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If you didn’t know now you know: 10 tips to yachting in the US that you haven’t read

Updated: May 25, 2020

There are hundreds of do’s and don’ts for new comers to yachting, all of which readily recite the standard grooming and etiquette. Few however, are specific to the US and catered to those of us who haven’t visited the country or gotten any closer to becoming a fully fledged ‘yachtie’ than a weekend of wakeboarding at the dam. Here are 10 realities that will help you hide your innocence.

1. Never admit to giving yachting ‘a try for a season’ in an interview; not even in an interview for a seasonal position or at a popular bar – as far as your prospective employers are concerned, you are ready to dedicate your life to cleaning showers with cotton buds, consider climbing the 5 flights of stairs up to the bridge deck to collect and deliver laundry a secret pleasure and your parents are Michelin restaurateurs.

2. An ESTA is not going to cut it. That Irish passport, for all it’s wonders, isn’t enough in the States, but nice try. It’s B1b2 or be gone.

3. Dock walking doesn’t exist for foreign crew in the States. Here, it comprises of making sure you were stamped in on your B1/B2 and scouring the internet (you need a work permit to actively seek work). Although, your surprising new hobby of early morning strolls might happen to consistently find you around the docks and shipyards around 7.50am and your CV may miraculously be on it’s way to the Chief Stew/Mate thanks to a push of a button and a completely unplanned chat with the deckhand on flag duty.

4. CV’s are expensive to print and unless you own a yacht yourself, colour is out of the question. Embrace the fact that you can’t carry them around and invest in a sim card asap. Life is substantially less stressful post useless international carriers.

5. Be on time AND prepared – aside from expectation of looking the part, I would suggest packing suitable working attire in your bag if you don’t want to ruin the only white polo you own, suncream, a bottle of water and a notebook and pen. Make a note of every vessel you speak to, the person’s name and the date. Sending a yacht 3 CV’s won’t improve your chances of getting the job but, feel free to check in with them every other day for day work opportunities.

6. Get to know the Dockmaster. He/she knows everyone.

7. Interior courses: particularly for busier programmes, these will undoubtedly hold you in great stead for being short listed, but they are not essential and cost a fortune. Some options for getting invaluable experience without selling your soul:

- Shadow a shop assistant for 3 days at a well-known brand and learn how to fold a shirt to exactly the same size every. single. time.

- Work in a laundromat; learn how to use a rolling iron; the sensitivity of particular fabrics to heat (e.g. linen vs silk) and iron a collared shirt. Quickly.

- Bartending and wine service; learn how to make the standard cocktail menu by memory (decorating can come later but is also a plus), present and open a bottle of wine, and what glasses to use.

- Floristry; befriend your local florist or event planner, watch, learn, be keen and offer assistance = 100% effective if you bring milkshakes. Large event companies usually have a team of florists and welcome help.

- Event planning; besides floristry, this will be a huge insight into what is required for catering, table settings and service

- Detailing; most marinas – even in ol’ Durbs – have detailing companies. It may not always be the same level of detailing as Superyachts but its better than nothing and they are usually quite excited that you are interested in helping. At the very least, you will learn that alcohol, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are life; how and where to use them.

- YouTube; every napkin fold in the book is there. Learn at least 7.

- Knots; find yourself a fisherman.

- Microsoft Excel; if you didn’t pay attention in school, you better make a plan.

8. Exterior courses: Whilst you aren’t going to escape the necessity of your Yachtmaster before landing the Lead Deckhand position, there are some other options for gaining experience that can rival the likes of some of the entry level courses. With 7 years in the industry, Matt Baynes shared with us his best recommendations for aspiring deckhands and engineers:

- Know your basic products; what’s good for paint,metals and glass. Experience at a Ship's Chandlery such as West Marine would be perfect. Even a home improvement sort of establishment would be beneficial as they sell loads of the same products

- Learn how to use tools/power tools properly and have a good working knowledge of all types of tools. The right size socket wrenches/spanners for the jobs you are undertaking will save you looking for a 'Long Wait' and help you to be a more valuable asset to an engineer when he’s stuck in a confined space and needs another tool.

- Get some mechanical experience. Don't wait for the day when your tender full of guests wont start, to wish you knew more about how the parts of a basic engine work or how to do basic maintenance on an outboard. Most workshops will satisfy this.

- Detailing; working at a luxury car wash will help you develop an eye for detail washing and detailing expensive cars where the owners are paying top Dollar to drive out with not even a waterspot on the paint or windows.

- Working as a bell boy in a hotel, getting familiar with greeting and interacting with guests, carrying luggage etc.

- Additional skills; having a prior background in water sports is hugely beneficial and more recently, any sort of photography/videography skills are setting the candidates apart. It's one way to excuse another fishing trip.

9. A charter Superyacht might not be for you and that’s ok, there are plenty other options– from Sportfish and smaller vessels to shadow boats, the spectrum of experience varies greatly. There is no harm in testing the waters until you find your niche. There is a boat out there for everyone who wants to find it and has the right attitude.

10. If you are ‘green’ you do not have any food preferences until you are employed. Then and only then, you may mention them in passing; much like you would to your current partner about bumping into an ex on a night out– awkwardly, quickly and hope that it doesn’t cause too much of a stir.

And that's a wrap! It sounds more daunting that it can be and there are multiple communities out there to help you make the transition. But for now, you should be good to go!

Best of luck!

Two Stews x

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