One of the many ways to get started in yachting is to find daywork through “dock walking”, which is literally walking the docks and going from yacht to yacht with your CV in hand to get hired. It might sound crazy that in today’s world, people can still find jobs by essentially going door to door…but it works! Even if you’ll hear veteran yachties swear that they “never dock walked”, when you’re new to an industry that’s increasingly competitive, you need to do everything to hustle and get more yachting experience on your CV. It’s a right of passage for a lot of new yachties, and it’s not as scary as you think. Below we share the top 5 dock walking tips for yacht crew:
Dock walking Tip #1: Know before you go
Before you start hitting the docks, be sure you’re legally allowed to dock walk. Especially in Florida, if foreigners are caught dock walking by immigration agents, you could face deportation and be barred from entering the country for several years. Don’t take the risk if you’re not legally allowed to be looking for work. If you’re in the EU zone, be sure you read up on the provisions of your specific visa and know your risk. Some foreign yacht crew dock walk successfully anyway, but know that the risks are harsh and severe so take caution.
Dock walking Tip #2: Where to dock walk
You obviously want to be dock walking where all the yachts are docked. We recommend checking on Marine Traffic, and searching by location. See where the bulk of yachts are docked (most likely a marina), or shipyards, but many can be docked in a residential area (like the New River for Fort Lauderdale). Marinas and shipyards often have security, so you’ll have to get creative about getting in. Security has become more strict, so it helps knowing someone on the inside or currently on a yacht or looking up a name of a yacht already in a marina and dropping the name. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot. Try to dock walk at least the top 1-3 largest marinas as well as one “wild card” place like a shipyard, residential area, or smaller marina. In Fort Lauderdale, Bahia Mar, Pier 66, and Hall of Fame are the top marinas to check out but smaller marinas are Marina Bay Marina (gated) or Lauderdale Yacht Club is also worth a visit. Shipyards in Fort Lauderdale (if you can get in) are LMC (Lauderdale marine center), Derecktor Shipyards, Dania Cut, Bradford Marina, Universal Shipyard, Rolly Shipyard and more.
Dock walking Tip #3: Come prepared
Think of dock walking like a walk-in interview. You have to look the part, be presentable, and come prepared! Wear a nice polo, shorts/skort and dock shoes. As long as you look well-dressed and conservative, you don’t HAVE to always wear a white polo and shorts, but don’t go too crazy in the fashion department. Remember to pack a bag with a change of clothes if you get hired for daywork on the spot (tshirt and shorts you don’t mind getting dirty, as daywork can be messy), a bottle of water, printed CVs (at least 10-20 copies, depending on how many yachts you want to hit up) and business cards (optional but nice to have).
Also, timing is important! Be prepared to come early in the day (between 7-8am), as most crew will be asleep before then. If you’re looking to score some daywork the same day, it’s better to be there before the start of their workday. Another option is to go during the 2nd half of the day, as crew are winding down between 4-6pm in case they need dayworkers for the following day.
Dock walking Tip #4: Approaching a yacht
Once you get to a marina or shipyard, it’s normal to feel nervous or scared but don’t worry! Breathe, we’ve all been there before so be confident! We recommend starting from one end of the marina and working your way through the marina, or start at the largest yacht, and work your way down in size, but it’s completely up to you!
PRO TIP: Although it’s nice to have the support of a friend there, approaching a yacht as an individual comes across more confident than someone who dockwalks with a friend. Unless you’re a couple who wants to be hired together, approach a yacht on your own.
When you walk up to a yacht, have your CV already out. Usually, there is a boarding ladder, but DO NOT board the yacht without permission. This is a HUGE no no. Some boarding ladders have a call button or a basket to leave your CVs. I know it’s tempting to just drop your CV and run, but it’s always more effective to get the attention of anyone on deck or use the call button to get someone’s attention. Usually, the deck crew should be starting work outside between 8-9am, and try to get one of their attention if you can. When they come down to the dock/boarding ladder to talk to you, introduce yourself and be friendly – smile! It’s good to try to meet directly with the one doing the hiring for the particular department, so exterior crew should ask to chat with the mate or captain and interior crew should ask to chat with the chief stew. Ask if they’re looking for any daywork or help today or in the next few days. If they say no, ask if you can still leave your CV with them in case they ever need help. Thank them again, and then move to the next yacht…repeat!
If you’re hired on the spot and invited on, be sure to REMOVE YOUR SHOES before stepping on. Ask to change into your working clothes (the tshirt and shorts you don’t mind getting dirty), and you’re on your way to working/learning your way around a yacht!
Dock walking Tip #5: Persistence!
So you got through your first dock walking experience, whew! Now what? Would you be surprised if I told you that you gotta go back out there and do it all over again? There are so many yachts, marinas, shipyards, and docks…you’re bound to find work somewhere! Make a list of all the places you want to dock walk, and split it up so you hit 1-3 marinas every day and then move on to a different set on a different day. Your best chance of finding daywork is usually Mon-Wed, but there are always opportunities any day of the week so STAY PERSISTENT!
Hope this post was helpful for all new crew! Tell us, have you tried dock walking yet?