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How to move from one boat to another without burning bridges…

1. Stay put for now.

A job search takes planning and time and in some cases finding the right position on board your next yacht could take months. Staying in your current position while you initiate the process will be easier on your bank account and removes a lot of the pressure. Far too many crew quit their jobs so they are available to find the next one and this can leave them in a tricky situation when the hunt takes a while.

If you are like most crew then the time off will include a very nice but very expensive holiday, catching up with friends, maybe some courses and lots of socializing. Basically, you haemorrhage money those first few months and before you know it the savings account has taken a huge hit. Then you start looking properly for work. Then two months later the pressure really starts building as you haven’t found something suitable so you consider less money, a single season when you wanted two etc. So now your compromising and the risk of leaving 6 months later is far higher. This means your CV gets flakier and there is less chance of finding that great yacht.

So, if you don’t need to leave to become more qualified to get your next role then stay put as long as possible and try to leave in between seasons. If you do leave then budget accordingly. As the old adage goes, “It’s easier to get a job if you already have a job.”

2. Is the grass really greener on the other side?

Take a good hard look at your employment now. Would a change really be worth it? Consider not only salary issues but also benefits, time off and the relationships you have built with your fellow crewmembers. So many crew leave yachts for a couple of hundred extra euros a month, or because they want a busy charter yacht or just because they generally think they can do better. A lot of the time they don’t get that elusive charter yacht or end up on a yacht where all the crew are unhappy and they leave after a season. The most important thing for me is to make sure that the yacht you are joining is a well run, happy one. If it is, the chances are you will be able to stay for years and build longevity on your CV which then opens up doors for better boats further along in your career.

It’s hard to gauge whether you’ll be happier after making the switch. The important thing is to be realistic.


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3. Spring Cleaning.

Get your CV dusted off and updated. Include all relevant experience you have had onboard and go into some detail. If you are an experienced crew member though no one cares about the 3 days of day work you did 2 years ago so get rid of it. Equally, compact your earlier roles and go into more depth with your most recent jobs. Next, have a think about your skills and strengths and write a killer cover letter reflecting them.

Don’t forget to take a look at your social media accounts too to make sure they are looking sharp. Or to be more precise, get them locked down so only your friends can see anything of interest. I’ve seen crew miss out on jobs because of pictures from 3, 4 plus years ago when they were a teenager.

4. To Tell or Not to Tell?

You will need to speak to your Captain and Head of Department at some point to let them know you are looking so they are prepared to get calls and emails from agents and other yachts. If you have a good relationship with your Captain this is the time to speak to them. Honesty is usually the best policy, but not always suitable. You may even get a counter offer but the goal is to give the captain ample time to find a replacement.

Use your good judgment but keep in mind that it’s important not to burn any bridges. This can be difficult. As a rule of thumb if you have been with a yacht for a few years then generally it will be fine if you are upfront and honest when say are looking around. If you have only been with a yacht a season or so then you will be significantly less popular.

At Quay Crew we don’t send anyone without verbal references so you need some from somewhere. Maybe contact an old Head of Department who has left the boat for that reference. Personally, I don’t like seeing 2nd Officer, 2nd Stew, Bosun or even Chief Engineer as a reference if that isn’t the department you worked in. It has to be Captain or Chief Stew / Officer / Engineer. Your Head of Department in other words.

5. Stay Focused.

It can be a challenge to stay focused on your current position when you are looking for a new one. Don’t pack your bags before you have left and continue to work hard and be fully present and committed for as long as you are there. The Captain and/or your Head of Department will be able to tell if you have metaphorically downed tools a couple of months before you leave. It isn’t a good look and can definitely impact on your reference too. I have taken loads of references which say ‘he was amazing but the last few months he wasn’t great’ or ‘his head was elsewhere’ or ‘she was clearly ready for a change’. Anyway, I’m sure you get where I’m coming from. Don’t screw up all your previous good work by being below par and prioritizing your job search over your current job.

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6. Be careful about what you say.

Speaking out publicly against your bosses, the yacht or your colleagues is a big NO-NO. This type of behaviour will not only ensure that you leave your current position on bad terms but could also jeopardize your new one. If the reason you are leaving your current yacht is due to safety issues, poor working practices or something else negative then you will need to be diplomatic about it. If you feel you have to be honest then do so but steer away from anything too controversial or personal and only do it verbally. Never in writing.

I’m sure it seems obvious but don’t have a whinge publically after you have left the boat. I can think of multiple crew members moaning on Facebook about how they have escaped a hellish existence and now are on a much better yacht. Then someone from the old yacht sees it and passes on this titbit to the Captain which won’t help your relationship with your former yacht or your reference in the future.

Some of this advice should be blindingly obvious but so many fall foul of it. Get it sorted out and behave as professionally as possible.

One last golden tip. If you don’t see eye to eye with your Captain or HOD and you know you plan on leaving relatively soon, then now is an excellent time to build bridges with them! Make an effort to get on with them and stop doing whatever it is that irritates them! Good luck!

How to move from one boat to another without burning bridges…

About the author

Tim Clarke

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