Superyacht charter etiquette: A guide to onboard dos and don’ts

When you’re in yacht charter mode, prepare yourself for a whirlwind. Charter season is a stressful, chaotic time of year, and the phrase “organised chaos” pretty well covers it up. Anything goes depending on the timetable of your boat and your position onboard. You may be working the morning shift, which means you are awake before the guests and anticipate their requirements before they ever enquire. You are with the guests during your shift and at their beck and call until you are done with work. Charters can have schedules, but they are rarely followed because everything depends on the guests’ lifestyle. When on charter, you must be adaptable to change and always be on your A-game. Days are long and fast-paced but also exciting and fulfilling, so if you can keep it together and get through it, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Here are some DO’s and DON’Ts to keep in mind when working onboard a superyacht charter.

Have a positive attitude

Your attitude no doubt shapes your experiences and that of those around you. If you’re in a negative headspace, this can also impact the guests onboard that interact with you. Remember, it’s about what you can give the boat, not what it can give you. Captains are searching for someone with a positive attitude and a huge smile! You must be a person who is not scared of hard work and is content to live away from home for extended periods. Be an open book and never stop learning, the industry is fast-paced and exciting, and by keeping an open mind and continuously learning about the industry, you’ll never be bored.

Work as a team and build relationships with your fellow crew

Living and working with the same people in a small space may be difficult. However, if you know how to tackle the problem ahead of time, it’ll be just another swell under the bridge for the boat crew.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that a team can go a long way in working and living together with a bit of bonding. That is why it is critical to keep up with this topic. Being liked and forming friendships with every crew member may benefit you in your daily work-life on board and in ensuring your job’s sustainability. Bonding over shared interests and hobbies rather than the job at hand can help relieve tension and bring some pleasure back into the workplace. Instead of simply working settings, crew meals and evenings out and day trips and other activities spent together may significantly assist speed this process ahead. 

Put yourself in other people’s shoes

While we recommend having an open mind and a go-getter mentality for this business, the hard labour, stress, and cramped quarters can often get the best of us. Sometimes people are simply having a terrible day, and other times you may discover those specific individuals have a nasty attitude. While you’re attempting to preserve the peace, why don’t you ask this person if anything is upsetting them? If there appears to be a reasonable cause, provide advice or simply lend an ear to help them vent. If all else fails, offer to continue cleaning the bathroom while taking in some fresh saltwater air to gain some perspective. You’ll look like a rockstar, and you might as well have won all future battles against bad energy.

Take some me-time

This one may be essential to some more than others, but taking time for yourself while working on a boat may make a world of difference in any of the circumstances listed above. Recognise when you require some “me” time and don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. If declining a group activity would result in a more positive attitude toward everyone in the long term, your coworkers will understand — as long as you bring it up in a non-judgmental manner.

Make sure you’re prepared for anything in case of an emergency

From the get-go, make sure you’re prepared for an emergency. It might seem unlikely when things are running smoothly, but as a yachtie, you don’t just have your life in your hands – you have all the guest’s lives in your hands as well. Because of all your training, you should be familiar with the safety precautions in place on all boats. If not, perhaps another exercise should be planned as soon as possible!

In the event of a boat evacuation/abandon ship, you should have the following items:

  • Dingy or life raft that can withstand the elements.
  • Everyone should have a personal flotation device (PFD) and, if you’re in a chilly region, a dry suit.
  • Bottled water — enough to last several days for everyone on board
  • Good radio transmitters, EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), and SARTs (Search and Rescue Transponders) are all examples of good radio transmitters.
  • Enough anti-seasickness medicine for everyone
  • Kit for first aid

Maintain boundaries with guests

Just like in any other workplace there need to be boundaries. Sometimes you may be onboard for weeks on end with the same guests and it’s inevitable that relationships form. However, the superyacht is a workplace like any other, and the same standards that doctors have to uphold with regards to relationships with patients should be practised. For the most part, it’s safe to interact with guests platonically, but you also need to remember when to draw the line. Having romantic relations with guests/crew is not an option. Set boundaries and maintain those boundaries, and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Don’t do anything illegal

Onboard boats, there is zero tolerance for unlawful or criminal activity. Any such behaviour will result in the seizure of the boat and the loss of the license. Therefore the captain and fellow crew will report you to the authorities. In most nations, such behaviour is also punishable by imprisonment. Don’t involve yourself in unlawful activities and risk losing your job or any chance of working in the industry.

Avoid taking matters into your own hands

Any concerns should be reported to your senior crew members since they are the only ones who have the power to resolve them. Avoid taking issues into your own hands, whether with fellow crew members or, especially, with a guest. Also, keep in mind the saying “The customer is always right.” and remember that you’re a representative of the yacht and uphold yourself in a manner that best represents your employer. If guests have a negative experience interacting with you, this could damper their experience onboard.

Don’t violate the no-smoking policy

Smoking is forbidden on most yachts, although there may be designated smoking spaces on the deck. If you smoke, ensure your supervisors are aware of this from the start.

Working aboard a superyacht charter is unlike any other job, and you’ll have more unique experiences than you ever imagined. Approach it with an open mind while being mindful of others, and you’ll no doubt have an incredible experience onboard.

Taking a gap year to work on superyachts

It can be a daunting task to decide whether to further your studies at a university, get a job or take a gap year directly after high school. However, rest assured that you are not the only person who is struggling to decide on what to do. Many teenagers go through the same confusion as they near the end of their matric year. 

If you opt not to take the university route, that still leaves you with a variety of non-traditional options for your gap year. Many people opt to push their plans of going to Uni back a year to work, travel, or take courses in a field they enjoy. One popular option tends to be working on superyachts. As a deckhand, steward, stewardess, instructor on a superyacht, you will be paid to work hard and explore the globe, seeing exotic places while acquiring amazing life, work, and social experiences. Finding your first job and its challenges must be considered before you think of heading in this direction as a gap year. Contact us for a chat.

Benefits of a gap year

Maybe the idea of taking a gap year frightens you. Perhaps you believe that you will lose the momentum and determination you have built by not going straight into Uni after High School. However, a study was done by Harvard, which indicates the opposite. According to Harvard’s research, students who take a gap year before Uni have a more significant academic career and are less likely to experience burnout.

Activities undertaken during a gap year can differ from person to person. They may take a gap year while doing structured activities tailored to achieving their lifelong dreams and ambitions or even unstructured and tailored to personal pursuits. It is possible to take a year, travel, get a qualification, and turn it into a full-time career in a few cases.

Sounds intriguing, right; well, this is where a non-traditional career path comes in handy— SYSA’s primary focus is career progression within the superyacht industry and superyacht training, you couldn’t be in better hands.

Working on a superyacht

Working on a superyacht allows you to travel and experience things that no other profession can. On a Superyacht, there is no such thing as a 9 to 5; there is always something to do, and you will spend most of your time outside in the sun. 

Almost all large boats are based in the sunnier parts of the world; generally, yachts spend the summer in the Mediterranean before “wintering” in the Caribbean or the United States. It implies that your workplace will constantly be on the go.

What are the first steps to take?

Are you considering a steward/ess position? Background training and experience in any branch of the hospitality industry is instrumental but not required for a job as a steward or stewardess. Click here for more information about this.

Suppose you are interested in the first steps toward starting your career on a superyacht. In that case, It’s essential to invest in specialised training, such as our Standard Courses, to properly equip you for a life and career at sea. Besides completing yacht and Offshore courses and training, you will need basic STCW Training, the minimum legal qualifications required to work on any commercial vessel at sea. STCW sets qualification standards for masters, officers and personnel on seagoing merchant ships and anyone working offshore or onboard any yacht in the maritime industry. 

We’ve put together a detailed blog covering all you need to know here.

Career Aboard a Superyacht

Superyachts are large, usually luxury private yachts, owned by some of the wealthiest people in the world. These superyachts require many capable and trained Deckhands, Stewards/Stewardesses, a Captain/Skipper, and other people to run smoothly. 

Working aboard one of these is both an adventure and a fulfilling career that is also well paid. SYSA provides the training needed to handle a job aboard a superyacht. Working on a superyacht means that you will be away from home for an extended period. However, you will gain many experiences, meet some great new people and make some extra cash.

Ultimately the skills gained during working on superyachts will come in handy whether or not you decide to go to Uni after your gap year. The leadership, communication and problem-solving skills are invaluable to all your future employers.

How to land a job on a superyacht

If you’re ready to ditch your office job for something more exciting, and the sea is what calls you, then we’ve got some tips on how best to land a job on a superyacht. Yachting is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle and a career, as the work doesn’t start at 9 and end at 5 – it’s twenty-four hours, seven days a week. So first of all, it’s essential to make sure that it’s a good fit for you.

Should this be your first job at sea, it will most likely be an entry-level crew member such as a deckhand/steward(ess), so you will be expected to work hard, be a good team player, and do what it takes to be a valuable member of the crew. You will most likely have to share a cabin with another crew member, which means getting used to having very little privacy and not a lot of time on your own. 

The benefit of working on a superyacht is that you get to travel across the world while earning good money. You will have unique experiences, make friends for life, and escape the prospect of dead-end jobs. You may even progress to captain, chief mate or chief steward(ess)one day if that’s what you want.

So if you’ve got what it takes and it excites you, then get yourself ready to land that job!

First steps toward starting your career on a superyacht

While previous experience in the “land-based” hospitality industry is helpful, it’s not enough to qualify you for working on board a superyacht. It’s essential to invest in specialised training, such as our Standard Courses, to properly equip you for a life and career at sea.

Besides completing yacht and Offshore courses and training, you will need basic STCW Training, which is the minimum legal qualifications required to work on any commercial vessel at sea. STCW sets qualification standards for masters, officers and personnel on seagoing merchant ships and anyone working offshore or on board any yacht in the maritime industry. 

What qualifications do you need to work as a deckhand?

By the time you get on board, your captain will need a crew member that can get up and running after a brief induction period. Therefore, obtaining the maximum qualifications before you go is essential. For deckhands, your responsibilities are split between guest-related duties such as tender driving, deck work, anchoring and water sports, or the maintenance – painting, filling and fairing as well as varnishing jobs, plus all other cleaning, polishing and scrubbing duties.

Due to the extremely tough competition amongst deck crew, the suggested basic training certificates for successful employment on board are the following:

  • STCW 95 Basic Training Certificate + PDSD
  • RYA Yachtmaster/Coastal Skipper Theory
  • RYA Yachtmaster/Coastal Practical (Experience/Mileage necessary)
  • Specialist Super Yacht Training Course (Deckhand Training Course)
  • RYA Powerboat Level II
  • RYA Personal Watercraft Course (Jet ski)
  • RYA Competent Crew Certificate
  • RYA Day Skipper Theory and Practical Certificates
  • RYA Radar
  • RYA VHF Radio Operator’s License

Depending on the position you apply for, here’s a list of valuable experience to help place you ahead of the competition

It is beneficial, but not essential, to have background training/experience in some of the following:

  • Previous experience or training: Maritime experience/training, lifesaving experience.
  • Watersports: driving instructor qualifications, scuba diving, wakeboarding, kiteboarding, water-skiing.
  • Construction: varnishing, carpentry, building, metalwork, engineering, plumbing.
  • Therapies: such as manicures, pedicures, massage, aromatherapies, hairstyling.
  • Au Pair and Nanny experience: teaching, entertaining children.
  • Any hospitality experience/training: Bartender, waitering, events, promotional work, florist, hotel school, butler, cruise ship experience.
  • Chef Work: A natural ability and training/experience in restaurants, catering, hotels.
  • Personality traits: social skills, cultured, good manners, well presented, self-confident, a positive attitude.

Completing additional training to advance your career

Apart from the standard, compulsory, courses required to work on superyachts, there are additional training courses and career progression courses offered by SYSA. These courses are:

  • RYA Yachtmaster Theory
  • RYA Advanced Powerboat
  • AEC (MCA Approved Engine Course)
  • PADI Open Water 1 and Rescue Diver

To read more about our Deckhand Training or to begin your seaward journey, click here.

Stew Tips: Wellbeing Ahead of the Charter Season

As yacht steward/esses, we all know that a busy yacht charter season can take its toll on our physical and emotional health. With long work hours, stressful conditions and demanding guests, we sometimes forget that we also have to take care of ourselves and our precious health.

We have had some wonderful discussions on our Facebook group, Yacht Stewardess and Steward Tips and, for this column, I would like to share some tips on how to stay healthy on charter, even in small spaces as well as some healthy ‘between-guest’ health rescue ideas.

As another busy Mediterranean season has just kicked off, I’m sure you’ll find many of these suggestions soothing to your body and soul. Best of luck to all of you!

Planning for your own wellbeing

As many of you will agree, a busy season can really do a number on our health. Here are some suggestions for before, during and after your charter guests have left.

After all those long hours on your feet, nothing beats a good manicure and pedicure! If you’re lucky enough to have a beauty therapist onboard, maybe you can convince them (with some financial encouragement) to treat you to a special mani/pedi. I once worked on a yacht that spent four months in the yard and our captain actually asked the beauty therapist to give every crew member either a massage, reflexology or manicures and pedicures. I guess he felt she had to keep up her skills, but nothing beats a good mani/pedi before and after the season.

Before the charter season starts: 

Schedule visits to the dentist, hair salon, check that all your bills are being paid (arrange debit orders, etc).

It’s highly advisable to visit your gynaecologist, dermatologist, optometrist and GP at least once or twice a year and stock up on your medications and multi-vitamins.

Purchase your essentials – such as favourite make-up, beauty products and make-up brushes.

Download some audiobooks and make some playlists for yourself and for guests.

Items to bring on board when joining a new yacht: 

Silk pillowcase, headphones, comfy sleepwear, body lotion (not a strong smell), nail clippers and nailcare items, good sunglasses, one workout outfit (if there is ever time), a bathing suit (that is work appropriate if invited on guest excursions), and an outfit to wear out to dinner with the boss or guests if invited.

Thank you for the music

Get your favourite Spotify playlists ready to go. Spotify is great because you can download playlists for when you have no internet service or WiFi. In Spotify, you can mark selected playlists and sync them to your computer or mobile device for offline listening. You only need to be online to sync the tracks in the first place.

A group member shared some of her favourite playlists with the group (search for Lauren Lubitz on Spotify):

  • 2018 – upbeat songs from 2018
  • Fam party – some classic party songs
  • Good day underway – is my underway playlist full of beach/boating and some country songs
  • Summer Party – a good party playlist for 20somethings
  • Spring cleaning – playlists for detail cleaning days
  • Summer cleaning – playlists for detail cleaning days
  • Peaceful guitar – good background dinner music, but can be repetitive
  • Happy day – upbeat chill family happy music
  • Brunch – Sunday morning chill upbeat music
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – 68 songs for star gazing, all songs say something about stars, galaxy, etc.
  • Wish upon a starfish – 77 songs about beach, lakes, boats, ocean, etc.
  • Boca fiesta – Spanish songs for theme night or theme nights
  • Chillin under the covers – chill cover songs, mostly acoustic
  • Beach in Hawaii – reggae beach music

Take care of the small stuff

Another must-have to keep on board is a natural hand cream like Aesop ® from Australia as hands feel tired too – a necessity just before sleep on charter.

Cooling gel for legs and feet helps a lot after long hours on your feet! Prior to the season, order top-ups of all your precious creams, which might not be easy to find elsewhere.

It’s a good idea to get all your hair removal done prior to a long season – waxing, laser treatments, etc. If you like permanent make-up, it saves a lot of time on charter if you have less make-up to worry about.

Invest in good earplugs, a sleeping mask, dry shampoo, make-up removal wet tissues, BB cream (short for ‘blemish balm’ cream – it is a versatile combination of products such as moisturizer, primer, SPF, foundation, skin treatment, and concealer). Look into products like Eltamd ® tinted sunscreen, many steward/esses swear by this product.

Stay connected

A busy charter season takes its toll, so be kind to yourself – rest when you can and stay connect with the people who make you happy – it takes five minutes a day to stay in touch with loved ones via Whatsapp or Skype.

A little extra help

Consider investing in a 24k gold collagen eye or facial mask. It’s pricey, but it will make your face feel brand spanking new after just one use.

Personally I’ve also seen the benefits of a B-12 shot once or twice a year. However, it is important to discuss this with your health care professional, as different people react to this treatment in different ways, not always well.

If all else fails, for the first week on holiday just go wild and let your hair down!!

Chief Stews: Ideas for a ‘welcome on board’ gift for your team

If your yacht’s budget allows, it’s always a great idea to buy your team a ‘welcome on board’ or pre-charter gift package. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but the gesture will lift their spirits and get them excited for the upcoming season.

Here are some handy ideas for gift packs:

  • Dry shampoo
  • Sephora ® face, eye and foot masks
  • A deep moisturizing hand lotion
  • Burt Bees ® make-up remover wipes
  • Resistance bands – easy to use in small spaces like a bow or cabin
  • Olly ® multivitamins
  • Ear plugs, body scrub, facial cleansing sponges and wipes
  • Night cream for eyes or face, eye cream, eye drops, mini hair sprays, mini hair gels, mouth wash, mints
  • YSL ® brightening pen – one of my favourite must-have items on charter!
  • Lip moisturizer protection, sunscreen
  • Lucas’ ® PawPaw gel
  • Hair ties, masks, Eucerin ® Aquaphor hand balm, hangover cure patches
  • Foot spray and cream from Primark ®
  • Hair oil shots and under-eye masks
  • NatraCure ® 5-Toe Gel Moisturizing Socks – they help for dry feet, cracked heels, calluses, cuticles, rough skin and enhances your favourite lotions and creams whilst sleeping
  • Hydrating face mist
  • A foot massager
  • Hair ties/bobby pins in the colour of their hair, as those go missing en masse
  • Foot rollers/massage balls, hot pack for shoulders/back or for the dreaded tummy cramps
  • Magic-away makeup remover
  • Always keep stuff in the snack cupboard – it is always a nice surprise for the different nationalities on board if you have some of their home country’s snacks available during a busy charter season.
  • Arnica sticks or Arnica drops – helps with the dreaded stew bruising and muscle aches
  • Silicone Gel Socks that you wear at night time after rubbing a peppermint lotion on them
  • Champagne split bottles or an expensive bottle of wine for after-charter celebration
  • Compressions socks! A lifesaver when feet are swelling.
  • CBD balm, very effective and doesn’t smell like the traditional pain reliever (if available where your yacht is docked)
  • Arbonne ® Prepwork Gel Eye masks are great for dark circles and puffy eyes
  • Tiger Balm
  • A nice organic pillow spray to help with peaceful sleep
  • Wine and spa gift cards could be useful if you want to give something small and don’t want to cause clutter in the cabin

Before, during and after – time permitting!

Another mani/pedi and a well-deserved massage!

If you are able to go home, take the clothes and items with you that you didn’t wear or need. If possible, try to take a mini-vacation.

Detox

Make time for a mini-detox or take a few days for a proper full detox or cleanse. A lymphatic drainage massage might also be a good idea (check with your medical professional if this would be suitable if you have any medical issues). MLD is a very light, delicate, and superficial technique – very different from classic massage, which also moves lymph, but affects muscles, veins, arteries which lie deeper.

Disconnect

Something that I tried to do as often as possible, was to go totally off-radar and go somewhere far, far away from boats. Even checking into a hotel alone for a weekend with your favourite book or TV programme does wonders to energize your body and soul.

For after-season holidays, if you’re experienced in the art of yoga, book a yoga retreat, a diving holiday, or a wine tasting trip in France – anything that nourishes your soul and awakens your interest and energy levels, and may add to your steward/ess skill set!

Best of luck to all of you. Always remember to take care of yourselves. When we work in service, it’s so easy to focus on everyone around us but don’t forget about your own emotional and physical wellbeing!

Written By: Isobel Odendaal for Onboard Online