A great place to start your travel and work abroad adventures is to find a yacht job and get paid to sail the world.
For most of us, traveling around the world on a luxury yacht is a dream. This life is usually reserved for the rich and famous. But it doesn’t have to be. Did you know you could find yourself island hopping in the Caribbean, Mediterranean or Pacific by getting yourself a yacht job? Yes, you could be the one waking up to beautiful sunrises in far flung places on a daily basis while yacht crewing. And you don’t have to be knowledgeable about sailing or well-connected in the yachting community either to find a job. In this post I’ll break down the different types of yacht jobs, the pros and cons of them, how much they pay and how to find a position crewing aboard a yacht. Are you ready to get paid to sail the world?
What is a Yacht?
First of all, what is a yacht? Good question, and when I tried to find a definition the words that continued to arise were ‘a yacht is a craft used for pleasure and sport’. The name comes from the Dutch word jaght which is a fast, light sailing vessel. It seems when the English King Charles II was carried by ‘jacht’ from The Netherlands back to England, the word came to mean a vessel in which important people were carried. And that impression of a yacht exists still today, that yachts are a luxury vessel designed for recreation, relaxation and comfort only for the rich and famous. But can I just point out, that I know many people who have worked hard, saved, and bought themselves a yacht to travel the world.
Types of Yachts
There are different types of yachts. You will here the names cruisers, superyachts and mega yachts throughout this post. These days you can classify a yacht as either a sailing yacht (wind powered) or a motor-powered yacht. To define the names even more:
- A yacht less than 12 metres long is usually referred to as a cabin cruiser.
- Superyachts are usually more than 24 metres (131 feet) long.
- A mega yacht tends to be anything longer than 50 metres (164 feet).
No matter the type of yacht, they don’t sail themselves.
Types of Yacht Jobs
It takes a wide variety of people to keep a yacht running smoothly. Firstly, the vessel needs looking after. It will need cleaning, maintaining and crew and deck hands for sailing. Then the people onboard need looking after. This is where cooks, cleaners, massage therapists and nannies come into play. Superyachts are like mini hotels and there is room for many workers to look after their guests, including, but not limited to hair stylist, yoga guru and beauty therapist to name a few.
See Also: How to Find Cruise Ship Jobs
Types of jobs on yachts can range and are determined by the size of the vessel. Smaller cruisers maybe owned by one person, couple or family and they might want an all round crew member to help them sail. Then you have the superyachts and mega yachts which have room for many people and they require all sorts of staff. I have classified the jobs into three areas as follows:
Catching a Lift – Travel and Work Your Passage
Travel and Work Your Passage
Where ever there is open water you will find some kind of sea vessel. The best way to find a lift is to frequent yacht clubs where yachts are moored and speak to the captains and/or leave your details on the noticeboard. If successful in obtaining a lift you will probably have to share costs towards your passage unless you are part of the paid crew. Popular places to catch a lift from/to include:
- Sydney for the Whitsundays in Queensland, Australia or to New Zealand;
- Darwin, Australia for Asia;
- Auckland Harbour for the Pacific and the USA;
- Balboa (Pacific Ocean end) or Port of Cristobal (Atlantic Ocean end) of the Panama Canal;
- any of the Caribbean Islands, particularly Antigua (English Harbour), Jamaica (Montego Bay) and the Isle of Martinique;
- Gibraltar: at the mouth of the Mediterranean, this is often a stop-off point for yachts to pick up supplies after crossing the Atlantic;
- Nice and Monte Carlo in the South of France for the Mediterranean;
- Any of the Greek Islands
Many yachts spend the Northern Hemisphere Summer (June-August) sailing around the Mediterranean, then cross the Atlantic Ocean (which can take around six weeks) for the Caribbean where they island hop between September and April. Many also head to the Southern Hemisphere Summer (December-February) and enjoy summer and many yacht races there.
Deliver a Yacht
There can be long distances involved with sailing and some owners prefer not to do the hard yards of sailing between countries. They prefer to spend their time anchored up in the company of family and friends or day-hopping along different coastlines. For those gruelling trips between continents that make up a large part of the circumnavigation more help is required – and this is where you come in. You can sail the yacht to its destination.
On-board Positions on Superyachts and Mega Yachts
As I’ve said, yachts range in size and some of the larger yachts can take many people. These larger yachts require crew to help the yacht function and the number of crew required will depend on the size of the yacht. Positions can range from the Captain, deckhand, mates and engineers to crew looking after the guests, ie. chef, steward, bartender, etc. to crew providing activities such as a dive instructor, fitness instructor or masseuse. These yachts are often moored in spectacular harbours at glitzy marinas of St. Tropez, Monte Carlo, Miami or Nassau to name a few.
How Much Do Yacht Jobs Pay?
Having a job on a super yacht or mega yacht can be lucrative. As well as being paid to work, you employer is providing meals and accommodation. And as you are at sea, you will be able to save a lot of your wage. There are many variants to work out your wage including your qualification and experience, where the yacht is based and whether it is private or charter. However, here is a rough guide of what you can expect to earn weekly in US dollars:
Deckhand Jobs: $2700
1st Officer: $6000
On top of these salaries, you can add tips, of which can vary.
Having a job on a small yacht with one other person or a family your wage might be a lot less as the yacht is smaller and your duties will vary. You may be pitching in as an ‘all rounder’, meaning you will be doing some sailing and maybe some cooking. Some really small yacht owners may even ask for you to contribute for costs of the sail. For instance, the owner may want to move the yacht from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. They might want you to help out with the food cost. But hey, this can be worth it particularly as you don’t have to ‘buy the boat’. Other times, you will be working for your passage.
Pros and Cons of Travelling and Working Abroad on a Yacht
Pros of Yacht Jobs
- You get to travel around the world to exotic locations. Or be moored in a spectacular harbour.
- Get paid to live aboard the yacht. Though on the smaller yachts, you may be asked to contribute to costs.
- Accommodation and Food is included so you will save money not having to pay for these.
- Meet new people.
- Learn new skills which you can use elsewhere.
- Have wonderful experiences.
- It is a great travel and work abroad job.
Cons of Yacht Jobs
- You may encounter rough seas, get sea sick or need to dodge pirates.
- Need to be tolerant and patient with some incredibly rich and rude people.
- The working hours can be very long and sometimes erratic depending on the guests wishes.
- Work can be very hard and you may need to be ‘on hand’ at all times.
- Living quarters can vary and you may have to share.
- Once on the boat, you are on, you cannot get to dry land when you want. Ensure you are comfortable with being in close quarters with the same people, for days, even weeks on end. If you don’t get on with work mates, it will be a very long experience.
- Work can be seasonal.
- You will be away from family and friends.
What Qualifications and Skills are Required to Work on a Yacht?
The qualifications and skills required to work on a yacht will depend on the position you are applying for. A chef will need different qualifications and skills to a deck hand. As would the Captain to the housekeeping person. There are two basic certifications that everyone should have in order to work at sea.
STCW 2010 (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers)
If you are wanting to find yacht jobs on commercial or charters, then you will need a STCW certificate. This is the qualification required around the world if you want to work on a yacht than is longer than 79 feet (25 metres). This would be a super yacht or mega yacht size. Not all smaller private yacht owners require this qualification but it is preferred. During the STCW course, you will learn about personal safety and accident prevention as well as fire fighting, personal survival (using life jacket and inflatable rafts and some basic first aid. It is very important you know how to be safe aboard a yacht as your life and other people’s lives, may depend on it in an emergency. The course takes about a week and can cost around $1000. This may seem a lot, but with the certification, yacht jobs open up to you.
To do a course check out the following:
ENG 1 Seafarer Medical Certificate
The next thing you will need after obtaining the STCW 2010 is an ENG 1 Seafarer Medical Certificate. This is a mandatory certificate stating that you are fit and healthy to work aboard a ship. You will need to find an MCA-approved doctor to carry out the examination to issue the certificate which should cost around $120.
Qualifications and Skills Required to get a Yacht Job
Guests on your number one priority when working on a yacht
All the following skills are very useful to aid you securing a yacht job. They aren’t mandatory but the more skills you have, the better the jobs available to you. Ensure to list them on your CV.
Some jobs on yachts require a qualification, they include:
- Diving Instructor
- Massage therapist
- Hairdresser / Beautician
- Sailing licences
Skills and Experience that are very helpful to get a job on a yacht include:
- Being able to speak other languages
- Have high-end establishment hospitality experience
- Good people skills and a high level of tolerance and patience
- Be hard working with great organisational skills
- Water sport experience
Never Sailed Before?
Don’t worry too much if you have never sailed before. Depending on the size of the yacht you may not need to have worked on a yacht previously. Plus it depends on the job you will be doing. On the bigger super and mega yachts if you are joining as a chef, you won’t need to worry about learning what a deck hand does, unless you are required to be a deck hand also!
For smaller yachts where you might be sailing with one person or a family who requires someone to help them sail their yacht you may need to have sailing experience. You can gain sailing experience through yacht clubs around the world as most of them offer introductory sailing classes. And these clubs are often thrilled to have new members join their weekend courses and races. Doing this will definitely give you some skills and the confidence to start your yacht crewing career. There is no quicker way to learn to sail than having a captain screaming at you while you slip about the bow! But after a couple of months you should be jibing the spinnaker pole like an old sat!
If you are unable to do a course at the very least learn the basics of boating. This should include how to tie real knots as your life will occasionally depend on the quality of your knots.
How to Find a Position on a Yacht
There are two main ways to secure a position on a yacht: Through an online yacht jobs staff agency and by connecting with the yachting community.
Online Yacht Jobs Staff Agencies
You will find many yacht job agencies based all around the world. Most agencies allow you to register your details into an online portal. This will entail uploading your CV into their system. Most will then contact you, or you them to be matched with the ‘Yacht’ looking for staff. Don’t just rely on using online agencies, many of them have a physical office and if you are in their part of the world, it is wise to contact them directly by phone to organise an in-person appointment for you to visit the office. The more agencies you register with, the better your chances of securing a position.
Agencies to contact include:
Crewfinders International Inc (based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)
Crewseekers International (based in Eastleigh, UK)
Crew Pacific (based in Cairns, Queensland, Australia)
Elite Crew International (based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)
YPI Crew, based in France
Most agencies will require you to add details into an online portal and upload your resume (CV). The quality of agencies varies, and it’s essential to do your due diligence before accepting a position.
Connect with the Yachting Community
If you have a marina nearby I highly suggest you connect with the yachting community there. You never know who you might meet at a yacht club that needs crew for their yacht. If you can’t wait around at the bar waiting to meet people, ask if you can leave an ad on the noticeboard. And tell the bar person you are looking for work because they are often a font of information and know who is doing what.
Yacht hot spots where you can start your search for a yacht position include:
- Sydney, Australia – yep, great for those wanting to sail around the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Tahiti, etc)
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Palma de Mallorca, Spain
- Southampton, England
- Cowes on the Isle of Wight, England
- Antibes, France
- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Phuket, Thailand
- Galle Harbor, Sri Lanka
- English Harbor, Antigua
TIP: When looking for a yacht job dress the part. Dress to impress. Ensure you are showered, your hair is neat and tidy and your clothes are ironed. Be neat and tidy and maybe cover tattoos and take out any piercings. You will need to comply with dress standards of the vessel so until you know what that is, dress to impress.
Is Working On a Yacht Right for You?
Yacht jobs are not as glamorous as they are made out to be, in fact, they are often hard work. However, they can also be an amazing experience. I think waking up in a sunny tropical exotic location is much better than waking up to a cold and wet day at home! So is working on a yacht right for you? Yacht jobs aren’t for everyone but the only true way you will find out if this travel and work abroad lifestyle is for you, is to try it. Bon Voyage. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on crewing aboard a yacht in the comments following.
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