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The challenges of getting a job on a yacht

Budgeting To Get A Job On A Superyacht In The Med Season

What is the cost of finding a job as a junior deckhand on a superyacht? The industry has seen a growing influx of ‘green’ crew looking to start an exciting career, travelling the world while getting paid. In this blog, we explore the likely costs, and timeframe (as this will affect living costs) and throw in some other thoughts along the way.

First, let’s list the typical budget points for someone joining the industry. I am listing these in order of priority based on my experience helping others enter the industry – but they are subjective. All prices and information are accurate and to the best of my understanding at the time of writing but of course, are subject to change – so don’t take my word for it!

Ships medical. R500-2000. 2-3 hours.

This consists of a basic examination, sight and hearing test and the doctors that offer this service can be booked out well in advance during the busy season. A list of SAMSA-approved doctors can be found here:

https://www.samsa.org.za/Documents/Practice/1_By%20Practice.pdf

It is a good idea to double-check that you are fit for sea before investing in a career as without this bit of paper you cannot work on a yacht. Period. 

Passport. R600-1200. 7 - 21 days.

You will need a valid passport before you can begin applying for your visa, travel overseas, and therefore work on a yacht. You don’t want to be that crewmember who has to renew their passport (or anything else for that matter) midway through your first season. You will piss off your Captain: “Your passport or travel document must be valid for at least 3 months from the date on which you leave the Schengen area. Your passport or travel document must have at least 2 empty visa pages. Your passport or travel document cannot have been issued more than 10 years ago.” – VFS Global. 

In my experience, the most time and cost-efficient way of applying for a South African passport in South Africa is through your bank. Certain participating bank branches provide an efficient service for collecting your biometrics and processing your application avoiding long queues.

A list of participating bank branches can be found here:

https://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/id-smart-card/bank-branches

In order to apply you will first have to register with the Department of Home Affairs e-filing system (NOTE – at the time of writing their website was down):

https://ehome.dha.gov.za/ehomeaffairsv3

You will also have to complete the following DHA form:

https://www.westerncape.gov.za/text/2015/February/dha_73_form.pdf

Visa application specialist services. R3100.00

I am not a visa expert. The visa application requirements are constantly changing and obtaining the correct visa is so important for your career prospects that I would recommend consulting with a visa specialist. They will guide you through the process and are up to date in the application space. Contact travel@manhattanmaritime.co.za or (+27)786 959 594.

Schengen Visa Application. €80.00. 15 - 45 days.

Visa applications must be lodged at least 15 calendar days before the intended visit and cannot be lodged earlier than three months before the start of the intended visit. The maximum time granted for a short stay visa is 90 days and I would recommend planning to use ALL of this time to find a job. A detailed list of general requirements can be found here: 

https://www.vfsglobal.com/Norway/SouthAfrica/pdf/general_schengen_visa_requirements_150422.pdf

Noteworthy requirements in order of priority include:

Proof of sufficient funds. €2510.10 - €9000.00. 3 months.

“Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of stay, (Applicant’s bank statements for the past three months) (min. amount required is different in each country – please verify with the relevant consular authority)”.

Minimum daily allowance (provided that cheap accommodation has been booked in advance):

France

€32.25

Italy

€27.89

Spain

€100.00

Therefore to apply for a 90-day Schengen you will need the following balances to reflect in your account 3 months before application (by country listed): 

France

€2902.50

Italy

€2510.10

Spain

€9000.00

Return flights. Starting at R18,000.00 (at the time of writing).

A return flight departing Cape Town and arriving in Nice (Mediterranean), France, leaving in the first week of May, and returning 90 days later starts at R18,000.00 (Travelstart). You will need to provide flight details and itinerary before applying for your visa. The earlier you book the cheaper the tickets.

Accommodation. Starting at R650.00 p/n. R58,500.00 for 90 days.

The nearest backpacker hostel accommodation (https://www.hostelworld.com/) close to Antibes is in Nice (a short train ride away) and starts at R650.00 per night. I notice they advertise a maximum stay of 10 nights which suggests you will have to ‘sleep around’. For the same dates, a bed in a crew house in Antibes will cost €36.50 per night. 

When I was looking for work, after several weeks, I and some new yachtie friends (whom I had met networking) shared a 1 bedroom studio apartment and we took turns sleeping on the floor. We were able to significantly reduce our accommodation costs. I would therefore advise that you book refundable accommodation to get your visa, which you can then cancel to capitalise on any unforeseen opportunities that come your way.

Insurance

You will need valid travel insurance that you might be able to obtain cheaply through a bank account or a family medical plan. Check to see if it covers you for work as when you are day-working you will not be covered by the yacht insurance as you will be working pro rata.

Yachting courses. R33,850.00 - R65,800.00. 4 - 6 weeks

Notice that I haven’t mentioned courses until now. This makes me a terrible salesperson but at least I am being honest – such is the importance of squaring away your travel arrangements. As far as courses go, the one compulsory course is the STCW2010 basic training. Everything else is theoretically optional. However, because of the huge amount of competition for entry-level positions, the industry has experienced a lot of ‘credential inflation. This means that Captains often select candidates with higher qualifications than are needed by the demands of the job due to a surplus of overly qualified crew. Therefore below is a list of the packages we offer at different price points to cater for the increase in demand:

Classic Package

STCW 2010 – Compulsory (course is outsourced) R8750 (increases to R9500 in 2024)

RYA Powerboat Level II R5000

RYA Tender Operators R6000

RYA PWC/Jet Ski R3500

Deckhand Course R5750

RYA VHF Radio (Excluding £70 payable to RYA to write the exam) R2000

RYA Radar R2100

Package Total – R33 850

 

Advanced Package

STCW 2010 – Compulsory (course is outsourced) R8750 (increases to R9500 in 2024)

RYA Powerboat Level II R5000

RYA Tender Operators R6000

RYA PWC/Jet Ski R3500

Deckhand Course R5750

RYA VHF Radio (Excluding £70 payable to RYA to write the exam) R2000

RYA Radar R2100

RYA PW Instructors (Excluding £25 (under 25 years) or £47 (over 25 years) payable to the RYA to become a member) R9950

RYA Diesel R2000

RYA Day Skipper Theory R8000

Package Total – R53 800

 

Premium Package

STCW 2010 – Compulsory (course is outsourced) R8750 (increases to R9500 in 2024)

RYA Powerboat Level II R5000

RYA Tender Operators R6000

RYA PWC/Jet Ski R3500

Deckhand Course R5750

RYA VHF Radio (Excluding £70 payable to RYA to write the exam) R2000

RYA Radar R2100

RYA PW Instructors (Excluding £25 (under 25 years) or £47 (over 25 years) payable to the RYA to become a member) R9950

RYA Diesel R2000

RYA Day Skipper Theory R8000

NEW COURSE: Superyacht Watersports Instructors (SYWI) R12000

Package Total – R65 800

Accommodation in Cape Town.

There are many low-budget accommodation options in Cape Town. For example, a 4-week stay in a 12-bed dorm in Green Point costs R8740.00.

Other Budgeting Thoughts

Screenshot 2024 04 08 at 12.30.23

When I was looking for work – nearly 15 years ago – as my bank account depleted there were times when I would get by on one French baguette per day and a wheel of camembert cheese. Back then that cost €2.00.  Good news! A quick look online shows that a baguette now costs €1.09 and cheese €1.59, so they are still cheap. The real question for getting a job on a superyacht is  ‘How hungry are you’?

The same camping mat that I slept on when I was looking for work bought at Decathlon in France will set you back €15.00. There is a Decathlon on the outskirts of Antibes and it is an excellent option for cheap clothing. One season I bought a cheap folding bike there to get around the marinas when I was looking for work. The same bike in today’s money cost €200.00. (The bike was stolen in Barcelona).

Looking at the French railway website, a day pass on the French trains in the Antibes area will set you back  €20.00 per day per person. Alternatively, a 1-way ticket from Nice to Antibes will cost €5.70.

Closing Thoughts

A junior deckhand on a superyacht can earn anywhere between $2000-$3000 per month depending on experience and the size of the yacht, and they might receive tips or bonuses on top of that. That payscale can climb rapidly as you climb the ranks. A review of the expenses we have discussed so far looks like this:

 

Medical

R2000

Passport

R600

Visa services 

R3100

Visa application

R1610

Proof of funds

R50,450

Flight

R18,000

Accommodation overseas

R58,500

Accommodation Cape Town

R8740

Courses (classic package)

R33,850

  

TOTAL ZAR

R176,850

TOTAL USD

$9500

 

Looking at the above numbers, a junior crew member could theoretically start making a return on investment in between 3 to 5 months of permanent employment given that you have ZERO expenses (not including money to go out and party with the crew) when working on a superyacht. Your probationary period will probably be 3 months anyway – during which time you need to keep squeaky clean and what better way to do that than by staying onboard and saving money? 

I appreciate new crew members have to take a huge financial risk to get into this industry. I did it. I know. But, nothing rewarding in life comes easily. The key to success is budgeting for the long game. It is going to take time to build a network and gain experience. If you run out of money, you go home. You loose. If you stick to a budget and stay the length of your visa you will give yourself the best opportunity to secure a job. You have to be in it, to win it.

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