Get Paid To Work On A Yacht In The Caribbean, Sail The Ocean, And Play Pirates.
Seriously, you totally can, and I'm going to tell you exactly how.
It's probably something you've heard about, wondered about, or maybe you just saw an episode of "below deck" one time...
But getting a job travelling the world on boats is actually, genuinely within reach and totally doable. Often it's about knowing the right people, but there are ways around that.
There are a lot of ways to work on boats, and I'll cover the ones I know and can help you with here in this post. Fair warning, I will not be covering cruise ships, but that's always an option.
How To Get Jobs On Boats
I've been working on and around boats for a few years (five or six), thanks primarily to my dad, who has been working on and around boats forever. Even now that he has two regular (ish) jobs (I'm not sure if being a Kettle Corn guy is regular), he flies off to do boat deliveries every chance he gets. He just left for Mexico without even telling his mom (or me)!
From freezing October days sailing in Lake Michigan to jumping off the deck of a 100foot yacht in the Caribbean, I have loved (almost) every second of working on and in and with and around boats. Some of the moments I didn't love include driving a busted-ass push boat dinghy, freezing days in September with zero charter trips spent sitting in a ticket shack, and going to work, just, out of this world hungover.
The best part? In the grand scheme of things, even these "bad days" were great days. Here's how to get in on it.
First and foremost, it's a good idea to get your STCW95 and your Eng1. Although they aren't necessary for all of the work listed below, they'll help you move upwards and onwards if you decide that's what you want to do.
The STCW is a week-long course and certification covering the basics of life aboard a vessel. It includes first aid, fire, survival, and the like. Easy peasy. Here's some more info on it. The Eng1 is a very basic medical exam. Unfortunately, there aren't very many places to get it in the U.S. Here's one.
If you're based out of the U.S., head to Fort Lauderdale, North America's "yachting hub". You'll be able to get your STCW, your Eng, crew housing, and jobs there. During the last week in October during the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, there are more yachts than you can imagine and a huge number of them are hiring for the winter season when they'll be heading South.
In general, my best advice is to get your foot in the door somehow (it will be easier if you have the above certs), and work on building connections. All of my jobs have come down to either luck in timing and location or through personal connections and word of mouth.
For general boat work from unpaid stays to paid deliveries I would start with CrewBay.
Types Of Work
(And How To Go About Getting It)
1. Starting Small: Marina Work
It sounds like bottom of the barrel stuff, but I assure you the work is fun and can lead to way more, and way more glamorous jobs. You'll spend your day helping yachts with docking, giving the new slips the code to the boater's bathroom, and walking up and down the docks trying to look busy. You'll get to know people that are really good to know in the boat world and who just might need an extra hand on their upcoming trip to French Polynesia.
How to get in: It's easy. It's usually seasonal. It's generally ok if you're entry level. Apply in the month or months approaching high season wherever you are or want to be. If you can apply in person, great. If not, just make sure you have a kick ass cover letter and don't be afraid to call or e-mail to follow up.
2. Charter Work
Don't worry, climbing everything is not a requirement, it's just fun.
Charter work is always available. It's how I got started! My dad had a sailor friend who hired me to be a crew member on his tall ship in Door County, Wisconsin (a great place to visit, check out my local's guide to visiting here). Charter work is hard work and nothing but fun (I've even had a great time cleaning bilges, believe it or not).
How to get in: Know someone. But if you don't know anyone, start with basic google searches and boat work sites like CrewBay.com. You don't necessarily need your STCW and Eng for charter work. I didn't have any certifications when I got started (it all depends on the position you hold and the boat/company you're working for).
Deliveries are great. More exciting than charters, less commitment than yachts. The thing about deliveries is that, unless you know someone or have an "in", they can be very hard to find and get. They're less often listed on boat hiring sites, and when they are, those people will likely end up hiring people that do have an "in".
How to get in: Get your foot in the door and get to know people, tell them you're available and interested, and work hard to grow your experience and go above and beyond in terms of certifications and stuff. Get your captain's license, learn to work on engines or, be uniquely valuable in some way (I'm always asked to help with boat maintenance because I can climb into small areas).
4. The Big Leagues: Yacht Work
Working on a luxury yacht is generally what most people I talk to about boat work want to do, and I definitely encourage them to pursue it. The boats are spectacular, the trips are amazing, the pay is great, and they're nowhere near as dramatic as "Below Deck" makes them out to be.
How to get in: From stewardess to deckhand to chef and to captain, there is always, always, always work available on yachts. Fancy ones, too. Yacht work is the most official and professional of all, so you will definitely need your STCW95 and Eng1, and if you're international there's even more paperwork. You'll need a CV with a quality photo, and, ideally, at least one relevant letter of recommendation. Then, you'll need to register with crew agencies (unless you already have an in). The agency sites are a pain in the ass to register with, so make sure you have everything on hand from your scanned STCW to your special skills list. If you're in a hub area, visiting the agencies in person is better than going through the websites.
Some network links
In closing, go get a job on a boat!
And don't forget you can always buy your own (don't do it).
If you have any more questions, I'd be happy to go more in-depth and help you out! Shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Have you ever worked on a boat? Would you want to? Or do you have any further advice for those looking to get into it?
Let us know and tell us your stories in the comments below!
As always, thanks for reading, and don't forget to follow the sloth!
This Post Is Linked To Weekend Wanderlust