How Do You Crew a Yacht as a Volunteer?
Multiple online platforms provide listings of yacht owners seeking help from the international community of enthusiasts. Such yacht crew search engines allow anyone to see available positions and requirements for this volunteering experience and choose those that suit one best.
Being a skipper on a boat is a fun alternative to mundane modes of travel that provides a number of advantages in addition to an unforgettable experience. Most people who are interested in sailing are looking to build up experience and sailing miles, join racing yacht crews, find a professional sailing job or get the necessary skills. Before you delve into this new topic of yachting, you may want to consider your job options and find out more about available positions.
Who Is Who on a Yacht?
If sailing is not your primary occupation, you may not be familiar with all the job descriptions you can look into when it comes to crewing a yacht. And it’s not surprising since for the most part only a captain and a skipper come to mind when we think about yachts and ships. But there is more to this path untraveled. Here are a few basic positions available on most yachts with the captain being the top of the hierarchy.
Captain or skipper is the head of the yacht who communicates directly with the guests and owners of the ship. Chief Engineer is responsible for maintaining all mechanical and electrical parts on the yacht. Chief Steward is in charge of the yacht’s ad hoc tasks including laundry, service and interior. They ensure that all the guests receive the top-notch service. Moving on, chef feeds the entire population of the yacht while sailing including guests and the crew. There may be one chef, however, when it comes to deck maintenance, there can be a bosun and a deckhand responsible for daily cleaning. The bosun is a more skilled deckhand with a few seasons worth of experience. If this list is not extensive enough, you may familiarize yourself with more positions available on bigger yachts.
Now that you’re familiar with the most important vocabulary, let’s have a look at some of the websites that provide listing services both for yacht owners and job seekers.
Crewseekers was launched in 1990 and is the original yacht crew introduction agency. They offer crewing positions with private sailors, delivery companies, sail training organisations, charter companies, sailing charities, racing groups and commercial sailing operators. A 12-month single membership costs £99 and allows to make direct contact with skippers, receive discounted training and clothing, and access amateur and professional sailing opportunities.
This platform allows skippers to find their crew and amateurs and professionals to look for yacht jobs. All jobs are manually checked and approved by the organization. The website also gives advice on training required for certain positions and provides information about available courses. Registration is free for users seeking job opportunities.
This website offers a variety of volunteering opportunities in more than 120 countries and thousands of untrivial locations. In addition to jobs in hostels, on eco-farms and in homes, there are plenty of yachting positions like this one or this one. The single traveler yearly membership costs EUR 39 and allows to find travel buddies, search for nearby hosts and get advice from a Workaway team member.
Depending on the opportunity you find on one of the websites, you may be asked to contribute to the daily onboard expenses or avoid the maintenance fee all together. Similarly, some listings may offer you to get paid for your travel expenses or receive a fee for your work.
Although the search websites take great care in conducting checks on the listings, this may not give a 100% in terms of safety and the overall condition of the vessel. In order to be on the safe side, consider the following tips before setting off for an adventure.
- Skype with the skipper to ensure that you and they match personal traits-wise. You will be spending all the time under their supervision, therefore, you need to trust your gut feeling and the impression you get after checking the waters via a call.
- Always let a friend or a relative ashore in order to check in on your location and overall well-being.
- Learn how to use VHF Radio/Flares in an emergency situation. Additionally, bring a torch and a zipbag for your phone. In case of an emergency you can use the torch to signal SOS by producing three short, two long, and three short flashes repeatedly.
- Obtain written confirmation of any work arrangements in terms they are required for the visa application. Also, check your legal responsibilities and rights as a member of the crew in the country of your destination.
Once you find a position and a listing that matches your expectations, it’s time to consider taking courses in order to be ready for the trip. The two main types of courses that are required to work abroad are the yacht interior training for stews and STWC basic training which we will cover below.
Yacht Interior Training
This is a typical five-day course for the stewards who are responsible all the small tasks around the yacht, e.g. laundry, hospitality, etc. The skills learnt on this course come in extremely handy especially if you are considering working on a luxurious yacht also known as a superyacht. Some of the topics covered include flag state registration, chain of command, guest arrival, food service theory, bartending, cleaning with or without guests on board, and even flower arrangement practice.
STCW training stands for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping. This course is an internationally recognized course that ensures the crew members adhere to one standard. Anyone who would like to work on a commercial vessel that is over 24 meters long should obtain STCW qualifications before they apply for a job. The four basic courses that are a part of this training are personal safety, basic fire prevention, personal survival techniques, and elementary first aid.
Keep in mind that when it comes to amateur sailing, these are the opportunities for leisure sailors. Professional sailing, on the other hand, involves paid employment opportunities thus higher criteria and selection progress.
Books on Sailing
Whether you’re choosing to go on a yacht as a volunteer or as a paid member of the crew, consider investing time into reading the following books. These books will provide you with a clear overview of modern gear, security, different types of cruising, principles, guidelines and methods to always find a way out of a pickle.
With some extensive preparation, catching upon reading, finding the right listing, and heading off to the voyage, joining a yacht crew as a volunteer or as an employee can become a new source of adrenaline and possibly a potential career.
Photos: Shutterstock / Edited by: Martina Advaney
Check out more volunteering opportunities here.