Do tattoos spell the end of your yachting career before it’s begun?

As a green deckhand searching for a job in the South of France a few years ago and having a half sleeve tattoo I know all too well how hard getting that first job can be.

Arriving in Antibes I felt like I was the only person with a tattoo on show looking for a job on a yacht. People would often ask “don’t you want to get that lasered off” or make a comment such as “you’ll never get a job with a tattoo on your arm”. It was hard to hear this knowing I had given up my well paid, secure job at home and was living out a suitcase in a crew house, eating pesto pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner to make my savings last longer. It made me feel like I had been so very stupid a few years before to get inked. However at the age of 17 how was I to know a whole new world of yachting would present itself to me and become a job I was so desperate to secure?

Never the less I didn’t let it stop me and I finally got a break working on a 45m in Nice for the winter. 2 years on and I had worked on two prestigious boats in the industry, been to some of the most beautiful parts of the world, crossed the Atlantic, been to Bora Bora, made lifelong friends and saved myself a deposit for my first house.

There are several questions people ask me:

1. Can I get a job in yachting if I have tattoos?

Firstly it is possible to get a job on a yacht with a tattoo. I think recently views on tattoos within the industry have relaxed slightly. It seems that most people working on yachts now have a tattoo of some kind whether it be hidden or visible. Obviously, if you plan to get into yachting I would advise against rushing out and getting one. You won’t be doing yourself any favours. But if like me you already have tattoos then don’t let it put you off. It may take slightly longer to get your first job or you may not be offered a certain role due to management policies or owner preferences but this doesn’t mean there aren’t other boats who don’t mind tattoos.

2. Should I cover them up?

I would strongly suggest you mention your tattoos on your CV. This means that when it comes to employment your tattoo won’t suddenly become a problem wasting both yours and the boat’s time. Whilst interviewing definitely cover them up and be well presented, you want to make the best impression possible. If you have tattoos on your arms or legs try and cover these with long sleeve polos or shirts and a long pair of trousers/chinos whilst dock walking. Some people try using makeup to cover tattoos but I often found this rubbed off or would make items of clothing dirty, especially if wearing white!

3. Which boats will be more likely to employ me?

There are boats out there that do not have a problem with tattoos. I have worked on a boat where I was the only deckhand with a tattoo and on another where I was one of many guys on deck with tattoos. You will mostly find that private yachts are less likely to mind whereas charter boats usually won’t employ people with tattoos but this isn’t always set in stone. If you are an engineer your tattoos are less likely to be a problem.

Don’t let your tattoos hold you back

You may have to put in a bit of extra time and effort in securing a position but ultimately there will be a boat which will see beyond your body art and employ you based on the fact you are good at your job and a good candidate. Once you have some solid experience under your belt things get a lot easier and you tend to have more options of boats you can work on. The advice I would give initially is, if you have tattoos take any opportunity you have to get on a yacht. Ultimately experience will help you secure that next great position. Finally, if you are toying with the idea of getting one and haven’t don’t! There is a strong chance you will live to regret your ink. Good luck!

Tom spent 2 years as a deckhand working on Aquila and Infinity, both outstanding yachts, before returning shore side to his home town of Poole. Prior to his career in yachting Tom worked for Jet Ski Surfaris as a Flyboard Instructor. He now looks after Deckhands, Lead Deckhands and various other roles including Carpenters and Water Sports Instructors.

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