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Setting the table for a career on land

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Yacht crew have specialized skills that they can transfer to careers on land. So to offer more job options to crew, American Yacht Institute in Ft. Lauderdale has teamed with an estate management company to train those considering a shift to land.

“It’s a perfect pairing,” said Kim Cassford, CEO of Cassford Management, who plans to begin teaching the first of her estate courses at AYI this month. “The move from yachts to estates is a natural transition.”

Cassford’s luxury estate and hospitality consultancy business offers training and staff for high-end household and property management positions. Its clientele is primarily high net-worth families that include entertainers and sports professionals, much like the make-up of yacht owners.

“If you work on a yacht, your skills can translate to anything on land,” said Kristen Cavallini-Soothill, director of AYI.

Crew may want to explore careers in estate management for several reasons. Many long-time crew seek a change of pace, more consistency, the opportunity to hone finer points of their service career, or they may want a lifestyle change to start a family or to simply stop traveling and settle down, Cavallini-Soothill said.

Estate management uses yacht knowledge, with a twist, to cover areas familiar to yachties, Cassford said. Crew will recognize the skills they use including professional etiquette and social skills, table and party service, bartending, security, confidentiality and privacy issues, interior and exterior detailing, emergency procedures, safety equipment, international customs and protocol, dietary restrictions and food handling.

Cassford Management’s courses tailor such knowledge to the land-based environment. Previously a stew on a sailing yacht, Cassford was trained as a chef and then looked for an onboard cook/chef position about 11 years ago. Not finding yacht work, she found a land-based job instead.

“After that, we saw a need in the market for household staff and started this business in 2002,” she said.

In this tighter economy, many employees are expected to have more skills. Although some yacht owners use their yachts less frequently, they still maintain a home. And if they hire staff who have worked on yachts, owners serve both uses with one person.

“People will always be in their homes, even when they are not using their yachts,” Cavallini-Soothill said.

For at least one former yacht crew, the move ashore was easier than he thought.

“When I explain what I do, I tell crew it is almost exactly the same, except on a yacht you are usually entertaining guests. People are on vacation and you have to keep that 24/7 entertainer smile,” said Matthew Green, who now instructs for AYI and serves as a gentleman’s gentleman for estates. “On land, it is generally easier and more day-to-day.”

With yacht crew trained as stewards, Cassford has found the skills translate to positions such as maid and butler. Interior positions such as chief stew can transition to household or estate manager. Deckhands can move into a diverse set of jobs ranging from driver, exterior positions, groundskeeper and manager. Many land-based positions are available for couples, she said.

“Their skills are transferable with some training, and in regard to salary, they can make on par – the same, if not more – working as estate staff,” said Cassford, who currently has several land-based positions to fill.

“I would really like to see these positions filled by yacht crew.”

Dorie Cox is a staff reporter with The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

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