Sailing and the sea was always part of Alex Guy’s life. Having grown up on the south coast of England, it was inevitable that he was going to swap studies for superyachts.
After becoming a sailing instructor in Greece during what was supposed to be his gap year, a 19-year-old Alex decided he wouldn’t return to the UK for university. The sea was where he would stay.
This is his journey from sea to shore.
1. How did you come to work onboard superyachts?
I taught sailing and was a flotilla skipper sailing around the north and south Ionian for two years which, as a 19-year-old, was amazing. One day I had some clients whose son was a Captain of a 30m sailing yacht based in Antigua. I was offered a job onboard and was over the moon but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave my current job mid-season. However, I now knew that at the end of the season, I was definitely going to get a job on a superyacht.
I joined a 50m in Monaco as a deckhand (found for me via a recruitment agency) which had a busy summer with both charter and owner use before spending eight months in the shipyard. The prospect of this didn’t fill me with joy at the time but in reality, it was a fantastic learning platform for me. It was here where I learned from some very skilled contractors about the basics of painting, varnishing, filling and faring etc.
2. How did your superyacht career progress?
After a year onboard my first yacht, I wanted to try and get to the Caribbean and flew out to join another 50m in the Bahamas where we cruised the Caribbean and Mediterranean extensively. The yacht was private, and it was exceptionally busy. We were fewer crew than the average 50m so I took on a lot of responsibilities which I relished. In the four years I was onboard, I went from Deckhand to Mate. I worked hard but certainly owe a lot of my success to the Captain who played a vital role in my progression.
I then left and took my Chief Mate 3000. From that I was lucky enough to secure a position on 63m superyacht as 2nd Officer but after a couple of months, I stepped up to Chief Officer. I had just turned 24 so it was a big step, but again, the Captain was hugely supportive.
Four years later after back-to-back seasons, I was looking to gain experience somewhere else and some kind of rotation. I was exhausted so took a few months off before joining another 63m in June 2017. This was a full rotation role which allowed me to work on achieving my Masters whilst I was on my ‘off time’. I passed the Masters oral in January 2020, just as the pandemic was looming, and spent another year onboard before making the move ashore.
3. What were the advantages of working onboard and some of your career highlights?
The biggest advantage, particularly in hindsight, has to be the earning potential which, depending on your status, is usually tax free. As a young crew member with little over heads, it was fantastic being able to save so easily (not that I was always that sensible with every penny!).
There have been many highlights over my time as crew and it’s hard to pick one. I met many well-known individuals but to sound boring, I think the biggest highlights were passing my Officer and Masters exams. I wasn’t very academic growing up and the cost and effort one puts into the modules and passing is huge, so the feeling of achievement was completely worth it.
4. Why did you decide to transition to shore and why did you want to continue working in the superyacht sector?
I had been thinking about moving ashore for some time before completing my Masters. When I started, I had always dreamt of becoming a Captain but the closer I got to a permanent role, the more I realised that it probably wasn’t for me. I felt that if I didn’t make the move when I did, then I would stay as crew for the foreseeable future. I wanted to leave while I was still young enough to start again and I love everything to do with yachting, so I was very keen to secure a role within the industry. It was a case of putting all my eggs in one basket and if I couldn’t find a suitable job, then I would go back to sea.
I had worked on Burgess managed yachts for nine years and was always very impressed with the way they worked. Everyone there was so approachable and knowledgeable. When I was looking to move, I reached out to them. It took a while, especially as the pandemic brought uncertainty, but I kept in touch, eventually got an interview and started working for Burgess in July 2021. I’m now working in charter management which I am thoroughly enjoying. Having had so much experience with chartering, I wanted to use some of my knowledge to help market yachts for charters and secure booking and income for their owners.
Although there are many differences working ashore compared to onboard, we still all share a passion for yachts. And it’s nice having every weekend free and being able to commit to that wedding, birthday or reunion with your friends!
5. What did you learn onboard that has been invaluable?
Handling a yacht, its safe operation and compliance is great but working/interacting with people would always produce the greatest challenges and rewards. I learnt that people differ so much and understanding them is fundamental whether a crew member or a client.
6. What would you advise current crew to do now, whilst still working onboard, that will benefit their career opportunities when they come ashore?
It’s very cliché but try your best to put some savings aside! Otherwise know that there is life beyond being a crew member, and it’s really good. Spend time thinking about what makes you happy and what you are good at – every crew member I have met has a talent of some kind.
I would also say don’t be afraid to go for it and if it doesn’t work out for some reason, you will always be able to go back to yachting, even if it’s just for a temporary period.
Think outside the box because there are more and more opportunities out there than you might think. A worry I had that was that my skill sets were not transferable to a land-based job, but there are so many employers out there who know how hard crew work and their mindset towards working to achieve great results.
Interested in transitioning to land? Get in touch with our expert consultant, Simon.