-depth video explanation and training on How to Work on A Yacht With No Boating Experience, click here!
If you’re ready to take the plunge and want to know more, sign up for my free guide Top 20 Most Common Yachting Questions Answered. It’s packed with more insider info based on common questions new crew are asking to help you navigate this little-known career path and industry!