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Yacht Jobs: Are You Seaworthy?

There's something about yacht jobs - exotic ports, deserted beaches, sunny shores, comfortable lifestyle...

There probably are better jobs for women on the road... I just can't think of any right now!

Whether as transportation to get across an ocean or sea, or simply to refurbish your finances, working as sailing crew on a yacht is definitely worth a second look.

A yacht, by the way, can mean a charter or a private vessel, and can include motorboats as well as sailboats.

And even the smallest yachts need crews to sail them.

What is life on a yacht like?

Cramped, of course, because space is small, and you'll certainly have to share a room if you're crewing. Close quarters mean discipline is essential - from respecting the privacy of other crew members to cleaning up after yourself to keeping down your noise level. And you'd better have no hang-ups about privacy, because there isn't much of it. If nudity is something that shocks you, stay away from yacht jobs on the the smaller vessels.

Joining a crew on a tiny ship isn't something to be taken lightly. You'll be at sea, possibly for days, with no place to escape. You'll have to be extremely adaptable, and good-natured. Small quarters are no place for fussiness or moodiness.

You also have to play it safe - making sure nothing is left lying around, nothing that can catch fire or swing freely, and of course you're at sea so water safety must be observed. It may be fun, but it's also hard work, and serious work.

Finding suitable yacht jobs

The best time to find yacht jobs depends on your destination.

crewing on a yacht
Celine Dion's yacht
re-ality via Flickr CC

If you're sailing in Europe, the season runs from May to September, the traditional European summer season. Most sailing takes place around the Mediterranean, especially Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

If you're planning on finding a job on-site, you'll have to head for the fashionable marinas at Palma de Mallorca, Monaco, St Tropez, Golfe Juan and the like. You may even find a job on a celebrity yacht!

If you're headed to the Caribbean, it's the opposite, from October to April. The hub for Caribbean yachting is Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Of course you could spend your year going back and forth - and stay at sea almost as long as you like.

There are several ways of finding yacht jobs:

  • go straight to the port and register with an agency - large ports have plenty
  • look for day work along the port and get people to know you - but get an early start as good jobs go quickly
  • keep an eye out for the captain - he does the hiring (on small-ish boats - on larger ones look for the first mate)
  • put a notice up on the marina bulletin board - just make sure you set up a daily meeting place if you don't have a cell phone
  • talk to staff at the marina - the sailing community is small and staff will know who's leaving when, for where, and with how many crew
  • check out the marina pubs and bars - that's where the crews hang out and you'll probably pick up some useful information

You can of course go online. Ads for yacht crew jobs are posted on internet forums like Cruiserlog or on online listings like Floatplan - do a bit of searching as there are dozens of sites linking crew with owners. Find A Crew lists upcoming trips and jobs.

sail around the worldA typical yacht harbour
Flickr CC

What type of job you find will of course depend on your skills and experience - but yacht jobs range from entry-level deckhands to stewardesses, engineers or chefs.

If you're qualified, you can get a bona fide job through an agency. The money varies but can be quite good, from a salary to a percentage of profits if you're crewing on a charter. Charters and private yacht jobs can also be good for tips.

What if you have no experience? In that case you'll probably still find a job, because there are more ships than crew. You may not get paid, but you'll get free transportation. In many cases, you'll be fed too, but that depends on the owner.

Many boat owners are passionate, not wealthy, and will ask you to contribute to the food kitty, also known as cost-sharing. This is common but it shouldn't be exhorbitant, especially since you will after all be working your passage - cleaning, polishing, shining, rubbing, buffing, rigging - boat-owners are among the fussiest people.

Most jobs are available on boats that are being transferred from one port to another - 'repositioned' - or delivered to a new owner.

Do's and don'ts of crewing on a yacht...

  • Don't do drugs. Period. It's illegal and penalties in some countries are high. Not only will you probably get thrown off, but it's a question of security. You don't want to be stoned when an unexpected squall comes your way.

  • Try to send your pay home as soon as you get it. You won't need much on a yacht, but it will come in handy when you're ready to hit the road again.

  • If you're aiming for a longer journey and have little experience, get acclimatized, especially if you get seasick. Find out how to treat motion sickness before you go.

  • Everyone keeps saying it - yachting is a small world and what you say in Antibes in the morning will make it to Fort Lauderdale by lunch, so beware of gossip and too many complaints.

  • Make sure everything is above board - roles and responsibilities should be defined clearly at the outset and if there's anything weird, bail out. There will always be another opportunity. Once you're on board it'll be too late.

  • Avoid small yachts with only two or three crew, especially if the others are men. You don't want to be fighting off unwanted male attention in difficult situation miles from anywhere at sea. Stay away from ads seeking female crew only, no experience necessary, as long as you're between 18 and 25. You get the picture.

  • Always get your yacht's details and email them to someone - name, country of registration, planned itinerary.
why women travel
And you could end up in a place like this...
Photo: Leyla Giray

Crewing on a yacht can be a wonderful way of seeing the world - I have friends who hitched on yachts down the western Atlantic and who rave about being at sea and the romance of sailing into infinity.

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