Here at Crew Compass, we’re dedicated to helping the yachting industry streamline their hiring process (like our free on-demand yacht crew hiring apps). Whether you’re a professional looking to make a career jump or a recent college graduate in search of adventure, yachting could be a great opportunity for you. Why? With little or no cost of living (no rent, bills or food costs), constant travel, meeting interesting people, enjoying beautiful settings and learning new skills, all while making good money — it seems like a no-brainer. However, I must warn you that it’s not for everyone. Getting started in yachting can seem like a daunting task, but I promise it’s not a huge mystery. We’ll outline a few tips to help you on your way. Let’s get started!

Timing is everything

In an industry revolving around warm waters, you can bet there is seasonality to the hiring process. Most yachts move around in the summer and winter “high seasons” and spend “low seasons” in the fall and spring to make repairs, hire new crew, and provision. Of course there are always exceptions, as each yacht is unique in their specific program. However, generally I would recommend looking for a job during the low seasons of fall and spring.

Location, location, location

Although you can find yachts in any corner of the world, there are two main hiring hubs: Ft. Lauderdale in the US and Antibes in France. Because of the lower cost of living, Florida is a popular choice not only for Americans but for other wannabe-yachties (here’s looking at you South Africans, Australians, English, and more). If you’re serious about looking for work on a yacht, move down to Florida in the spring or fall. March/April are pretty ideal times, but May is also great. Same goes for the fall months of Sep-Nov timeframe = key time to look for jobs.By June/July or Dec/Jan you’ve missed the majority of the yachts, but can still find some that are based locally in Florida.

Money talks

Working on yachts can help you save money very quickly. However, to get started in the industry, it takes some time to find the right yacht job. Until you find your dream job, you have to worry about paying for housing, your STCW course, and other living expenses. As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. You could certainly survive on less, but you should budget about $3,000-$4,000 to feel comfortable. This budget covers the required STCW 95 course (around $900), weekly crew housing ($180-200/week), and food/spending money. In an ideal world, you’ll take your week course and find a job immediately. The reality is that it could potentially take 1-3 months to find the right job depending on your tenacity. To supplement your budget and help your career, you can find “daywork” on yachts. Dayworking is basically mini internships on a boat – everything from washing boats to helping crew detail clean the interior. These pay around $100-$180/day if you’re just starting out, or up to $300/day if you’re very experienced. The rates could vary depending on the job and the length of work. More than money, it helps boost your marine experience on your CV. Land-based jobs unfortunately don’t add a ton of credibility to a yacht newbie unless it includes hospitality experience (restaurants, bars, hotels, etc) or technical skills (engineering, electrical, woodwork, etc). Not to worry, there are great ways to find daywork.

TIP: Download the free Crew Compass JOBS App, and log-in daily to increase your chances of finding work. Captains will be checking available crew and posting jobs so check back often! Although you can get hired any time of day, the majority of hiring takes place between 7-10AM Monday-Friday.

Wait a minute, what’s this about crew housing? It’s basically a dorm for other yachties who need a cheap place to stay. It’s great for networking, and you’ll make some great friends in the process. Most likely, they’ll also be taking the courses with you. This industry is small, and it’s never too early to network! If you’re looking for a place to stay, some popular choices are Cheryl’s Crew House, Neptune Group, and Smart Move.

Get schooled

As mentioned above, STCW 95 is required for anyone working on yachts. It takes a week, and covers everything from fire to water safety. However, if you’re interested in working in the interior crew, you might consider an introductory interior course. These run about $1,000+ for 5 days covering everything from basic cleaning to flowers to silver service. It’s not a requirement, but it could help someone feel more comfortable if you’re new. Most yacht chief stews (heads up the interior team) have their own particular way of doing things, so you can certainly learn on the job and not have to take the course. If you’re interested in taking a course but want to save some money, silver service is probably the most important. Wait, what about the outside of the boat? For anyone interested in working with the exterior crew, there is also a weeklong deck course available. Again, it’s not a requirement but it helps give you an idea of what to expect and help you prepare for your future job aboard a yacht. This covers everything from essential navigation to learning to drive a tender (smaller boat used to shuttle guests to shore). Bottom line, STCW 95 is your only required course. If budget is a concern, stick with that and focus all your energy on getting day work and real experience on a boat.

TIP: Some schools in Ft. Lauderdale to get you started: International Crew Training/Bluewater and MPT. I personally took the course at ICT, which I enjoyed for the fact it was very newbie-friendly and great for networking and meeting other potential yachties. Plus, I loved all the instructors who were thorough, the staff is very patient with all my incessant questions, and the COO takes the time to review your CV if you make an appointment (a great resource). MPT is also very reputable, and lots of more advanced maritime professionals (like captains and mates) take courses there. They have intro classes, but you’ll run into people working in other non-yacht marine careers (oil rigs, merchant marine, etc). If you want to meet more fellow yachties, ICT has a slight edge in my humble opinion.

Next up, I’ll help you construct the perfect yacht CV.

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