I am writing this post as I make my way to join my new yacht (currently on the train, second leg of the five-part journey). I am getting a few strange looks as I drag my luggage behind me. As a ‘fun sized’ girl standing just 5 foot short my luggage is almost as tall as me, thankfully wider than me and weighing in at two-thirds of my bodyweight. It’s pretty tricky but I’m used to it these days. As hard as I try (and wish I could), I just can’t pack light!
My new career – and yes however enjoyable it is, it is a career – began this time last year as I packed up and headed off to Antibes, South of France. Antibes is one of two Mediterranean Superyacht hubs (Palma being the other). In Antibes you will find plenty of crew agents who help you to tweak your CV, perfect your ‘yachtie look’ and (fingers crossed) help you to find a job. You will also find a limited number of crew houses (hostels for yachties) and plenty of competition in the form of other crew looking for work. As a newbie/greenie your qualifications and relevant experience can place you above the competition. Prior to heading out to Antibes I undertook courses at the UK Sailing Academy including; the compulsory ‘STCW 95’ safety standards qualification, my Powerboat Level 2 qualification to allow me to drive the tender (why should the boys get all the fun in the sun?!) and an ‘Essential Marine Hospitality’ course preparing me for my stewie duties. As far as ‘relevant’ experience goes I found my corporate hospitality and part-time waitressing roles pushing their way to the top of my CV whilst my degree sank to the bottom of the second page – a concept I found hard to understand at first but that’s just the way it goes. Without being able to explain why, I do understand the irrelevance of my degree back then but personally I know it will help me as I climb the career ladder – the demands on a Chief Stew can be mentally challenging and I look forward to that day.
In order to find my first job I had to undertake the ‘dreaded dockwalk’ as I like to call it. My tired little feet pounded the ports of Antibes, Cannes (old port and new), Nice, Monaco (x3 ports), Juan les Pins, repeat, etc., etc. handing out my CV to anyone who would take it. Although I am an outgoing girl, I didn’t like the thought of it to start with but I got used to it over time and my poor little feet had a taste of what it’s like to be a stew running around all day. After two and a half weeks I was thinking of looking further afield in the ports of Italy when I received a phone call from a Captain in Cannes who had received my CV that morning. I had an interview the same night and joined the boat the very next day. I had given the boat my CV the previous week but they didn’t want a stew then, they needed one NOW. It’s a very fast acting industry so an affinity to spontaneity is useful. Finding a position on a superyacht is without doubt a ‘right place, right time’ situation but you can certainly help to get yourself into potential ‘right places’ and my best advice is that perseverance is the key!
As a newbie I recommend that (whilst being sensible) take whatever experience you can get. Over time I have learnt that I prefer working on bigger yachts but you can’t be too picky to start with. I did land one position last year that seemed perfect on paper but in reality, wasn’t right for me. Don’t jump ship too easily as longevity is a highly valuable asset to your CV; I gave the boat 3 months but am glad I made the right decision to leave – don’t be scared to. As a learning experience I gained knowledge of the right questions to ask at interview including contracts and longevity of crew. Work was scarce at that time of the season so I took the opportunity to complete NVQ Level 3 massage courses to boost my CV. Having gained a years’ worth of experience, I have managed to secure my next position via e-mails with the Captain and Chief Stew and I cannot wait to join!
By my next post I will be settled in to crew life – so excited!