Trying to get your first superyacht job is a little like writing your first blog – exciting, nerve-racking and the fear or doing or saying something wrong is very real.
Originally it was a friend and former colleague of mine who suggested I give it a try. She had joined the industry a couple of years before and said because I was active and sporty and had a luxury goods background, that the yachting industry might suit me.
“You get to travel the world and get paid how much to do it?! SIGN ME UP!” was my initial thought.
Rewind to March 2018, I had just turned 25 and left a really great stable job in London to try my luck in an industry which I knew next to nothing about. I grew up in London, lived with my parents and the closest thing I had previously got to any sort of maritime experience was getting on the ferry from Dover to Calais. Yet, here I was about to leave home for the first time and set off for a life at sea with Antibes being my starting point.
After finishing my STCW, Powerboat Level 2 and VHF short range course at Bristol Maritime Academy and getting a shiny certificate telling me I wasn’t colour blind, I headed to The Crew Grapevine in Antibes, Seaside to be specific, for a two-week stay initially.
Dockwalking by day, drinking by night
I got super lucky with the people I met at the crew house. Most of them I’m still extremely good friends with even though we haven’t seen that much of one another in the past five years and the room I was in was called The Fun Room because that’s exactly what it was!
I had the best time and couldn’t believe I hadn’t joined the industry sooner. No worries in the world, having fun playing drinking games, table tennis, going out for one or 10 scoops at the Hopstore after a day of cliff jumping at the Bay of Billionaires.
It was a similar routine most days. I was out the door by 7.30am to dockwalk to try catch the eye of every and any crew member that I saw (a soul destroying experience that I will get onto in a minute) before heading to the recruitment agencies with a coffee and croissant for when they opened around 9am.
When I was eventually seen by an agent, it was probably the first time I actually had any confidence that I could find my first superyacht job despite the HUGE amount of competition. The crew agents said I had a great CV for a greenie. But although I always had great relations with the agencies and most gave solid and constructive advice, which was hugely beneficial, I never got a job through an agency. Plenty of my friends did, so it wasn’t a lost cause, but that’s my personal experience.
Does dockwalking work?
In short, dockwalking isn’t fun and it isn’t pretty. Going up to boats and ringing the bell in the hope someone will come out and at least have a conversation with you made me feel nervous, anxious and, in all honesty, a little embarrassed. Knowing full well that the crew onboard are most likely looking at the CCTV screen in the crew mess looking at me with my CV in hand probably looking like I wanted to sell them something.
While I have photos of the golf ball sized blisters I got on my feet to prove that I put in the effort at least (I’ll spare you the sight of the actual photos because once seen it cannot be unseen!), dockwalking didn’t result in anything for me. I’m not saying it doesn’t work at all, and I believe it’s even harder now with many marinas closing to the public, but it was difficult. Ultimately it comes down to being in the right place at the right time.
After about three weeks being at the Grapevine, the money in my account was dramatically decreasing. I’d spent about £2,500 so far on getting there and living expenses. Day work, or any other work for that matter, was proving to be extremely hard to come by. So I decided move out with the people I’d met in The Fun Room and created The Fun House, saving a huge amount in the process.
After a little over a month, day work eventually happened for me but not through an agency or dockwalking. I got it through a friend who had found a job already and they referred me. It suddenly had a knock-on effect and I seemed to be working at least two or three days a week – sometimes on the same yacht, sometimes on others.
I learnt a hell of a lot but it was definitely a huge reality check. I found out first hand that being a deckie isn’t easy, especially being a junior. You will always get the tough jobs, whether it be diving down into tight bilges to clean them out or teak scrubbing in 30+ degree heats. But you crack on because you want to try and impress whoever you’re working for to gain that all important reference.
Thankfully, I did and the people I worked for did everything they could to help me find something more permanent including reaching out to their friends and agreeing to be put down as a reference on my CV. This was one of the biggest game changers for me. At one point, I thought I was going to be a professional day worker for the rest of my yachtie career, but about four months in, I finally had the call I had been waiting for. A yacht had seen my CV online and reached out. Thanks to the reference (and my interview), I got my first superyacht job!