Career in the Luxury Yacht Sector

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A Career in the Luxury Yacht Sector

Motor Yacht over 24 meters and 200Gt

The Luxury Yacht Sector is an expanding industry, with a huge number of Luxury Yachts over 24 meters in length, employing many crew per vessel.

So how do you begin a career in the yachting industry and can you really earn a living through sailing

What sort of a life do these crew members live and does it differ from sail to motor or big to small

In this essay we shall look at these and many other questions that, understandably are to be asked by people with the inclination to enter the yachting industry; the lifestyle being far removed from mainstream life. Almost intangible to many. The very concept of earning a wage while sailing around some of the most luxurious locations aboard a luxury yacht may seem a little too good to be true. Is this the case

First we must look at where Yachting has emerged from. Early crew members would have sailed for the love and passion of the water. Not the benefits that it would bring; health Insurance, holiday leave and flight packages all but a distant dream ???In the beginning, yacht work used to take as a love of sport, love of the outdoors or love of the sea. Earlier permanent jobs were pretty hard to find and pay was low but now the things have changed. The huge demand of well trained staff led to rapidly escalating remuneration levels. Now you no longer have to sacrifice your earning potential to achieve the lifestyle you want.??? (Dovaston Crews –

Certification was not a necessity in the early yachting industry, with little or no formal training being needed to Captain even the biggest of yachts. ???In the early 1990s it was recognized that a professional system of qualifications was required for the industry.??? (Ken Dales, The Crew Report, 2006, Issue 4, Pg42) There was also far less ???Bureaucracy???. Today, Government Bodies have implemented a number of sanctions over recent years to greater protect the Environment and the safe and professional running of a vessel, with severe consequences for negligent crew. Many of these standards which modern yachts have to conform to have created huge work loads for all aboard. One such body, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) occasionally being referred to as the ???Paper Dragon???.

These systems insure the safe and professional operation of both the yachting industry as well as the environment. With all crew, even those starting out being required to have their basic safety certificates. The STCW95 ( (Standards for Training and Certification for Watch Keepers) requires each crew member to have studied: Basic Fire Fighting, First Aid, Ship Survival, and Personal Safety and Social Responsibility. John Wyborn (The Crew Report – Issue 10, Pg 59) states that the ???STCW95 is the first building block of anyone??™s yachting career, and is a minimum requirement to join most yachts today. Safety training is also key to the operation of a professional yacht. The information that you learn during STCW95 courses will give you a thorough grounding in these fundamentals, which should last for the rest of your career at sea.???

From here, progression and promotion within the Engineering or Deck Officer (Deckhand, Bosun & Officers) side will involve completion of a well structured, laid out progression of courses. For Stewards and Stewardesses, progression is less centered around courses, instead with a greater emphases on experience. This has arguably created a more motivated crew, looking to improve personally and progress. This is excellent for the industry, Ken Dales concludes in an article for The Crew Report, ???A program of ongoing professional training and development is imperative. Only by working together will we manage the industry??™s prolific growth and maintain the required large pool of highly motivated, trained and competent staff required to man the ever-increasing worldwide fleet.??? (Ken Dales, The Crew Report, 2006, Issue 4, Pg 44).

Safe manning scales outline qualifications needed by crew to hold certain positions aboard, these can be found on websites such as that of the United Kingdom Sailing Academies website for deck qualifications (UKSA – Engineering safe manning scales can be found at (Blue Water Training –

Crew would have also lacked many of the rights and legal protection set in place today by Government Bodies. There are organizations such as the Professional Yachtsmen??™s Association (PYA) (, who for an annual subscription can intermediary between crew and governing bodies, as well as help with career guidance, ???as your career advances the PYA will keep you informed and up to date with developments and regulations that concern you and your future.??? (Professional Yachtsmen??™s Association –

One debate within the yachting industry is that on Crew Unions, are they required The Crew Report (2007, Issue 13, Pg 50 -51) looks into this by posing the question of unions, with varying reader feedback. Although a limited survey with 8 views, both sides have valid arguments:

???Crew union is a great idea, too many people sacked for no rhyme nor reason. And crew insurance not paying out and repatriation costs not reimbursed. Would be good to have a body to deal with issues of this nature. Keep me posted.??? Jen, Crew.

???Yes, we should have a union, there are so many merchant crew at the moment who are used to union help, why can??™t us yachties get protected??? Anonymous.

???We need to break down the argument into pros and cons. After all, what are the real benefits In my eyes: Ultimately, legal support. But for example, in unfair dismissal,
a unions usefulness is on par with that of the law of the flag and port state or even other laws such as those in the US Jones Act. However, the issue at hand in every aspect is enforceability and, sad as I am to say it, what could a union actually be able to offer that other bodies cant??? Anonymous.

As we can see, very differing views. It is clear from the second quote that the Merchant Navy have unions; is yachting really so different The third quote poses the question of unions and their ultimate worth; more effective then existing protection We have seen little headway being made between 2007 and now, the equivocal question of unions is likely to continue for a while.

The face of yachting has evolved in many ways over the years. Gone are the days of care free sailing, instead being replaced by a far more regulated, safety conscious system. One which crew can carve highly successful careers from.

Far from retracting post recession, yachting continues to progress, ???In 2008 there was 27km (17 miles) of new yachts over 24m (80ft) under construction in 25 countries throughout the world. It is estimated that 5,700 new crew will be required to fill these positions throughout 2009.??? ( Work on Boats – The recession proved a challenge to the Industry, many yachts were ???mothballed???, running with only skeleton crews and rarely used to save money. Since then,the industry, both charter bookings and yacht sales have bounced back, though not to early 2008 levels. ???The Summer is now in full-swing, but the bookings are still shy of what they were in the past???, according to Jennifer M. Saia, President and Charter Specialist at The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals??? (Yachting Intelligence, 23/06/2010 –, referring to the 2010 charter season as it stood in June of this month.

Yachting Intelligence also has statistics on yacht sales over 24m within this article. Although up on 2009 levels, prices dropped the month of issue ???Jonathan??™s certainly right about the supply/demand balance for, while we reported 21 yachts sold last month, we counted 36 superyachts entering the market and, of course, that doesn??™t account for the yachts we know are very discreetly for sale. This oversupply means that prices continue their downward trend, with 33 price reductions reported in May.??? (Yachting Intelligence, 23/06/2010 –

512Chart 1: Month-on-month and year-on-year comparisons by total value and volume

Above is an image taken from (Yachting Intelligence, 23/06/2010 –, showing yacht sales for the stated time periods.

Once decided on the yachting industry, crew will have to decide which sector to enter into. Either power or sail and equally big or small. Both having their pros and cons.

Bigger boats, generally over 60 meters will generally pay crew better, offer better holiday packages, have better onboard crew facilities and run a more regulated work day, for good or bad. However, ???The lifestyle onboard some of these new mega or giga yachts is boot camp in comparison to the 60m and below of the past??? and ???Are these crew the highest paid prisoners in the world??? (The Crew Report –

One very real problem found predominately aboard the larger vessels is that of crew turnover levels. With the ???regimented commitment required of giga yacht crew. Many captains, chefs, and top-level crew decide that maybe a 50m yacht, or even a land-based position, are far more appealing prospects??? (The Crew Report – From this statement, we can see that certain crew members at the larger end of the spectrum are downsizing. Choosing a potentially better quality of living over better pay and benefits.

As you descend through the 40m range and shorter there will be even more dramatic changes. Often crew aboard smaller vessels will have more time off during quiet periods, though work longer hours on charter due to a lower crew to guest ratio. Another difference is that aboard larger vessels, crew member roles will be more specific. Compared to the generally less specialized smaller boats; crew becoming more versatile in their roles.

The gap between sail and power has closed. With sail and motor vessels now offering similar packages, though, generally better living quarters will be found aboard motor vessels.

With basic courses in hand and a targeted area of the industry to enter, the next step is to sign up with one of the many crew agencies either online or in person. Agencies are found the world over, with the three main yachting areas being: Antibes in the South of France, Palma on the Island of Mallorca, and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, America. Signing up with such agencies are relatively straight forward, though, thorough. Information is needed on all yachting attributes, as well as: personal information, skills, hobbies, achievements and a previous work history. Agencies will contact crew to notify of vacancies, with CV??™s being sent to those that the individual are interested in. Agencies will often create individual profiles, to add to an online database for perusal by employers, who, will in turn contact crew directly. One agency that offers this service is Luxury Yacht Group (

To improve ones chances of employment, ???dock walking??? can also be a highly successful way of finding work. Dock walking is as the name might suggest, walking the dock in search of employment. Hopeful candidates will approach yachts, CV in hand to enquire if the yacht is either looking to employ crew for the up coming season, or if short term help is required (day working). Yachts see this as a highly successful way of employing new crew if they can find the right candidate, whilst avoiding agency fees. Employer and Employee will also have met and worked together compatibly before committing to one another. Crew in return will gain valuable experience from day working and quite likely, needed capital.

Employee??™s aboard a yacht will generally sign a Contract, as well as a crew agreement on commencement of employment. Jason Smith, Captain of M.Y. Northern Light explains: ???Crew Agreements define the legal entitlements of the crew member whilst working on a private or commercial vessel. It stipulates the enrollment of each crew member in their capacity on board, whilst in employment in accordance to the regulations of the country that the vessel is registered to, as reflected by the flag state.??? (Jason Smith, 2010)

A standard crew agreement is outlined in MGN 149 (m). ???The provisions and form of the crew agreement must be of a kind approved by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), which can approve different provisions and forms under different circumstances. MGN 149 (M) gives a basic pre-approved crew agreement.??? (The Crew Report. 2007, Issue 15, Pg 70 -71)

The Contract of employment will cover a vast array of issues. Covering areas such as: length of contract, pay, annual leave, health insurance, sick leave allowance, flight allowances, rules & regulations, and leaving notice are some of the many details often included and defined. Crew shall also often be asked to sign ???Confidentiality Agreements??? to protect the privacy of owners. Contracts are often written by Management Companies, who work closely with individual Yachts to amend and personalize contracts to vessels and owner??™s specific requirements.

Contracts will vary from yacht to yacht, though many are similar and follow generic industry normalitys. For instance, six weeks holiday per year, or, 5 months on – one month off aboard larger vessels is normal. Health insurance is often included, with dental cover less common. Wages vary quite considerably, however, a rough guide on wage scales can be found on websites such as the Luxury Yacht Groups website ( Although from 2006, another good break down of the wages in the yachting industry can be seen in (The Crew Report, Issue 16/17, Pg 39).

Benefits are aplenty once within the yachting industry, working aboard a luxury yacht. Firstly, living expenses are met by the yacht, including food, board and toiletries. With these expenses covered, wages can be used either for savings or frivolities as crew see fit. It is not unusual for crew to live lavish, opulent lifestyles, others with longer term strategies have built impressive investment portfolio??™s. Working aboard a charter vessel, tips can easily double wages for the more junior members over the charter seasons. Another benefit enjoyed by many is the ability to be legally exempt from taxes dependent on yachts location, residency and a day count system logging time outside of country of residence.

With the financial possibilities aside crew will find themselves with other benefits. It is possible for crew to sail world wide, visiting some of the most exotic and luxurious of places. Anther common perk is the use of water – sport toys and yacht facilities during free time. For some, there is the allure of working with the ???rich and famous???. Looking from a more personal aspect, yachting is a most sociable of Industries, one which shall immerse crew within a highly international group of like minded, motivated individuals.

It is true to say that there are many benefits to crewing in the yachting industry, that said, compromises are to be made. To work aboard a yacht is synonymous to working long, hard hours. As explained by YPI ??? it is not just about having a job, it is a lifestyle which you will lead twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; it is not for everyone??? ( Crew on many boats will find themselves working numerous hours with limited time off during the season. Off season, however, crew work a more regulated work week, generally with weekends off. Crew are also likely to share a cabin with one or two others, creating a lack of privacy. With long hours worked and limited time off, crew will spend lengthened periods of time with one another without the chance for time away.

Therefore, crew which are generally more relaxed, hospitable and affably natured are more likely to both enjoy and succeed in the yachting industry.

Hours can also be a major grievance for crew. It is not uncommon for crew to work 70 – 100 hour weeks, week on week with limited time off for months at a time. One contributing factor in the genuine happiness of the crew will be the Guests and Owners of the yachts. If Owners and Guests are appreciative and friendly, crew are likely to respond well to this, gaining great job satisfaction from the synergy created. If, on the other hand yacht guests and owners are less then amiable, crew will feel dissatisfied, work less effectively and be inclined to look for employment else where.

Equally, the crews bond with one another, both professional and personal will have a dramatic effect on the running of a yacht, any grievances amplified by the close confines and lack of escape aboard yachts. Working aboard yachts are also less then conducive to building and maintaining relationships. Crew members in a relationship, looking for work together, will often find it far harder to find placement as a couple, compared to as individuals. This lack of romance, or the struggle to keep romances alive causes many to leave the industry.

The happiness of the crew however may be less to do with advantages and disadvantages as one might expect. David Melville of Symphony Team Building looks at the over all happiness aboard yachts and the ???fundamentals of positive psychology??? (The Crew Report, Issue 16/17, Pg 59). In this article he explains that although crew work in an ???exciting and extraordinary environment???, that they should not loose site of the fact that crew are the same as every body else and rely on three similar points that: ???The happiest people: Connect with close friends and family, pursue personal growth and long term relationships, and Judge their own relative success, rather than comparing against others??? (The Crew Report – Issue , Pg 60).

Having analyzed the Yachting Industry closely, we can see that there are many pros and cons. Yachting aboard the right vessel can be a most rewarding career. Both the lifestyle lived and the job progression offered are hugh draws to the industry. An industry where with hard work and motivation crew can forge successful career paths. Wages are appealing and the lure of tips even more so. Also, with many living expenses met by the boat and the possibility of no tax liabilities, crew will find that they have large percentages of their pay untouched by the usual everyday living costs experienced by most. There is the enticement of working with the Rich and Famous, sailing around parts of the world many dream of going and for many starter positions, a work day far from a desk. These positives need to be weighed up against the long hours, limited time off and the lack of personal space and freedom.

To finalize, the industry is growing and even after the somewhat traumatic recession of 2008, things are bouncing back well. Crew within or entering the industry should feel assured that Charters and Yacht Sails have increased substantially since 2008. This shall hopefully assure crew that positions are likely to remain secure for the foreseeable future, with now being a good time to be entering, or remaining, in the industry.

Reference List:

Blue Water Training, Engineering Manning Scales

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Dales, K, 2006, Benefits of Training, The Crew Report, Issue 4, Pg 42 & 44

Dovaston Crew, Career In Yachting Industry – Am Exciting and Unique Life Style Career. Available at:

Luxury Yacht Group

Luxury Yacht Group, Salary Guidlines. Available at:

Meville, D, 2007, How to be Happy (On a Superyacht), The Crew Report, Issue 16/17, Pg 59 – 60

Newcombe, J, 2007, Crew Agreements – Who Needs Them, Issue 15, Pg 70 – 71

Professional Yachtsmens Organisation (PYA), Avaiable at:

Smith, J, 2010, Captain Motor Yacht Northern Light, Crew Agreements

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