How to Work on a Yacht and Travel the World
Have you ever thought about getting paid to sail around the world? That’s exactly what happens when you find work on a yacht. I’ve made it my mission to help people find ways to work AND travel full time, like teaching abroad or starting a digital marketing agency. Now, I’m gonna break down exactly how to find work on a yacht. I talked to my friend Jack who’s been in the industry for three years, and he gave me all the insider info you need to know to find a job on a yacht.
Jack has had years of experience sailing, so he works onboard a super yacht as a First Mate. However, if you’re reading this you probably (like me!) have zero experience working on boats. So, I’m going to focus this article on the lower level jobs available: the stewards, stewardesses, and deck hands.
Basically, a stewardess works inside and cooks, cleans, serves the guests, etc. A deck hand does the maintenance, repair, and physical labor type jobs. Both of these jobs can be filled by people with one certification and zero experience.
Ready to get a job? Here are the basic stats you need to know…
Average Income: $2,500/month and up
Free Housing/Utilities: Yes
Tax Free: No
Healthcare: If you’re crewed on an American boat, healthcare will be provided. On international boats, probably not.
Free Flights: No, a boat is not going to fly you to them (unless you’re very experienced.) It’s better to go to the ports to find a job.
Certifications: You need the SCTW certification. The bad news is this certification requires passing a week long $900 class in Ft. Lauderdale. The good news is that afterwards you can job hunt on Ft. Lauderdale’s ports.
Contract Length: Contracted jobs for the stewardess/deck hand positions can be seasonal, so if you just want to jump aboard for a yacht’s trip around Europe or the Caribbean for a few months, it’s definitely possible.
Where to get a job: Jack says the best chance you have is to go to a yacht hub and walk around the port, handing out your resume and asking for work. Popular places to find work include Fort Lauderdale, Monaco, Malta, the French Riviera, and anywhere in the Caribbean. You can also check out these job sites that I know absolutely nothing about the validity of but seem to have a lot of available positions:
Ok, let’s start with a finance breakdown. How much will you get paid, and how much can you save?
Deck hands and stewardesses get around $2,500 per month (or more) and should not accept less than that. First Mates with experience get payed around $6,000 a month and Captains around $12,000… so, if you work your way up the ladder it’s definitely a lucrative career. If you work on a chartered yacht, the salary will be lower but you also have the chance to make bank with large tips. As a whole though, working on a boat with one owner provides more predictable and steady income and work.
The best part about this job is that you will have zero expenses. There are no bills to pay because you live full time on the yacht. Jack says it’s usually a small room shared with one other person. The living spaces can feel a bit cramped but they’re also free soo… not bad!
However, this does mean that your yacht coworkers really become your family. You live together, you work together, and you really can’t escape each other. If you’re prone to drama or need a lot of personal space, this may not be the ideal living situation for you. But if you want to save lots o’ cash, it definitely is.
How to Get Work on a Yacht
Like stated above, the best way to get a job is to travel to one of the yacht hubs and physically hand out your resume and look for work on the docks there, old school style.
It goes without saying that if you’d like a job in the Caribbean, you need to look for work in the Caribbean, and if you want a job in Europe, hit the European hubs. Interestingly, American boats have to be crewed by Americans… so if you’re American, your best bet for a job is in Ft. Lauderdale, and if you’re foreign you may not want to head to the states to look for work on a yacht, because it will be much harder to find.
If you’re just starting out you will work a labor job like a deck hand or a service job like a stewardess. However, there are also jobs on boats for many different specialties. Chefs, nurses, and dive masters are all in high demand. If you have your certifications and experience in these fields, getting work on a yacht could be an awesome escape and way to travel and work for a year or two.
What if you have no experience? Well, you will at least need the SCTW certification which does qualify you to work on any boats. But we all know it’s not that easy.
One great way to get some experience on your resume is by doing “boat delivery.” Basically, this is exactly what it sounds like. You work on a boat for free, and move it from one place to another. You don’t get paid, but the yacht owner covers all your food and expenses, and will fly you home once the boat is delivered to its location. For example, you can help sail a boat from New York to Florida, spend a few days down there for free, then get flown home on the owners dime. It’s not ideal, but it’s a good way to pad your resume with boating experience.
Now for the most important question… how much travel can you do while working on a yacht?! Based on Jack’s experience, the answer is a lot. In the past three years he has been to all of the Caribbean, a dozen European countries, South Africa, the US, South America and more… all for free on the yacht.
If you land a job to work on a yacht, you will work 5 days a week just like any other 9 to 5 gig. Guests on the yacht always come first, but for the most part you will have two days off, even if it is irregular or a weekday. Those days off can be spent exploring the city your boat is ported in, and spending some of your hard earned cash.
When it comes to vacation days and time off, that’s a bit more irregular. Low level yacht crew typically earn two days of vacation per month working. Jack emphasizes, though, that the boat owns you. The schedule is irregular and you have no control over it, and taking these days off isn’t very easy.
The longer you spend working on one yacht and the more experience you have, the more vacation you will get. Jack hasn’t taken any vacation days in the first 10 months of 2017, but he’s scheduled to have November and December completely off (and completely paid!) These kind of long breaks are perfect for travel, and during his breaks in the past Jack has been able to see the world on the yacht’s dime.
Is getting work on a yacht right for you? This could be a perfect job if you enjoy sailing, and prefer the opportunity to travel over owning material goods. Jack says this job is best for people who already enjoy being on the water or have sailing experience, but that anyone can do it. The biggest con is definitely giving up personal space, privacy, and control over your life.
But the pros outweigh the cons for him. As a first mate, he’s making more money than he ever would working with his college degree, and is saving to go to law school debt free. He says this isn’t the career path he wants to follow forever, but if you start out low level and enjoy it, there is a lot of room to grow. Yacht owners often provide learning opportunities and certifications to crew who want them, making it possible to move up the ladder and become a captain someday.
Get on a boat that is heading to countries you want to see, and you’ll be paid to travel and visit them. Most boats operate on a seasonal schedule, like the Caribbean in the winter, Europe in the spring or the Mediterranean in the summer. Find work on a boat with a schedule that interests you, and you’ll definitely enjoy the trip!
Getting work on a yacht can be an amazing way to see the world while making money. If you’re young, single, and up for adventure, this could definitely be a great move for you! There are also available jobs for many different specialties, and lots of room to move up in a career in yachting. Travel to dozens of countries on someone else’s dime and live for free for a few years… what’s not to love? Sounds pretty good to me!
PS Are you interested in traveling the world while working full time? Check out my guides to working abroad in digital marketing and teaching!
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