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This is what happened when I got my first yachting job

I thought it was time to cast my mind back to 2006 when I was taking my first tentative steps into the yachting world in Antibes. Hopefully, it will give any first timers a little insight into what it could be like, though I know everyone’s experience is different. This is also a great example of taking what you can until something better comes along. And when I say better I mean a normal, fully crewed yacht, not jumping ship after a few months for a couple hundred more euros or something which may seem superficially more appealing.

I had secured my first job on an old 35m Feadship and had high hopes for my first yachting experience. This was before Facebook and everything you can possibly think of being on the internet so I had a limited idea of what I was getting into. Everything was new and it was the epitome of getting thrown in at the deep end.

Heading into the unknown, knowing that whatever happens it will be an adventure.

There were three permanent crew; the Captain who was a great guy, a cantankerous old engineer and yours truly, the proverbial green deckie who didn’t have a clue. The boat had been undercrewed over the winter and needed sorting before the season started. There was no chef and no stews so I was winging it and fending for myself. I even had to cook my own food and do my own laundry which took some adjusting to for someones who’s culinary skills went about as far as ham sandwiches… It was pretty dull in the evenings on my own and with a lack of digital entertainment in the crew mess there was a lot of thumb twiddling and constantly being on watch.

I was given a flying induction in cleaning products, two parting a deck and varnishing all the capping rails. At this fledgeling stage in my yachting career, I didn’t realise varnishing was black magic, a mystical art that should inspire terror. After multiple coats on my own, I wasn’t a bad varnisher, which is a decent effort 3 weeks into your yachting career. All of this I was shown how to do once and then left to get on with it all day. No supervision or encouragement really so I had to get stuck in.

Things didn’t go that smoothly across the board it has to be said… The first time we left port was a challenge, and the first time we came in was an absolute disaster. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue about the lines and what to do with them having never been told. The engineer was screaming incoherent instructions when we were 5 yards from the dock so it really wasn’t a success. It was, however, a learning experience…

Have a big team around makes such a difference to moral | Image credit:

I was on here a couple of months before I got the opportunity to day work / have a trial on a great 52m which had other crew and you were cooked for 3 times a day. In comparison, this was a dream, just working alongside other people was a massive bonus on its own.

The first yacht I worked on was tough. There was very little training or support given, it was isolating and working on your own the whole time wasn’t much fun. However, it was character building, I learnt a lot (I had no choice) and it made me really appreciate everything I had on my next yacht. So, in essence, a little hardship can be a good thing if you take it for what it is. And far worse things can happen than working on an average yacht. So, for most of us who don’t stand out from the crowd of thousands, take what you can in your first season and give it your best shot. Work hard and learn as much as possible.

Cover photo image credit:

This is what happened when I got my first yachting job

About the author

Tim Clarke

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