Every year many new crew enter the megayacht industry. After one year, only a small percentage remain. Why are so many gone so quickly? The simple answer is expectations. When expectations radically differ from reality, disappointment may ensue.
Crew envision their lives on board a yacht as lavish, traveling to exotic locations and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. After all, you are living on a multimillion-dollar yacht, mere feet away from some of the richest, most famous and powerful people in the world. The yacht is your new home and you will likely travel to exotic locations.
Inexperienced crew have expectations about our industry that have been partially shaped by television and other media outlets depicting life on board, depictions that are often woefully inaccurate, creating unrealistic expectations. These exciting opportunities may turn to bitter disappointment and lost dreams, all avoidable by managing expectations. Those rich and famous will unlikely be engaging you in conversation. It is you who are accountable to keep that lavish vessel spotlessly clean and operational. And you may get some occasional time off in those exotic locales, but don’t count on it.
Your responsibilities are safety and service. As crew, you are tasked at the yacht’s discretion at any time and whenever needed. Your first yacht job will be unlike any experience you have ever had, and will be full of ups and downs. Expect the unexpected; the sooner you accept this, the easier it will be to cope with the lifestyle. Exhausted one day from long hours and exertion, and struggling just to get out of bed, the next may find you drinking sundowners on a beautiful Caribbean beach or sipping red wine and eating pasta al fresco in Italy.
Most crew know after the first year if this is going to be a good career and personal lifestyle choice for them. Whatever happens, prepare for lots of hard work and guaranteed adventure.
New crew will have completed STCW basic safety training and Proficiency in Designated Security Duties, and they will have obtained their ENG1. They likely have put together a good CV with a great picture and ordered a seaman’s discharge book. Well presented and energetic crew will survive the interview process and finally get to move aboard their first megayacht.
Now is the time to really start managing those expectations. Begin by knowing what to expect.
Know the approximate itinerary, and whether the yacht is a heavy charter yacht, only for private use, or a mix. If there is time before the job begins, wise new crew will do some research for things to do on the itinerary, on local history and the average weather during the travels. Most of the time onboard will be spent working, but on either end of a season, crew are often able to do take some time in the area.
Good crew will read about their job duties and how to do them well. They will read some maritime books and ask questions of their teachers at their training center. The more knowledge a new crew member can accumulate, the more interesting everything becomes.
The basis of life onboard is routine: getting up at a certain time, performing required duties, and fulfilling the role for which you were hired. Crew generally dine at the same time each day. If there are no owners or guests onboard, it may be only a five- or six-day work week, depending on whether the yacht is in the shipyard or at dock in a marina.
Itineraries change constantly, so don’t make plans. This can be the best and worst part of the job. Things can get exciting quickly but also frustrating if personal plans have to be cancelled. Also, expect periods of boredom. Learn to entertain yourself. Read, play solitaire, or do non-invasive activities to keep busy. Learn to appreciate the quiet.
Cabins are generally small and new crew likely will share. Make the best of the situation. Pack minimally. The yacht will provide professional and comfortable uniforms. Wear it with pride. Dirty, wrinkled uniforms look horrible. Most yachts do crew laundry and ironing; in fact, new crew are usually the ones doing it as part of assigned duties.
New crew often don’t know if they get sea sick when they first start working in yachts. That’s OK. If it is a problem, take precautions to still be able to function while the yacht moves. Take seasickness pills, use wrist acupressure bands. Do whatever is necessary to get by.
That first job as crew will be both exhausting and exhilarating. Prepare, have a can-do attitude and cheerful disposition, be safe, and manage expectations. Doing so will help keep your career on course.
Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. He is an airline captain and holds a USCG 1600/3000-ton master’s ticket. ICT trains crew for entry-level through 3000 ITC Master licenses, engineering and interior operations. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.