My Yachting Story So Far….

Sooo hi hey hello, remember me? It’s been a while but I’ve finally decided to dust off my keyboard and get back into the whole blogging malarkey. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been spending my last 9 months working on a superyacht so I’ve decided to restart my writing comeback with a post explaining how I got into this crazy world of yachting. I’m planning on writing a separate post detailing more the best steps to take if you’re wanting to follow in my footsteps but I have sooo much to talk about so maybe it’s best to split them up haha!

For those of you who’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you’d know that I spent my final 4 months of 2018 working as an au pair in the South of France. It’s no secret that this area of the world has a massive yachting scene – in fact, over 90% of the worlds superyachts are located in the French Riviera at least once in the year. It was here that my interest in yachts began but I only really became familiar with the idea of working in yachting when I was on my ski season. My chalet manager worked in the mountains during winter and on boats in the summer and I just knew that this was the life I wanted. I’ve said from the start that I’m not ready for a 9-5 office job or lecture rooms at uni. I want to travel and see the world and yachting seemed like a great way to do this while earning some cash at the same time. It didn’t take long for me to become fully fixed on the idea and I quickly booked myself onto some courses for when I finished my ski season. 

The snow began to melt and it was soon time to finish my winter season. I’d only been home for a day before I packed my bags and headed off to take my courses. I’ll do another post about courses and everything at a later date but basically, you are required to take an STCW course and have an ENG1 medical certificate before even thinking about applying for yacht jobs. They cost quite a bit but it’s a necessary requirement (and if you find yourself a job, you’ll earn this money back in no time) The most popular places to take courses are in yachting ‘hubs’ such as Antibes, Palma and Fort Lauderdale but lucky for me, there was a training centre about an hour from home and only a short drive from my grandparents. I spent the next week commuting from their house to the training centre which was the perfect excuse to spend time with them after a crazy few months apart.

Once my courses were completed, I took a few weeks out to catch up with all my friends and family whilst trying to find a yachting job online on websites such as ‘Yotspot’ and ‘Bluewater Yachting’. It soon became clear that, if I really wanted to find a job, then physically being in one of those ‘yachting hubs’ was the only option. Finding work as a so-called ‘greenie’ (get used to this phrase, it’s used a lot in yachting to describe somebody with no prior yachting experience) is not an easy task – competition is fierce and you’ll just have to accept that most boats out there require ‘at least one season’s experience’ (the dreaded phrase which crushed my dreams of lots of job applications) To give yourself the best chance of landing a position onboard, you need to pack your bags and head to one of the ‘yachting hubs’. In summer, the places to be are ‘Antibes’ in France and ‘Palma’ in Mallorca whereas in the winter, you’ll want to base yourself in ‘Fort Lauderdale’ in Florida. The biggest advantage of this is that you’ll be able to start working immediately as you’re already in the area so this makes you a much stronger candidate for employers looking to find someone fast. Another bonus is that it gives you more opportunity to find different ways of looking for work such as dockwalking and networking. Dockwalking is literally as it sounds: you walk along the dock in a marina to all of the boats and try to hand out your CV in the hope that somewhere has a vacancy. It often works, especially for boats looking for an extra helping hand for a couple of days to turn the boat around for an upcoming charter or boss trip. This is known as daywork – where you get temporary work onboard a boat and paid a daily rate. As for networking, it’s pretty much just building up your contacts by meeting people involved in the yachting industry in bars or at events. It’s a very fun way to job hunt (yes, going out for a drink or two is a form of job hunting!!) and it can be a good way to get your name out there or hear of any vacancies through word of mouth directly from crew themselves. Just make sure your name is out there in a positive way and not as someone who boats should avoid!! Other forms of job hunting includes agencies and Facebook pages but I’ll cover that in another post. Basicallyyy, long story short is that you have to physically be in one of the yachting hubs if you’re seriously looking for work as a greenie.

With my lack of success looking for work in the UK, I packed my bags once more and headed out on a flight to the South of France. Luckily, a friend I met on my ski season was also in the area looking for work and already had an apartment he rented from Airbnb where he let me kip on the sofa (a situation which was only meant to be for a couple days before I found myself my own place to stay but ended up lasting until I found a job nearly a month later!) I was also fortunate that I spent a lot of my time living in the South of France the year before so I knew the area very well. This made me super comfortable making my way around and already made me feel more relaxed despite being so many miles away from home. The days which followed consisted of agency meetings, lots and lots of CV changes, constantly refreshing Facebook job pages and emails as well as lots of time at the beach and trying out all the local bars and clubs that Antibes has to offer (well it is networking after all!)

I know that agencies such as ‘Bluewater’ and ‘Yotspot’ are a great way to find work but the problem I kept finding was that they were looking for people with experience. It makes sense really – why would you pay a company to find crew if you could grab a ‘greenie’ from the docks. It became clear that one of my big opportunities of finding a job was to try out the dreaded dockwalking. Even the word itself fills me with fear – there’s just something about walking up to huge superyachts and asking if they have any work which really puts me out of my comfort zone but I knew that I had to at least give it a shot. I found a nearby printing shop and printed out a handful of my newly improved yachting cv’s (they’re quite a bit different to your regular cv with regards to how they’re laid out but I’ll go into more detail about that at a later date) Waking up bright and early, just like the agencies recommend, I set out for the docks in the hope of finding my dream yachting job. I can remember asking one boat (to which I got a pretty negative welcome) and deciding that enough was enough and hitting the beach for the rest of the day. I know that dockwalking can bring some success but to me, it just felt like looking for a needle in a haystack. Well I mean, I didn’t really give it my best shot but, as my mum said when I called her explaining my dockwalk nerves, ‘if you don’t like it then don’t do it’. Instead, my favourite way of looking for work was via Facebook pages such as ‘Antibes Yacht Crew Jobs’ where boats advertise directly for crew and job seekers can upload a photo and brief description about themselves in the hope of boats approaching them with work. I found there were so many opportunities being advertised which was fab but it was also something I could scroll through whilst sat on the beach – winner!! 

It was actually through Facebook that I found my first bit of daywork. I was sat on the beach in Nice when I received a call from a girl working on a boat at the Monaco Grand Prix and looking for a stewardess to help out at an onboard party for the weekend. ‘Yes I’m keen!!’ I exclaimed down the phone whilst sat in my bikini with salty hair. ‘Cool can you start in 2 hours?’ she replied, to which my excitement suddenly turned to a ‘oh gosh, I need to find something to wear!!’ 30 mins from home and dressed in a small play suit and flip flops, I ran around the city of Nice in search of some better attire as well as some dry shampoo and bobby pins to sort myself out in the H&M changing rooms. A few hours later, and I was in the chaos of Monaco and stepping foot for the very first time on a 35m superyacht. The yacht was situated directly on the trackside where race cars were zooming past and crowds of people were overlooking. There was a party of around 90 people coming daily for the weekend to watch the races as well as charter guests staying in the cabins. My job was to serve drinks and bring around canapés to the guests. I’ve worked at tons of weddings in my time so that sort of thing was pretty straight forward to me but there was something about working on a yacht which made things so much more surreal. The fact that we were at the Monaco Grand Prix just added to the excitement and I had to keep pinching myself that this was really happening. The days were long and I was still living in Antibes which was around an hours drive away. I’d finish at past midnight, and then have to get a tender ride back to the other side of Monaco where the car was located as the road was obviously being used as a track. The tender ride was an experience in itself – Monaco marina is PACKED during the Grand Prix and all of the boats are hosting big parties so cruising through all that at night on a small boat was just amazing. A short sleep on the sofa back in Antibes and I was back up early again, ready to start it all again. 3 days later and it was all over – now time to party!! The night the Grand Prix ends, the track opens up and bars and stages open up on them. It’s one big street party and I was lucky enough to be involved! As all good parties should end, we came back to the boat very late and the crew mess floor turned into my bed for the night. That floor was to be my first of many nights sleeping on a yacht – not the most glamorous start to say the least! Nevertheless, I was so lucky to have bagged that daywork – the crew were just amazing and I’ll always remember New Star as where my yachting journey started! 

With my newfound burst of enthusiasm, I returned back to Antibes raring to go. I’d seen lots of people posting a bit about themselves on yachting Facebook pages so I decided to give it a go myself. I’d already taken a headshot for my CV so posted that alongside a short bio about myself. To my delight, I received a few emails from that post asking to send across my CV and even arrange some phone calls. It soon became clear after a few minutes on the phone that these were not boats for me. There are soo many amazing boats out there but there are a couple which you just want to steer clear of – it didn’t take long for me to realise that these fell into the latter category. Unfortunately, some people think that you should be expected to do anything for them since they are paying you and this really isn’t the case. You may be ‘green’ and have no yachting experience so jobs are less easy to come across but that shouldn’t mean you should just take the first thing which comes to you. I was so picky when it came to looking for work and, although it took me a month to find a job when it could have taken me a week, I’m so glad I waited out – you are living on this boat after all! So moral of the story is to trust your gut instincts and that good things come to those who wait (unless you find your dream job straight away, in which case, lucky you!)

I may have got some unwanted enquiries from that Facebook post but I also got a lovely message from a fellow job hunter who asked if I wanted to hang out. We met at the beach and spent the next few weeks exploring what the French Riviera has to offer. She has been in the industry for a few years already so gave me the lowdown on what to go for and what to avoid and even got me some daywork on the boat she’d bagged a job on. One of my favourite bits about yachting is the people you meet and I met some pretty cool people during my time in Antibes! 

The apartment I was staying in was full of a couple of these pretty cool people. My friend from my ski season already had some yachting experience but the other two guys there were both green like me. The living room became a ‘job hunting area’ where we’d be up on our laptops scrolling for the latest vacancy but we also had a lot of fun together at the beach or hitting the bars. I can’t cook to save my life so if I was living alone, I’d be surviving off a diet of plain pasta and ice cream. Luckily, the other people in the apartment were amazing chefs so we quickly came to an agreement that they’d cook and I did the washing up – now I’m happy with that! We became like a little yachting fam and still keep in touch today. In fact, one of the guys is currently on a boat located just next to mine, the opposite side of the Atlantic to where we started! 

It was all a lot of fun, spending my days on the beach and nights in the bars, but I started to feel a bit demoralised as the weeks went by. My money was slowly diminishing and despite my hundreds of applications on Facebook sites and agencies, I wasn’t really getting the responses I’d hoped for. I started to question whether I’d came out a bit too late as a lot of the boats were already crewed up for the season and even considered heading home for the summer and coming out again as the boats recruited for the winter season. It can be a hard slog at the beginning but I promise you, once you’ve managed to bag yourself your first job and nail a season of experience, then you’re well away. Just enjoy your time as much as you can because, I can assure you, you’re gonna be wishing for those days off in the sun once you’ve become attached to a boat!! 

Three weeks had passed and I’d sort of come to a brick wall. I called my mum and explained my situ and, after telling me the obvious ‘dont give up’ speech, she also said that ‘if you’re gonna come back home, you may as well come back with a tan and good memories’. I took those words on board (quite happily) by spending the days chilling out at the beach and, as cliché as it sounds, everything seemed to come together. I managed to get myself daywork on a beautiful 80m boat which one of my friends worked on, aswell as having an offer from a boat which I liked the sound of. I gave that offer a lotttt of thought and kept weighing up the pros and cons – but there was something about it which still didn’t feel right. ‘Becky come on, you’ve been waiting for a month for this and you can’t be that picky since you’re green’. I kept going back and forth but I’m pleased that I turned that one down in the end as 2 days later, I received an email from a yacht manager which I really couldn’t refuse: ‘a brand new 40m SunSeeker yacht currently in the shipyard in the UK – are you available to fly out tomorrow?’ YES, YES I AM!

Fastforward 24 hours and I was waving goodbye to my sofa bed and checking myself into a flight back to London (it seems so ironic that I came all the way out to the south of France in search of my dream boat when it was actually located just a few hours from where I live back in the UK!) My first taste of this new yachting world came when I was picked up from the airport in a new Mercedes fitted with pillows and a snack bar and taken on a three hour drive down to the shipyard – I could get used to this! I arrived late at night and, after a meal with the yacht manager, I met the other stewardess on the boat who gave me a quick tour of the place I was to now call home. Morning soon came and I was ready for my first proper day on the job – and it was gonna be a busy one! The yacht was being used as an example for a potential client looking to buy a SunSeeker so we had to make sure they were all catered to. Once they left, the boat became a bustling workplace yet again as everyone rushed to add the finishing touches before it was to set sail the following week. To add to this, the stewardess who had been showing me the ropes left to go and start work on another boat which left me alone (and it was to stay that way for the next month before the chief stew and other stewardess were recruited) It was a bit daunting at first but I’m so pleased it worked out that way as it really allowed me to pick things up fast and become familiar with the boat before everyone else arrived. 

The following week consisted of familarising myself with the boat, cleaning up after tradesmen and both lunch and dinner out daily (the perks of not yet having a functioning kitchen or chef!) I even managed to sneak in a weekend back home which was lovely to catch up with my family and friends again before being away in the med for the next 4 months. A week after I joined and the boat was finally ready to make her maiden voyage down to Montenegro. It took us 12 days, stopping in 7 different countries and 2 continents but it was a lot of fun and a massive eyeopener into what life at sea would be like (and to my relief, I wasn’t seasick!!)

From then on, the summer was non stop with back to back owners trips and charters but I was loving my new job and making the most of my limited time off by exploring places such as Tivat and Split. I was having the best time and before I knew it, October came around and we were preparing to get the boat onto dock express so that it could cross to America. For those of you who are unsure about dock express, it’s basically a huge boat which holds lots of smaller boats which are unable to cross the Atlantic on their own – the process in which the yachts are loaded is so cool as the big boat sinks a bit underwater so that the smaller boats can sail on and then be strapped in place before the big boat rises and is drained of the water (wow, that was a whole lot of big boats and small boats in one sentence!) It takes about two weeks for the big boat to cross from Genoa in Italy to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, so during this time, I was able to go home and finally catch up with my friends and family. I also needed to make a trip to an American Embassy to pick up my visa for the States; it turned out that the quickest place to get a visa at the time was in Rome so my mum and I packed our bags and made a holiday out of it!

Visa: accepted. Family and friends: seen. Countless amounts of English tea: drank. It was time for me to head to America! We spent around 2 weeks in Miami and 6 weeks in Fort Lauderdale so I managed to explore quite a bit during my 2 months in the US. Christmas was just around the corner when we received a last minute charter for the new year so it was all hands on deck making sure that the boat was ready. The guests wanted to charter around St Barths, Anguilla and Sint Maarten which meant we were off on a 5 day crossing down to the Caribbean! We headed off just before the 25th so I spent my Christmas morning of 2019 waking up in a refuelling dock in the Dominican Republic which was a world away from being woken by my excited little sisters and rushing down to the lounge in our pjs. It was kind of cool though to eat xmas dinner in the middle of the ocean and pass out after in a food coma on the sundeck in a bikini – it was definitely a Christmas day to remember! 

So I guess that brings me to here – sat on the bow of a superyacht in the Caribbean writing an actual essay on how I got here (this post has been longer than expected so congrats if you’ve made it this far) We’ve been located in Sint Maarten since finishing the charter at the beginning of January and will be staying here for the near future. I’ve been doing lots of exploring of the island as well as venturing further afield to see what else the Caribbean has to offer. It’s been a crazy 9 months with quite a few challenges here and there but I have enjoyed every moment and feel so blessed to call this my job. I still have to remind myself every day when we finish work and hit the beach that I’m technically getting paid to be on holiday – it really is not a bad life at all and I am so excited to continue my career in this crazy yachting industry! 

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