Working on Superyachts: Our Guide to Getting Paid and Traveling the World

Danielle Berclouw

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Throughout mten years as a superyacht stewardess, people have been intrigued by the job and what they imagine it entails. Admittedly, I have worked for celebrities and visited places I doubt I would’ve seen if it weren’t for the job. However, being repeatedly woken by the steward’s buzzer and requests to “make the engines less noisy” is infuriating, even when it’s at the behest of one of the world’s most famous drummers. And guess what? A visit to Mustique is a lot less paradisiacal when you have to spend your one hour ashore frantically trying to find a blind masseuse and a case of vintage rosé.

As a seasoned yachtie, I can tell you all about the pros and cons of this much-lusted over job. Read on and find out if a life below decks could be the life for you. 

You’ll earn the kind of cash that can buy you a house

Become a yachtie and you’ll see a fat paycheck and your bank balance balloon as you start to earn the big bucks. We’re talking average monthly salaries starting around 3,000 Euro. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, keep in mind that you’ll have all of your expenses (everything from toothpaste to health insurance) conveniently paid for by the yacht’s owner. Smart sailors know that savings can quickly add up, especially when they are supplemented by generous charter tips. Hello down payment on a little white house by the sea! 

Pro tip:Many yachties get a bit carried away with being able to drop 150€ on a rosé lunch without flinching. I did, and the fact that I now own a ridiculous amount of unwearable shoes doesn’t make up for it. While it’s ok to occasionally revel in having an abundance of cash to spend on whatever you like, you’ll regret it if you don’t see your salary as an opportunity to invest in your future. 

You’ll see some of the most stunning and remote corners of the world

While the well-trodden Mediterranean-in-summer-and-Caribbean-in-winter circuit is nothing to be sniffed at, you could also hit the jackpot with a more adventurous owner. Imagine setting sail for a round-the-world trip, experiencing the lagoon-like waters and balmy trade-winds of the Pacific and/or exploring the Antarctic’s remote, white wilderness? Become a yachtie and these dreamlands can become your next port of call.

Personal faves: If you’re lucky like me, you’ll get to sail to the awe-inspiring Galápagos islands where you’ll experience close encounters with sea turtles, sea lions, and rays. Or, you’ll visit the incredible Marlborough Sounds and soak up cinematic colours, not to mention the chance to taste green-lipped mussels, washed down with that celebrated Kiwi wine: the Sauvignon Blanc.

You’ll laugh your butt off with newfound friends

There’s usually a tremendous sense of camaraderie on board a superyacht. The shared ‘pains’ of living the yachtie life acts as a kind of social glue and will no doubt result in friendships that you’ll cherish forever, not to mention places to crash in all corners of the globe.

Personal faves:I’m still regularly in touch with many of the funny, interesting, and lovely people that I worked with eons ago. In fact, it’s a whopping twelve years since I crossed paths with the Italian deckhand with a mop of blonde curls and wicked sense of humour that I still hang with. We’ll be celebrating our 11th anniversary later this year.

You’ll entertain your mates back home with stories that will blow their minds

A season on the sea will give you enough stories to entertain your mates back home for the next two years. My first season’s stories range from the sensational (a famous rapper handing me 500 USD for packing his suitcase in under a minute) to the distressing (days of rough seas and being violently ill in the Bay of Biscay). And from the hilarious (getting my butt stuck in a porthole while sneaking back onboard after curfew) to the totally brag-worthy ones (chats with Jamiroquay on a private Jamaican beach).

You’ll soak up epic sunsets and spot amazing wildlife all the time

The most dramatic seascapes, the illustrious green flash, pods of dolphins, and seas alight with phosphorescence are just a few of the wondrous sights that’ll become part of your everyday life. When sailing conditions are sweet and you’re bantering away with fellow crew while helming one of the world’s most beautiful sailing boats, it’s easy to think that this is the best job in the world.

Pro tip: While it’s tempting to drag your feet and whine as you get hauled out of bed in the dead of night, try your best to stay stay present. Looking back, it’s during those 4-8am watch shifts that I witnessed the most vivid sunrises, saw the most incredible marine life, and had the best conversations with fellow crew.

You’ll feel as though you’re stuck in a BBC drama

Those weeks (or months) when you have charter guests (or the boss) offer plenty of moments that are less than ideal. To be honest, waking up early to serve breakfast and working a 16-18 hour day is nothing out of the ordinary. While some guests show genuine appreciation, others might call you ‘the girl’ and talk to you like a duchess might to a servant in a BBC costume drama. And you? That’s right, you have your hands behind your back and you smile.

Pro tip: Whether you’re dealing with an owner with more money than manners, a toffee-nosed guest, or an inconsiderate lump whose offensiveness is unintentional, don’t take it personally— it’s their problem, not yours.

You’ll find ironing someone else’s undies to be positively unglamorous

The work mostly consists of detailing and, believe you me, there’s nothing glamorous about that. Mopping up blood juice from the broken meat freezer is something no one aspires doing. Nor is folding little fans from the ends of toilet paper, dusting behind never opened books, or ironing the captain’s Calvin Kleins. In fact, many tasks you’ll be asked to do will make no sense at all. Guess what? You’ll be doing them anyway.

Pro tip: Questioning whether certain tasks are necessary or suggesting a different way of doing things hardly ever goes down well. Almost comparable to being in the merchant navy, you’ll need to respect the chain of command. Simply keep your cool and do as you’re asked and you’ll have very little to worry about.

You won’t make it to your best friend’s wedding

A random rich person (the yacht’s owner, aka, your boss) is now in control of your time, how much you sleep, your general whereabouts, and pretty much everything else that’s going on in your life. Your best friend’s wedding? Christmas with your family? Chances are you won’t be able to make it to either one. Even if there’s nothing scheduled to happen at the time you want to be away, you can be guaranteed that a last minute charter or broker’s viewing will arise and ruin your plans spectacularly.

Say goodbye to privacy and alone time

You’ll be sharing everything and ‘alone’ time will be a thing of the past. What’s more, you’re stuck on a boat with the same people all the time. Most of them are probably people you wouldn’t choose to hang out with and some will have habits that are downright disturbing. When you’re tired, grumpy, and fed-up with having to step over your roomie’s dirty knickers, you’ll start to sweat the small stuff and, occasionally, will feel the urge to strangle somebody. However, you won’t be able to ‘walk it off’ or talk to your mates about it over a beer in the pub.

Pro tip: Although onboard politics are a fact of yachtie-life, don’t join the drama club. Listen and offer advice when appropriate, but avoid getting sucked into someone else’s saga and/or spreading gossip. Oh, and a note on the latter: wherever you are on a yacht, there will always be someone that can overhear your conversation, no matter how far away from the others you think you may be. 

There’s no escaping the industry’s ‘golden handcuffs’

Those fat stacks I mentioned as one of the pros? Well, the downside is that it’s easy to become dependent on the income the industry can offer. In fact, many yachties end up feeling trapped within a lifestyle that they themselves have subconsciously created. 

Pro tip: Think about the future before you make investments that could ‘imprison’ you. If you don’t, you may one day find that you can’t afford to leave a job that you stopped enjoying a while ago.

Still up for this? Here’s how to go about it:

Step 1: Complete an STCW Basic Training Course. This is required if you dream of being able to work on a commercially registered yacht. Aside from classroom days, this five-day course includes a lot of fun stuff, such as clambering into life rafts and putting out fires the size of a house.

Step 2: Get ready to yachtifie your CV (make sure to mention hospitality work or other relevant experience such as massage or beautician skills) and head to a super yacht hub such as Palma de Mallorca, Antibes, or Ft. Lauderdale.

Step 3: Finally, you’ll need to sign up with one of the yacht crew agencies and keep checking social media pages such as Palma Yacht Crew; the latter posts jobs and day work positions regularly.

A last word of advice:

Yacht sailing

Before you start booking flights and selling your furniture, I have one more piece of advice to share. One of the reasons I kept returning to work on boats is that I couldn’t seem to adjust to a ‘normal’ life ashore. Whenever I’d leave a job, I’d get itchy feet and crave adventure and the only way I knew how to get that (with a good salary) was in yachting.

So, if you still find yourself down yachting’s rabbit hole five or ten years from now, don’t say I didn’t warn y’all! But hey, if that rabbit hole includes ticking off a huge chunk of your travel bucket list and making lifelong friends, you’ll have zero regrets.

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