Working as a Crew Member on Yachts on the French Riviera
Information on finding a job and working on yachts on the Cote d'Azur; find out about the different types of yachts, qualifications required, the different crew positions available on a yacht and crew salaries...
The French Riviera is one of the major international hubs for super yachts, both during winter and summer. The yachting season typically runs from April to October, at which time yachts are generally fully crewed and operational for charter (or private use) throughout the Mediterranean.
The yachting industry in the French Riviera has potential employees arriving from around the world to try and obtain a position on a yacht for the season. However, prior to arrival, it is beneficial to be aware of the types of yachts, the positions available on board and the legal requirements of getting a job.
Types of Yachts
There are a range of makes and models of super yachts, which become more familiar with time. However the main types of yachts are motor yachts and sailing yachts.
Motor yachts are powered only by motor and range in size from around 26m, to over 100m. The way each yacht is run depends on the size of the yacht and the management, under supervision of the captain. However, generally, larger yachts have a more regimented regime, with crew being restricted to one position and having to complete watch and other duties according to a set roster.
Smaller yachts (with less crew) often employ crew in combined roles; for example, "deckhand and stewardess" or "cook and stewardess". Each yacht differs in relation to the crew obligations and positions on board.
Motor yachts vary based on what they were designed to do. For example a Palmer Johnson is a sports boat designed for speed and a Fedship is a hardy yacht designed as more of an explorer vessel.
Sailing yachts are powered by both motor and sail and are generally regarded as a more relaxed environment by crew and guests; as a result, crew pay is often less than with a motor yacht.
There are many kinds of sailing yachts, ranging from racing yachts such as the Wally, to larger cruising vessels.
Charter versus private
Sailing and motor yachts might be either "Private" or "Charter", or a combination of both.
Private yachts are used solely by the owner and the owner's guests and do not have the required commercial licence for charter. Charter yachts may be used by the owner, as well as charter guests, which are generally arranged by the yacht's management or agency.
Charter yachts are generally more popular for crew, as it is expected that guests tip crew for their service at the end of the charter. Depending on how busy the yacht is during the season, crew may earn a lot of extra money from tips from charter guests.
The minimum required qualification to work onboard yachts is an STCW95 course. The course consists of the following components and is generally at least five full days (depending on the course provider):
- Personal Survival Techniques
- Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention
- Elementary First Aid
- Personal Safety and Social Responsibility
The course is available in various countries worldwide, however, crew should ensure that the course they enrol in is an accredited Marine Course and will be recognised by those in the industry when seeking a position.
- For a list of STCW95 training centres: Click here
ENG1 Medical Certificate
In order to obtain an STCW95 qualification, most training centres require every participant to have successfully completed a seafarers medical examination and have received an ENG1 certificate, confirming they have passed the medical.
Not all doctors are able to provide an ENG1 certificate.
- For a list of approved medical practitioners: Click here
There are a number of additional courses that crew can complete in order to prepare themselves for life on board.
Power Boat Level 2 is for any crew members intending to use the tender or other leisure crafts as part of their role. The course is a two-day practical course with instruction in tender driving, manouvering and an introduction to navigation. This course is appropriate for all deck crew as well as for a steward/ess on a smaller yacht.
- For more information on the Powerboat level 2 course: Click here
Steward/Stewardess Courses are available in most countries which offer STCW95 and vary in content, length and price. Most will focus on interior decoration including floral design and table setting, wine and food appreciation and service. For potential steward/esses, a course could be of great value if it is recognised by yachts. Accordingly, it is important when selecting a course to ensure it is properly accredited.
Wine and Food Appreciation Courses are widely available and are generally attended by senior or chief steward/esses and are useful to ensure guests get the best possible food and wine combinations and service.
For those wishing to make a career out of yachting, there are many additional qualifications needed to move through the ranks. Depending on a crew member's chosen path (captain, engineer or interior), more experienced crew members should be able to provide the relevant information about how to complete the courses required.
Prior to applying for yachting positions, it is helpful to have an understanding of the positions available, the career development of that position and the roles and responsibilities associated with that role.
- For a summary of the positions available on a yacht: Click here
The number of positions available and people onboard varies depending on the size of the yacht and it is common for both deckhand and steward/esses to be ranked according to experience. For example, a "chief stew" will assume a more administrative role and will delegate duties to the more junior steward/esses on board.
Additionally, it is common for crew members to fulfill a number of duties, especially on smaller yachts.
Crew salaries vary depending on the yacht and what the owner is willing to pay. However, there is a rough guide which can provide job seekers with some sort of expectation of their potential pay.
Most salaries are paid in euros, but the currency will depend on the nationality of the yacht owner and is also often paid in British pounds or American dollars.
- For a summary of crew earnings, based on position on a yacht: Click here
Getting a Job
Getting a position on a yacht for the first time generally requires the crew member to relocate to an area where there are plenty of yachts looking to recruit.
The best time to arrive is anytime before May, as this is when most yachts are looking for crew after the winter season.
The main locations for job seekers during this period are Antibes, France and the surrounding area and Palma, Spain.
One of the most important things to have completed correctly is a well constructed CV, in a form that corresponds with what yachts expect.
Job seekers should have received some assistance during their STCW95 course, as well as from contacts they may have who have previously been, or are currently in the industry.
Main points to bear in mind include:
- Provide a clear, professional picture, dressed in a polo or collared shirt. The picture in the CV is the first thing that employers will see so it must be a fair reflection of the job seeker
- Ensure contact details are correct
- Clearly stipulate all the relevant qualifications obtained
- List all relevant employment history relating to customer service, experience on boats or anything relevant to the potential position
It is recommended that job seekers print at least 20 copies of their CV and have a copy handy in case a potential employer requests it. Business cards are also becoming more popular for job seekers, as a less expensive alternative to carrying around a full CV.
- For more information on how to prepare a yachting CV: Click here (PDF)
One of the most common ways for new job seekers in the industry to get a position is to "Dock Walk". This involves walking around the marina and asking members of a yacht crew if they require any day workers (for which the expected rate is generally €100 per day) or permanent crew.
Job seekers are advised to wear tidy shorts (that are of a reasonable length) and a polo or collared shirt.
It is best to dock walk as early as possible, from around 08:00 when crew begin work and take a reasonable number of CVs to hand to crew on board.
Approach crew members in a polite, cheerful manner and be prepared to go onboard if invited and meet more senior crew members. Do not board a yacht uninvited or with shoes or sandals on. Take off shoes and put them in the shoe basket, which should be at the end of the passerelle.
There are numerous crew agencies in areas with large marinas, where super yachts are berthed. Generally, crew agents are more responsive to candidates who have had some experience but it is worth visiting as many agencies as possible to register in case an appropriate position arises.
Prior to visiting the agency, most require a job seeker to register online and upload a CV and other documents including a copy of the STCW95 certificate, ENG1 and other references and qualifications relevant to the job search. After registering, crew agents generally suggest that job seekers visit the office and make themselves known to the agent.
Most agencies are only open in the morning for job seekers so it is important to get around as many agencies during the morning.
Crew houses and Internet cafés
Jobs are often posted in crew houses and Internet cafés. Keep a close eye on the notice boards advertising jobs and it may even be beneficial to attach a CV or business card to the board, in case a crew member sees it and is interested in arranging an interview.
The start of the season is a busy time for those recruiting for positions, as well as those seeking roles, and socialising does play a large part in some job seekers getting positions. However, be mindful of your behaviour in public as it is a small industry and people do remember those they meet.
There are plenty of accommodation options for job seekers on the Côte d'Azur, ranging from backpackers and crew houses, to fully equipped apartments.
For those who prefer to hire an apartment, there are a number of holiday accommodation websites that may assist in finding short-term accommodation, as well as agencies located in the Antibes area. There are often advertisements for short term rentals in cafes, crew houses and Internet cafes.
Once a job seeker is offered a position they are often expected to join the yacht as soon as possible (which can sometimes be the same day the offer is made). Before accepting a position, a job seeker should check details concerning the position on board, the salary and the yacht itself.