How to really dockwalk
Dockwalking is something that is essential for all green crew to do but it is getting more challenging as security improves everywhere. For example, the International Quay in Antibes which was previously a rich source for day work is now completely closed off. You can only get in if you have an appointment with a yacht which more often than not you won’t have. It also looks like security will only improve in places that house superyachts so things will just get harder and harder.
It’s true that dockwalking is one of those horrible things that no one really enjoys doing and is often a pain for the boats on the receiving end. However, taking the easy route and just putting your CV on the end of the passerelle is never going to work. That is the definition of a waste and time and money unless you are an incredible carpenter or something. Even then most boats will just chuck the CVs so you will never get a call. Hopefully, the following tips will make it a little easier.
Work out all the ports that have yachts in and go to them. Literally, draw up a schedule for the following week to two weeks that covers the local area and further afield. I would suggest going as far as Italy. The train network from France is great (although plagued by strikes) and can take you all over. It’s a cliché I have used in a previous blog mentioning this, but the extra mile really is the road less travelled when it comes to dockwalking.
Be smartly presented
You have to look the part. You should look as smart as possible as often as possible when dockwalking. I appreciate it is a pain shaving every day but maybe every other day is the way forward. Wear a nice clean polo shirt and shorts and a decent pair of deck shoes and have a spare change of clothes in your rucksack that you don’t mind wrecking. Guaranteed the day you are wearing your Ralph Lauren polo is the day a boat plucks you off the dock and wants you painting the bilges and getting covered in oil and paint.
No one wants to talk to someone who has yelled at them from the passerelle or is calling them Bru. Be polite and respectful. Do not under any circumstances ring the doorbell if guests are onboard. This can normally be worked out by looking for uncovered seats, flowers on display etc.
Firstly I would always acknowledge that you are potentially being a bit of a pain. ‘Sorry to disturb you, I know I’m probably the 20th person today to ring the doorbell….’. This is showing some empathy to the person you are talking too and should get them a little more onside.
Have an elevator pitch
This should be 15 to 20 seconds long and is basically a compact version of why you are great and covers your relevant experience/personality traits etc and why you are a good bet to get on board. I would mention any yacht specific skills you have eg painting, carpentry or things which demonstrate you are practical or good with your hands. Then briefly cover some of your personality traits eg I’m hardworking, a team player, will do anything required etc. I can’t emphasise enough this needs to short and sweet. No one has the time or inclination to listen to you waffle on for minutes about your background in ‘hospitality’ pulling pints at the local pub. I want to hear you’ve worked on a building site for the last six months so have good practical skills, you’ve got basic carpentry and can paint and are used to hard physical work and long hours! Something similar to that is all you need.
Have you got any jobs? The answer is always no.
When do you next need day workers? This is an open question which means they can’t just say yes or no. This should stimulate some more conversation and in an ideal world they cough up the information that actually the boss is on next week and they might need someone for a couple of days from Monday. You can then volunteer your services as required!
Have a notepad and jot down what boat you spoke to, who you spoke to, what the outcome was and when. There’s nothing worse than approaching a yacht knowing you’ve spoken to them before but not knowing what was said. And then even worse the Officer recognises you!
This is not a definitive article on dockwalking. As those who have met me can testify I have some additional thoughts about it but I can’t give you all of my ideas. Some of it might irritate some boats too so this is all you are getting. However, there are some great suggestions here and if you follow this advice your dockwalking will improve hugely! Good luck. And remember fortune favours the brave and those who work their arses off…
From 2006 to 2007 Tim was lucky enough to spend two years as a deckhand on MY Sai Ram and MY Leander, two excellent charter yachts. Quay Crew was formed in 2013 and is proving to be a great success: Tim covers the deck department predominantly working on Captain and Officer roles.
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