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Charter, explorers, seaman’s books etc – your quick guide to the lingo and making savvy decisions!

Updated: May 25, 2020

It’s that time of year. For many of you, your bags are packed, you have your STCW in your back pocket, you have eaten more biltong and rusks than every moment in you life combined prior to this last week and you are oh so ready to fledge and join the State side yachting migration. You have no idea where you are going or where you will end up, but so long taxes and university dissertations and hello chamois, mac book pro and life of the upper 1 percentile. But it’s not that romantic and you are about to feel as useless as parallelograms after school, especially if you don’t understand what you are signing up for. So here’s a little insight into the lingo to help you get started.



Charter yachts: These are sail or motor yachts that can be hired by third parties for extended periods of time. They can be dual or single season, meaning you are either going to get an Atlantic crossing under your belt or enjoy loosening yours a couple knotches as you dive head first into that shameless warm dessert preparing for winter. The seasons are generally as follows Nov – April = Carribbean/Indonesia and May – Oct = Mediterranean/ NE US coast. They are largely considered the goldmine of yachting so long as you get one that actually charters and shares the tips fairly. This should also be considered at the cost of receiving an industry standard salary on the lower side of the scale and for heavy charter programmes, your personal life and travel opportunities. And if you’re in it for a good time not a long time, then you are joining at the wrong time because the Med tends to generate more tips than the Caribbean; my fingers are crossed for you though. However, before even contemplating a glance at the charter horizon, you should be fully prepared. Heavy charter boats have little time and room for much error (click here for ideas on how to gain experience without the experience!) and without being able to walk the docks in the US, your CV needs to be more on point than the Nando’s Marketing team. Service expectation is very high and it is a fast paced environment. Questions worth asking in an interview: Do they have any charters already booked for the season? How many did they have last year?



Private yachts: You will be at the beck and call of the owning family and their friends only. Tips are seldom but not unheard of. Pray to baby Jesus that they are not live aboard. In most cases, they are not and this can be great for finding some sort of balance and normality. If you are yachting with a partner, it usually helps for at least one of you to work on a private yacht to have a greater chance of seeing each other if you have not secured something together. If the owners use the yacht just as a family, service is usually informal to semi-formal. If and when they entertain, the level of service will be expected to be on par with a charter yacht. Generally, a more lenient learning environment and salaries tend to be on the upper end of the salary spectrum. Your interview questions: How often do the owners use the yacht? How long do most trips last? Do they entertain friends much or is it usually just the family?


Explorers: not referring to you but rather the type of yacht. It has a specific shape which makes it more hardy for travelling through more than the ripples around Capri. Usually run privately but not always. Expect to go to more unique places and actually touch the ground because owners/ guests that use them understand we’re also in it for the ‘Gram. Not advisable if you are prone to seasickness. Neither is yachting to be quite frank but hang in there long enough and you might develop a greater tolerance ("sea legs"). Trips are generally of a longer duration and guests may or may not travel with you. Your interview questions: Has the itinerary for the season already been decided on and if so what is it? Do the guests usually travel with the yacht or meet at the destination?

Seaman’s book: This is a book applied for once you have secured a position on a yacht and used to document your sea time. The type of book you apply for will be related to the Flag State of the yacht. Remember those taxes you aren’t paying? So do SARS/HMRC/ATO. It is thus also a handy little document for when the tax man comes after you and you have lost (/or can’t be bothered to find) all your previous records such as passports, contracts etc and proves where you were and when. You can also get extra luggage allowance on flights as it demonstrates that you are a seafarer.


Contract: 90% of us sign it after checking salary, port of repatriation and amount of annual leave but you would do well to also check the redundancy and notice period clauses. Make sure there is a redundancy payout (useful in yacht sales or Covid 19) and should you ever get asked to leave, be sure to vocalise that you will work the notice period. If they do not want you to work, they will have to pay you out for the notice period and your accrued leave. However, if you agree not to work it, they will take the notice period out of your accrued leave. Leave is accrued from the day you joined the yacht and not after your probationary period. On the note of being contract savvy, you don’t have to be repatriated. The yacht can also release the funds that would amount to the cost of your journey home as your repatriation agreement (say “I will book the flight myself”) and you can do with them as you please. Genius, I know.

And that's the basics! Feel free to let us know if you have any unanswered questions but for now, consider yourself a shade less green! Good luck and go get ‘em!


Two Stews x


#yachtblog #yachtcrew #superyachtcrew #thestewguide #yachtstew

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