Become a Crew member on a yacht

Have you thought about spending your time sailing the seas? Waking up to beautiful sunrises. Island hopping in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. Catching your dinner then watching the sun set after a long day and being paid to do these things? Then being crew aboard a yacht could just be for you.

Now sailing has many positives as mentioned above however, there are negatives to working as crew. You may encounter rough seas, get sea sick, dodge pirates or work for some incredibly rich and rude people. Ensure you have travel insurance for any little incidents. But no matter what, the whole experience can far outweigh being crushed in a cattle-class airline seat. If you are worried about these negatives, particularly living on a small boat for weeks or months with maybe one or two other people then you may want to look at a cruise liner for work.

Never sailed before?

Don’t worry too much if you have never sailed before as yacht clubs around the world offer introductory classes and 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 online or at a library. This should include how to tie real knots as your life will occasionally depend on the quality of your knots. A big tip is to learn them.

If you are wanting to become a professional crew person you will need to obtain a STCW certificate, however, many employers (owners of yachts) will take on those without one.

To do a course check out the following:

Flying Fish who are located in Cowes, UK and Sydney, Australia:

American Yacht Institute

Having a qualification as a dive instructor, fitness instructor, waterspouts instructor and/or masseuse and in hospitality such as a chef, bartender, etc. will also be a big advantage as some of the larger yachts may employ someone specifically for each role.


Types of jobs available

Types of jobs can range and are determined by the size of the vessel.

Catching a lift – 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.

Delivering a yacht

There can be long distances involved with sailing and some owners prefer not to do the hard yards of sailing between countries but 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

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 (if in need of some fast and fabulous meals check out our ebook Travellers Fare, Fast and Fabulous Meals for Travellers), steward, bartender, etc. to crew providing activities such as a dive instructor, fitness instructor or masseuse. These yachts are often moored in spectacular harbours such as Monte Carlo.

Besides having contacts in the industry you can also speak to captains and leave an advertisement on a noticeboard. Many find a position through a recruitment agency. Some 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)

Happy Sailing!

PS: Don’t forget your travel insurance.


About the Author:

Sharyn McCullum has travelled the world for many years and undertaken different types of employment to help keep her travelling. She currently writes for this website/blog and has her own blog She currently calls Melbourne, Australia home.

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