Taking a Gap Year

Taking a Gap Year and Working on A Luxury Yacht

So you’re thinking about taking a gap year from studies and going to work on a luxury yacht? We can tell you from experience that you’re in for one hellova ride! But also, possibly one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have.

Most people’s first question to us is usually along the lines of “was all that stress and time away from friends worth it?” – Yes my friend, yes it was! It was incredibly challenging at times with a steep learning curve, but so rewarding. The experience alone taught us so many things that will help you when you decide to go back to your studies, or pursue a career post studies.

Taking A Gap Year

Taking a gap year between high school and college has been growing in popularity and can be a great alternative and opportunity for those who need a change of scenery with an abundance of growth and learning.

If you are considering continuing your studies on your return, it is advisable to possibly still apply to college or university in your senior year – thus taking advantage of high school connections, counsellors and teachers for support, and referrals. It’s also a great idea to ask prospective institutions about their gap year policy – which will also quickly help you determine whether it is for you or not. Some may require that you interview prior, and put down a deposit for your deferred studies.

Convincing Your Parents

The easiest way is to guarantee that you will continue to study further, by applying to your institution of choice prior to announcing your gap year, and of course telling your parents that some of the funds you’ll make on your gap year will go towards your further education!

The other is to convince them that it’s not a holiday – especially in the case of working on a luxury yacht. It may look glamorous and all, but it’s going to be a lot of discipline and hard work. You’ll learn some great people skills, tenacity and patience – all great skills to have for your further education or career later on.

What You Need To Know: Jobs Available

The most common types of jobs on superyachts, especially with no prior experience are for deckhands and stewardesses.

These roles do not require previous yachting experience, making these the easiest positions to jump into for inexperienced crew. Responsibilities for deckhands include deck maintenance, chamois/polishing the boat exterior, launching and driving tenders and assisting guests with the safe use of the boat’s ‘toys’ – banana boats, jet skis, laser sail boats etc. The stewardess’ responsibilities include detailing the boat’s interior, guest and crew laundry, housekeeping, meals and drinks service.

There is a lot of competition for the rookie jobs on yachts. The better prepared you can be, the more chance you might have of landing that job on luxury yacht or superyacht.

What You Need To Know: Eligibility

  • Typically aged 18 years or older are considered.

  • No criminal record.

  • Be able to swim.

  • Medically fit to pass a ENG1 Medical Examination.

  • Sufficient funds to pay for program fees, flights and all additional costs.

  • Be independent, self-motivated and customer service oriented.

  • Looking to work for a full year or longer.

What You Need To Know: Prep, Training & Visas

Certain credentials are now mandatory for new crew looking for superyacht jobs. Any person working on boats must hold an up-to-date seafarer medical certificate. In addition, all crew members must have completed the nine-day basic safety training course – STCW 2010

Anyone looking to get into working on superyachts should be aware of the potential costs involved. The STCW course alone costs approximately R6,500, plus there may well be travel and accommodation expenditure involved, with no guarantee of a job at the end of it all. Having sufficient funds to go and live in some of the popular yacht departure locations, such as the south of France, Mediterranean, Caribbean etc will also help your chances of getting a job – as you can meet the Captain face to face.

You will also need to be prepared to work hard. The industry is well-known for its long hours and round the clock duties. In addition, crew quarters are invariably small and cramped, and undoubtedly you will be sharing with another person. The ability to get on well with other crew members in such conditions is a life skill worth learning.

Depending on where you’ll be located, you may also require specific Visas for travel and/ or work permits. Some Visa approvals can take quite long, depending on your local government, and country of travel. Be sure to try and plan in advance. You don’t want to get the opportunity of a lifetime only to be stuck on-shore as you don’t have the correct Visas!! Speak to us on tips to plan for this.

What You Could Earn

With no prior experience you would typically start as Junior Stewardesses (girls) or Deck Hands (boys). These positions will see you working very hard, often long and unsocial hours, but wages are substantial (and tax free) and the travel opportunities and other perks of the job are fantastic.  Progression up through the ranks (and earning potential) will depend on your work ethic and level of motivation.

The earning potential onboard is also significant. Starting salaries for new crew are in the region of $2,200 per month. That’s also tax free and with no expenses as your living costs are paid for onboard. Some crews also will earn tips in addition – but this largely depends on the type of yacht you’re on, who’s on board and the purpose of the sail.

All in all, if you’re considering a gap year, the time it takes for training, courses, visas and just general waiting time to get picked to crew, can take a couple of months. If you are serious about doing this, try as best as possible to plan in advance. Go mix with local yachties and find out when the next opportunity could be. Sign up for placement academies and get your yachting CV ready.

With the right credentials and a bit of luck, you might just land your dream role working on a luxury yacht, making money, rubbing shoulders with the world’s rich and famous and getting to see some beautiful places whilst at it.

Download our ultimate deckhand insiders guide, or book a consulting session with us to help you through your next steps.

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There are two basic yacht training requirements that you need to complete in order the legally be eligible to work at sea. This includes the STCW’10 basic training course the ENG 1 medical the Proficiency in Designated Security Duties. These are compulsory courses and must be completed no matter which job or position you are applying for.
STCW stands for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping. The STCW’2010, previously referred to as STCW’95, is a compulsory requirement for any seafarer in order to be eligible for employment at sea. The STCW 2010 has replaced STCW 95 and is the new code that all seafarers working on board commercial vessels must adhere to. If you are planning on joining the superyacht industry to look for a yacht job as a stewardess, deckhand, engineer or chef, you will need to complete this STCW course. The course runs every week from our academy in Cape Town and takes 11 days to complete.
The ENG1 Medical is a basic medical certificate and is as essential as your STCW’10. It is a mandatory requirement to prove you are fit to work as a yacht crew member at sea. Only MCA-approved doctors can perform an ENG 1 medical exam. The exam takes around 1 hour to complete, and should you pass you will leave with your certificate immediately. Our facilities enable you to complete your ENG1 medical at the same premises as your STCW’10 for your ultimate convenience.
The yachting industry is predominantly a career focused on hospitality. While various skill sets may assist you in finding a job, they are not enough to fully prepare you for a job on board. You will still need to complete the correct Maritime Training to be fully equipped for a job as a Super Yacht Crew member. The following skills/ experience are beneficial: – Hospitality training, including waiters, bar tenders, event staff, hotel training, cruise liners – Au pair, nanny and child care, tutoring, child entertainment – Beauty therapists: nail technicians, hairstylists, beauty therapists – Trade skills including: carpentry, varnishing, building, plumbing, tiling, engineering – Watersports: scuba diving, wakeboarding, sailboarding, waterskiing – For Chefs: A natural ability and training/experience as a Restaurant, Estate, Hotel Chef – Personality traits: Social skills, cultured, good work ethic, good manners, well presented, self— confident, a positive attitude.
There are usually four departments onboard a super yacht including the deck department, engineering, interior and galley.
Completing your deckhand courses prior to looking for your first job, demonstrates to your employers that you are dedicated crew member that understands what is required in order to be successful as an entry level crew member in the super yacht industry. Our industry leading standard of training ensures all our candidates enter the super yacht industry. The primary duties of a deckhand are shared between the maintenance of the yacht exterior and looking after the guests. Maintenance tasks include painting, filling and fairing as well as 1- and 2-part varnishing jobs, plus all other cleaning, polishing and scrubbing duties. Guest related tasks vary from tender driving, beach set ups, water sports, jet skis, anchoring or manoeuvring of the yacht. In addition the STCW training course, any of the following courses would be considered advantageous:
  • Yachtmaster/Coastal Skipper Theory
  • Yachtmaster/Coastal Practical
  • Specialist Super Yacht Training Course (Deck Hand Training Course)
  • RYA Power Boat Level II
  • RYA Personal Watercraft Course
  • RYA Competent Crew Certificate
  • RYA Day Skipper Theory and Practical Certificates
  • RYA Radar
  • VHF Radio Operator’s License
The primary task of a Steward or Stewardess onboard is to maintain the interior or the luxury yacht to the highest standard. You will also be required to cater to the needs of yacht owners or charter guests. Service, housekeeping and laundry form the three main departments of the stewardess responsibilities. Food hygiene and safe food preparation are also a major component of working as a stewardess on a super yacht. Our stewardess training certification is run in Cape Town, South Africa. This is an entry level training course, designed for any crew member that is looking to pursue a career as as stewardess. Combining both practical and theoretical course modules, you will spend time working with actual products used onboard as well as familiarise yourself with processes for when guests are onboard. In addition the STCW training course, any of the following courses would be considered advantageous:
  • Stewardess Course
  • ENG1
  • Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD)
  • MCA Food Safety Level 2
  • RYA Powerboat Level 2
Simple. Just email info@get-onboard.com explaining which course you are interested in. We will provide you with a list of available dates and our booking form. Simply return to us with your proof of payment and you place of the course is reserved.
Once you are qualified, what are the next steps to finding your first job onboard? Yacht CV’s are very different to landbased CV’s and are essential when looking for a job on a yacht.
Our courses have been created in order to best prepare our students with the correct qualification, and industry specific knowledge that would be expected of junior crew in the yachting industry. The founders of Get Onboard superyacht Academy spent over 12 years as a senior ranked crew members and so offer our candidates with the most up to date information to best prepare you for the industry. Without your STCW and ENG1 you are not legally able to work at sea, so until you have completed those requirements, finding employment will be impossible. While the other courses are not compulsory, as industry experts we feel it is in our students best interest to educate themselves as much as possible before entering the super yacht industry. We do our best to offer our students the best possible advice on courses that would be most beneficial to their career goals as well as their pockets.
Here at Get Onboard Superyacht Academy, we pride ourselves on offering our students practical and honest advice. That’s why you will never find us trying to sell your courses that won’t be specifically relevant to your department. Landing your first job while you are still in South Africa is almost impossible. The reason for this is because just like you would interview for a land based position face to face.
Day work is a great way of networking, building contacts in the industry, and most importantly finding you first super yacht job. Day work refers to when you do not have a formal contract in place with a yacht, but you help out onboard for anything from a day to several weeks. Day working is a great way for you to get a sense of different roles onboard and whether the industry is right for you. Often the Captain or senior crew member will use day work as a trial or “audition” to see who is the best fit for the crew and is the most efficient worker so it is an excellent tool to use when searching for your first job.
There are two main yachting hubs, the Mediterranean, particularly Antibes in France or Palma de Mallorca in Spain, and Fort Lauderdale or Miami in Florida. We explain the different seasons and best time of year to visit each areas in our article Best Locations To Get a Yacht Job for Time of Year.
The standard entry level salary for a junior stewardess or deckhand ranges between €2000-€2500 or $2300-$2800 per month. This amount is generally tax free, although the onus is on each crew member to check with their home county about tax obligations. Certain countries are tax exempt provided you spend more than 6 months out of the county. Check out our dedicated article on this here. We have covered all of this and much much more in our easily downloadable yachting industry guide eBook. We go into detail of where you should start your career and at which time of year. We offer yachting CV templates, a packing list, course list, accommodation and visa information. We break down the various yacht crew departments so that you can see where might be the best fit for you. We explain what dock walking is, how to get day work, salary expectations and most importantly how to secure that first job.
Working on a yacht is not all fun and games; it means spending great lengths of time away from friends and family, putting in extra-long hours as needed and living in a shared, confined space.
For many, the benefits of a yacht job outweigh the negatives. These include travelling the world, the opportunity to make and save a lot of money, making new friends for life and gaining important skills that will transfer over to many other industries.
Yachting is for anyone who loves to go out of their way to please. However, it is open to all sorts of personalities – every boat is different. Take a look at our page on what makes a great superyacht crew for more information.
The minimum age to work on a yacht is 18 years old. While there is a chance of finding work straight after school, we suggest getting some work experience before departing South Africa.
Get Onboard has partnered with some centrally located accommodation providers as well as premium backpackers. If you require accommodation for the duration of your training, just be sure to mention it in an email and we will forward the options.
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