It’s not uncommon for girls to keep pushing the limits, in science, extreme sports and in business – and female deckhands are no different.
Women are striking out and have been breaking into the superyacht industry faster than we realise. Flash back as soon as five years ago, and girls on deck was a fallacy, and to some extent, female officers were somewhat of a myth. But times are changing, and the girls are ready for it!
I spent three years as a female deckhand, and here’s a little bit of my story which I hope is relatable to my fellow females, but perhaps also a little educational for the guys and especially green crew – because if you’re new to the industry and looking for your first gig, stick at it.
I joined the industry in 2016 as a Junior Deckhand on a 50m yacht. My Chief Officer was honest; he told me when I stepped onboard that he ‘didn’t want female deckhands, but the captain insisted’. He didn’t talk to me much the first three weeks. I stayed onboard, finished the season and stepped off – seven years later and I’m still in comms with my C/O. It takes a lot to admit when you’re wrong, and he did.
Lesson 1 learnt? Stick with it and be consistent. Show up and work hard, and don’t be afraid to prove people wrong.
I joined a 60m as Lead Deck/Watersports – I had a C/O that wouldn’t let me drive the tenders ‘because I’m a girl’. I’ve had linesmen stand on the dock whilst I’m running the stern and point-blank refuse to put the line on the cleat I’ve asked for ‘because I’m a female’ and they didn’t want to ‘take direction from a girl’ – not ideal when you’ve just come out the yard from a respray.
I had a C/O that wouldn’t let me in the water to demonstrate a jet surf on a guest trip as I ‘looked prettier when my hair was dry’. I’ve joined a boat that didn’t have women’s deck uniform; jumping in and out of a tender in a short black A-Line dress isn’t practical, but it’s ‘aesthetically pleasing’ and ‘easy of the eye’ apparently.
Lesson 2 learnt? Level-headed conversations with your senior team can go a long way. Change the narrative and be constructive.
I ended up on a six-week temp gig on a 40m charter yacht as a sole deckhand. I stayed onboard for 18 months. Why? Because I had a captain that was fair. He’d employed me in the capacity of deckhand, and that’s what he expected. He wasn’t fazed if I was female. In fact, he wasn’t in the market for a female deckhand but I ticked his criteria and ended up as one of his highest matches on Yotspot.
All he concerned himself with was if I could throw a mooring line far enough to not end up in the drink; he cared if I could polish the anchor pocket, don a fire suit, drive a tender, call distances, refuel the jet-ski and take the flag down at sunset. He encouraged personal and professional growth and in return, he got longevity and a crew member that wanted to be there and wanted to thrive.
Lesson 3 learnt? If you find the boat and a supportive leader, then as long as you are good at your job, you can excel. I can now also complete a Rubik’s cube in 76 seconds!
The moral of the story? If you want to be a deckie, be a deckie. Phase one for wannabe female deckhands is being strong enough to stand your ground, because if you can’t do that against a crew agent that tells you that you have a face for the interior then you probably won’t like ‘keeping up with the lads’. That’s why it’s ‘Quay’ to work with the right recruiter too ha ha!
So, ask yourself, why do you want to be a female deckhand? Is it to be in the sun, or because you prefer playing with the toys? If it is the former, after three days in 32 degrees you’ll be craving the AC and a make-up wipe, trust me! Chances are, it isn’t either of those. It’s a career move and be vocal about it.
Phase two is selling your additional skills. Don’t have any? My advice is to get some because this industry is all about relentless forward progression. It doesn’t have to be an MCA or RYA course – get in the water, learn to surf, or to kite. Go fishing, check out your local cable park or learn to fly a drone – it’s all transferrable.
Last, but potentially the most important, invest in some good quality waterproof mascara and SPF (you can thank me later).
Lots of Love, Becky the Decky xoxoxox