Quay Crew Logo

Should I spend / waste my hard earned cash on a course?

Tim Clarke
September 11, 2020

We get asked ‘what additional courses should I do?’ all the time by green crew looking to enter the industry and the answer remains the same. Just do the basics.

STCW, ENG 1 and PowerBoat Level 2. If you are a deckhand there is an argument to be made that your PWC course is beneficial too.

There are loads and loads of training schools out there offering a variety of courses for green deckhands and stews, most of them promising to cover a huge variety of topics in 1 week or even 2 weeks. I can guarantee that each topic is covered quickly and with very little depth. Some of them you won’t even get practical experience, it will all be theoretical. For clarity there are training schools out there which offer some good stuff, but these will generally be specialist courses which really explore one particular subject and are aimed at experienced crew. 

I am specifically talking about courses aimed at green crew about to enter the industry, which cover the ‘basics’.

Quay Crew is over 7 years old now. We have worked on hundreds of jobs over that 7 years that have requested green crew. Would anyone like to guess how many times we have had a yacht request that a crew member has a ‘Stewardess’ or ‘Deckhand’ course? 

I know the suspense is killing you. The answer is……… NONE!

Never has any Captain, Chief Officer or Chief Stew asked for this. We do get requests for crew with additional skillsets eg. watersports, carpentry, masseuse, beauty, PT, yoga etc. We get that all the time, but our clients clearly don’t see any value in these courses. So why do you? 

I know for an absolute fact that some of these training schools are telling green crew who are booking their STCW course that they need to do a stew or a deck course because they don’t have the right background to get a job and that this course will help them. This is absolute rubbish so don’t listen to them! Some of these same training schools are also selling the dream about travelling the world, amazing salaries, huge tips and not mentioning the realities of the industry and the hard work involved.

What you will learn on one of these courses could be taught in a couple of days by a good Chief Officer or Chief Stew. Plus you will be significantly better off financially, which goes a long way when you are surviving in France on pasta and bread whilst trying to find a job. 

What would I recommend then?

I recommend actually developing a good 2nd skill. Assuming that you haven’t decided on a whim to give yachting a go then you should have plenty of time to develop this.

There are a few routes to doing this. 

  • Online learning eg a company like https://www.udemy.com/ does loads of courses which you can work your way through in your own time. Eg become an Excel master.
  • Get a part time or even full time job doing something relevant. Eg housekeeping in a 5*/award winning hotel. Mixologist at a cool cocktail bar, Barista at an independent coffee house, Assistant at a florist on a weekend. Do not make the mistake of thinking working in a pub or average restaurant is relevant experience. It isn’t. 
  • Evening classes. In ‘normal’ times there are night schools and colleges where you can get actual qualifications in something useful and applicable. Obviously that might not be an option now but hopefully will be soon.
  • Youtube! The wealth of knowledge on Youtube is incredible. You can learn so much on there from watching ‘how to’ videos and actually practicing them religiously.
  • Voluntary work. There will be many struggling businesses around currently who would love some free help. You learn something, have an additional job to put on your CV and get a great reference (hopefully). To be clear do not daywork for free on a yacht. 

As a crew agent what would impress me far more than a one week course is a candidate turning around to me and telling me they have spent the last 6 months practicing their floristry from videos off Youtube and actually you are really, really good at putting together a bouquet of flowers. Plus having the picture evidence on their Instagram account. Or telling me they that they have mastered all the classic cocktails and can actually make a great Espresso Martini. The point being you can’t just dabble with this 2nd skill. Put in the hard yards and make it a usable skill and have evidence of this skill if possible.

The below is a few suggestions for areas to target. It isn’t all encompassing but it’s a start. You can mix and match deck and interior skills too if appropriate.

Deck: Carpentry, boat building, boat maintenance, boat cleaning, water sports, painting, driving boats, PT, drone flying, videography, editing etc.

Interior: Housekeeping, mixology, barista, wine knowledge, service, yoga, pilates, floristry, beauty, interior design (creative work with table set ups etc).

This is a contentious subject and I know it will upset people out there who operate within this sector. But sadly this what we have seen. At Quay Crew we felt we needed to speak up on behalf of the crew out there. One additional point, we occasionally see crew do STCW, PBL2, Stew courses and the like and move to France to get a job and fail. At the end of this they have probably spent £5k and have nothing to show for it. The training provider has stoked their dreams and taken their cash whilst knowing they may not be suitable for yachting at all. We addressed this with one training provider who said ‘they will realise by the end of the course it isn’t the industry for them.’ For us that doesn’t sit particularly well. We fully understand businesses have to make money but somewhere along the line in yachting far too many companies have completely forgotten about ethics and are only concerned with extracting cash from green crew. Obviously some training providers have limited interaction with their customers until they turn up for a course. Others however, are extremely proactive in how they drum up business and they should be more responsible regarding who they sell courses to and how they sell these courses.

I am happy to discuss/defend this blog with anyone so please do comment.

Sign up for Blog updates

We'll drop you a line when we've written a new blog post. Guaranteed no spam.