The crew of a charter yacht is responsible for the navigation and safety on board the vessel once it is hired.
A charter boat (charter yacht) is a vessel which can be hired for the purpose of private travel and private entertainment. The boat can be chartered either with or without a crew (“crewed” or “bareboat”). If the boat is rented bare, those who hire the vessel are expected to crew and navigate it, which suits sailing enthusiasts who are experienced enough to manage their own boat. For a majority of casual “vacation” users though, the most popular option is to hire the boat ready-crewed for a number of days. The crew is responsible for boat preparation, safety on board, navigation, food and entertainment. It is the crew members who make it possible for families unacquainted with sailing to enjoy their sailing holiday on a chartered vessel.
Crewed boats can be hired from many locations around the world, but it is most common to find them in the quiet, picturesque and still waters of tropical holiday destinations. Not only does this provide the best scope for good weather and sightseeing, but these destinations already attract a large number of well-heeled holidaymakers. There is not a reliable published average salary available for UK-based charter boat crew members; those working overseas can expect to earn in the region of £9,000 to £12,000 per season, based on several interviews with professional sailors in the South-east Asia region. It is worth noting that although this salary seems very modest, it affords several months of holiday per year in the off-season period, and the cost of living in this region is much lower than in the USA or Europe.
- Prepare vessel prior to departure and ensure there is enough food, water and supplies
- Plot course and steer boat to customer’s required destination
- Make recommendations on places to visit and best sites in which to anchor
- Manage customer excursions, for example, diving or snorkelling
- Handle difficult sailing conditions and safely sail the boat
- Ensure that health and safety requirements of everyone on board are met
Requirements for a career in the yachting industry are specific to the size of the vessel and the candidate’s role onboard, although typically entrants will require a Yachtmaster Offshore qualification and STCW 95 Basic Safety Training. Sailors who wish to crew a sailboat (as opposed to a motor launch or motor yacht) will be expected to demonstrate a good level of sailing ability as the teamwork of the crew is essential for progress of the vessel. It is a complicated art which takes a long time to master.
- Possess a good understanding of the basic physics of sailing, in the case of sailboats
- Understand weather and tide conditions in the local sailing area
- Have a good knowledge of local sites, locations and visitor attractions
- Be prepared to get dirty hands when engines fail and need attention, in the case of launches
- Be attentive to the demands and requirements of guests at all times
- Be a strong communicator, and be able to say ‘no’ when appropriate
- Knowledge of first aid, evacuation and emergency procedures
- Good all-round understanding of health and safety and duty of care to the customer
- Empathy towards the environment within which one is sailing
Depending on the geographical area being sailed, this could encompass anything from the calm, crystal waters in the Gulf of Thailand to the cold and challenging conditions of the North Sea for boats chartered off Scandinavian coastlines. Boats will sail with chartering customers of various skill levels: hobbyist sailors might be seeking boating thrills, giving a totally different challenge to crews than would families looking to relax and enjoy tropical islands in peace and tranquillity.
The deck of a charter boat is a highly hazardous area for a huge number of reasons, regardless of weather. The subject of sailing deck management is too complex to cover in detail here, but entry level candidates should ensure that they invest time and money in their own sailing development before choosing to embark on this as a career.
Potential employers may offer training, but it is unlikely to equip a new candidate fully unless the training is conducted to the standards of the ITY (the International Yachtmaster Training organisation). Be wary of charter companies who are so desperate for crew that they will take untrained candidates; these organisations are usually not professional (and unaccredited) leading to a potentially hazardous situation. Common sense is advised when approaching prospective employers with regards the size, reputation and professionalism of the company.
This is a job that can literally transport the candidate around the globe. Starting in the lower-ranked deckhand position, the crew member could progress to becoming helmsman or main sail, or even skipper of their own craft given enough experience. Some make money in the off-season by joining competitive racing crews competing in international regattas, high-profile sailing events where experienced crews are sought every year to battle against other international entries. China in particular is currently enjoying a new interest in recreational and competitive sailing, and the growth of the economy in China is spurring much activity in the boat-buying, crewed charter and crewed racing markets, all of which are potential avenues for sailors looking to develop their careers.
The recreational charter sailing industry is truly a global entity. In this respect, there are no major regional employers as such. Most companies are small and own one or two boats which are sailed constantly during season, and rehabilitated, serviced and repaired during the off-season.
Also known as…
- Yacht crew
- Cabin Crew
What’s it really like?
Captain Chris Jakubowski is a senior crew member for Gulf Charters Thailand, a successful boat charter company operating in South-east Asia.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
If you have a love of boats and the ocean then a career in yachting means you are able to earn a living doing something that you love. That was my main reason for getting into this.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
A career onboard is filled with variety. Although there are regular tasks to perform such as maintenance, cleaning, boat preparations, etc, the nature of the sea makes every day interesting and different. The yacht can travel to a variety of different and stunning locations and you regularly meet new and interesting people. Whilst out on charter, yacht crew will be serving the guests, driving the tender, trimming the sails and completing a variety of other task. While in port, the main tasks are maintenance, repairs and preparations.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
Again, the job is filled with such variety that it is difficult to identify the most common problem you may encounter. It could be anything from a broken outboard to a torn sail, seasick guest, adverse weather conditions, technical or mechanical failures or any of a hundred other challenges.
What do you like most about the job?
Being around boats and on the sea; the challenges the work presents and the variety of people and places all make the job very satisfying.
What do you like least about the job?
Crew members on larger yachts will spend a lot of time cleaning the vessel. Long periods can be spent on duty away from friends and family.
What are the key responsibilities?
Care of the vessel and the guests and anything that might involve. As Captain, you are ultimately responsible for the lives of the crew and safety of the vessel.
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
The salary is related to the size and location of the vessel and your role onboard. Your level of qualification and experience also affects your earning potential.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
You will need exceptional training backed up with experience; that is extremely important.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
Seamanship, strong work ethic, personality, being a team player; also, a sense of safety and professionalism.
Any closing questions, comments or additional advice?
A life onboard is not for everyone. It can be very demanding. It takes training, time and experience to get into the industry and even more so to climb the career ladder. However, for those with the right qualities, ambition and appreciation of ships and the sea it can afford a long, exciting and satisfying career.