work on a super yacht

Deciding whether to work on a yacht

Deciding to Work on a Super Yacht?

Prior to leaving England on that cold wet day in September and embarking on my new adventure I spent a year considering the idea of working on a super yacht. I even spent a week in the South of France, chatting to yacht crews and others looking for work, all to help me decide if this was something I wanted to do. I vividly remember sitting on a beach in Antibes just off the harbour, writing out what seemed like an endless list of pros and cons…

The main problem with making the decision was that I seemed to have two voices in my head. One I called “Mr Sensible” and the other “Mr Adventurous” - both seemed equally logical and plausible depending on my mood, and were often influenced by the people I was surrounded by.

Mr Sensible would regularly tell me “you are in a well-paid secure job, have a nice apartment and all your friends around you. Why risk it all to work in an industry you have not experienced, to live in a small cabin, sharing with others, away from loved ones and may never even get a job on a yacht.” All plausible reasons which moved the reality of my super yacht adventure further away. 

The other side was Mr Adventurous, whose approach was much more exciting, maybe more risky but equally appealing. He would regularly say, “why stay in a job you don’t like, while you have no commitments… explore the world, travel, have new experiences, save more money than you possibly could in your current job, meet new people, L  I  V  E!!!”

Both would present highly convincing cases and my mind, for that year, felt like a high court case with the defendant and prosecution fighting to win. My mind was the jury.

Those I talked with also influenced my decision. My parents naturally opted for the safe and secure option, to stay in my current job, which was a sensible idea and a highly credible option. My friends encouraged me to “go, go, go” “what have you to lose”. They would see more of the fun side of the adventure (travel, hot climates) and they all added support to Mr Adventurous.

I spent a week in France to help my decision and on arriving back in the UK headed straight to my work place. I met with my boss and told him my thoughts. On discussing my options he rightly said “what have you to lose.” With no dependents, mortgage or ties he encouraged me to make the most of the opportunity He also reassured me my job would be there for me should things not work out. With that in mind I spoke to my family, who agreed with his sentiments and were equally encouraging. I realised where my heart lay and that I had a deep routed desire to give the super yacht world my best shot, stepping out of my comfort zone (something that I had not done for a long time) and challenge myself on this exciting yet unknown new path. 

The decision was made, the jury in my mind quietened and a calmness came over me before the magnitude of my undertaking dawned on me. My mind buzzed with excitement, so much to sort and plan before leaving, courses to attend and tasks to complete, the first being my letter of resignation… this was really happening!

I handed in my notice the following morning giving four weeks notice. The month flew by and before I knew it I was sat on the tarmac at Bristol Airport in an Easyjet plane bound for Nice in the South of France.

I wish I could say I never regretted the decision but there were times when I did, on that plane, on first entering my crew dormitory, my first dock walk and many other occasions when Mr Sensible would question, “what are you doing?”  I did have moments when I wondered if I had made the right decision; with people telling me how hard it was to get work and how I had left it too late to come to France. However, looking back on the whole experience it was certainly not the wrong decision and it has provided me with so many opportunities and memories that would never have happened had I not decided to take the big step that turned my career and life in a completely new direction.

Decisions at times can be very testing, and it is hard not to be influenced by the views of others, or the need to impress and please. Sometimes the easy decision is not necessarily the right one, leaving us stale and uninspired. It may seem more comfortable, certainly easier, though may not always bring happiness. Often the harder one may be worth making, taking you a little further out your comfort zone than you are comfortable with.
The power of one decision over another can have enormous consequences and change the path of your life in so many ways. I often wonder how my life would have been had I not chosen to take the chance of this great opportunity. It is hard to say, but I am sure it would not have included as many incredible sights, beautiful beaches, ports and towns, glorious sunsets and sun rises looking out over the sea, captivating wildlife, making friends and memories to last a life time. 

I hope that in my twilight years I will remember some of the incredible moments from my time working on a super yacht and the happy memories and experiences gained. As for my office job… well I think I will have enough to relive without dwelling on this. 

There is only one life and I sometimes feel we trade too easily our memories and moments at the expense of a pay cheque. Remembering time is finite and the need to appreciate every moment of each day may just help to create a future and past that you can look on with fondness and happiness.

Make the right decision; live, love, see, feel…enjoy a life you want to live and create your future as you want it. 

Next blog: Dockwalking

Written by Ben Proctor
For more information read Work on a Super Yacht: The Beginners Guide by Ben Proctor 

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become
— Steve Jobs
People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost
— Dalai Lama

Top 3 low points of my time working on a yacht

My Top Three Lows of Working on a Super Yacht.

1)    Christmas.

I always found this a difficult time to be away from home and believe most crew would agree. One especially stands out… Christmas morning 2011 on a crossing from St Maarten to St Barts, a call came over the radio for a deck crew member to go to the bridge deck. Hoping it may be a Christmas treat I rush up only to be greeted by a large area of vomit on the yachts pristine teak decking. I clean the deck, scrubbing and rinsing down, while the yacht gently lurches from side to side, spreading what was already a sizeable area into an even larger one. Rinsing it down I feel a small sense of satisfaction as I near the end of this less than appealing task, only to notice in the scuppers (the drains around the side of the decks) that some of the larger chunks are too big to enter the drains. With plastic gloves, kneeling and clearing chunks of vomit, I decide this is not one of the high points in my life. 

2)    Missing my brother’s first child being born. 

I was delighted to hear that the baby had been born safely but it was difficult not being there for my first niece coming back to our family home with everyone there. Having met her three months later it was clear she would have no idea who was around at the time of her birth. However it is one of those special events to share with your brother and be a part of. My sister-in-law reassured me I was seeing her at a much more interesting stage three months later which was of some comfort. It was always one of the things I found hard to accept, putting the yacht, an innate object, ahead of family and friends, controlling your life. I also missed close friends’ weddings when we had guests on board and were not permitted leave. It is one of the sacrifices that comes with the job and though I learnt to accept found it very difficult. For many crew it is the one thing that pushes them away from this industry.

3)    Working hard on a charter and not receiving a guest tip. 

This sounds very spoilt and ungrateful, and I nearly omitted it here as so many people do incredible jobs with no tips and deserve them more than we as crew ever did. However I wanted this to be honest so included it being a genuinely low point for us all, despite working the hardest and longest hours of any prior trip. For one reason or another we did not receive a tip. It sounds awful but money does become a big part of life working on a yacht, probably too big, with some putting money above everything else. But the rewards compensate for the hard work, long hours and sacrifices made and becomes that carrot at the end of a stick making up for the less appealing side of the job. These three weeks were hard work and to make matters worse it was over Christmas and New Year, a time when we all wanted to be at home with loved ones. In reality we had been anticipating something in the region of £4000-£5000 but it never materialised. This had a really bad effect on crew morale and relationships, and people started blaming others for not getting the expected reward. I feel guilty to say but this was one of the low points, especially when there are far more significant problems in the world and others doing such worthy works without financial incentives…maybe it just shows what a focus money had become to us all.

Next Blog... The cost of owning a super yacht

Written by Ben Proctor

For more information read Work on a Super Yacht: The Beginners Guide by Ben Proctor 

Christmas on a Super Yacht

Christmas on a Super Yacht.

I always found it difficult being away from home for Christmas. You are likely to be in a hot climate (Caribbean or Florida) and having grown up in England, experiencing Christmas in the heat for me is not right, let alone seeing an inflatable snowman bobbing away on a Caribbean beach with temperatures of 35 degrees. It just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of magic… 
Then comes the fact that you are away from home and for me and the crews I worked with, no other time made you feel so far away and miss your loved ones so much. There is something about Christmas, the magic of leaving work on Christmas Eve, driving back to your family, catching up with loved ones, sharing presents and laughter and relaxing around those dear to you (and yes, watching the same episodes of Only Fools and Horses and the Queens speech.)
Christmas and New Year are very popular times for guests and owners to use their yachts, so it is often a very busy time on board – no relaxing in a beach club drinking rum punches with the crystal clear Caribbean water lapping at your feet.

The reality of Christmas on a super yacht is not all bad though. For most crew and certainly those I worked with Christmas was celebrated a week or two earlier. From my personal experience this would consist of an incredible roast dinner, not only roast turkey, but beef and ham, with every trimming you could imagine. This would be eaten outside on the second deck around the main guest table, looking out onto the glorious bright blue sea over the distant hills of St Maarten in the Caribbean. The deck would be filled with chatter, laughter and the sounds of Slade and Band Aid playing through the air. Alcohol would flow, wines and beers all provided by the yacht would lap on top of your ever expanding waist line as you indulged in this glorious feast. An incredible selection of puddings would follow with Christmas pudding and chocolate log among the favourites. 

Following this one of the crew would dress as Santa and give out the presents from the yacht. Often thoughtful gifts such as shorts, swimwear, t-shirts, flip flops and even once a voucher from a local gentleman’s club nearby. A kind gesture which was always gratefully received. Many also provide an additional months salary (those I worked on did) and this was an extra generous gift. 

I also heard stories of crew being given jewellery, watches (Omega and Rolex for those lucky ones) and iPads. These more lavish gifts were often given to crew on private yachts where they became better acquainted with their owners, spending longer times together on board.
After this over indulgence and festive cheer we would go to a local bar for a few rum punches and Caribbean cocktails - drinking and dancing until the early hours. We all knew that this was likely to be our last drinking session for a while as our preparation for the guests arrival would soon start.

The organising for the guests arrival would generally start a couple of weeks beforehand. We always felt we had so much time to get everything done, but it was amazing how quickly the days flew by and we often ended up working longer hours to ensure everything was completed. Duties included washing and drying the entire yacht, cleaning all stainless steel and masts, polishing all the windows and name plates, as well as loading crew and guest supplies for the coming weeks. It was a busy time but everyone pulled together. On falling into bed I would browse Facebook and see the exciting flurries of posts and photos of people back home with loved ones, on country walks, in the pub, wrapped up warm, and together. 

I would always try to call home before guests arrived on Christmas Eve because once there your time was their time, so it did not give you the luxury of personal space. This contact home was one of the things I loved to do, but at the same time it also pulled on the heart strings that bit more. It was always lovely to hear their voices and see them on skype and certainly while speaking you felt that bit closer… but this soon ended upon hanging up. My mother would often try to hide her emotions on the other end but it was always clear and moving to hear the break in her voice as we wished each other a happy Christmas and sent our love before we ended the call. 

The guests would often arrive in a selection of mini bus vans with the principle guests in blacked out Mercedes. As soon as the cars drove along the dock we switched into work mode. Christmas Eve was here but not in the true sense of home. We would welcome guests with a cheerful smile and eagerness to help. 

Christmas day would arrive to an early start, a quick shower and up on deck to start a list of duties before guests surfaced. Behind the scenes in crew areas there was always a slightly subdued atmosphere being Christmas day, an unspoken loneliness away from loved ones, while in front of guests we covered up our emotions with our eager to help cheerful faces. The day would come and go, and to be honest, for us deck crew, it felt much like any normal day of the year on charter, working 12-16 hours. I always enjoyed getting to bed knowing that another Christmas had passed.

Each Christmas I vowed would be my last, but with time you forgot how it felt being away from home and before you knew it another one was fast approaching.  These times did not get any easier, regretfully they seemed to get only harder.

It is a strange time being away but I felt very fortunate to be living in such good conditions and being looked after so well. Many peoples’ jobs force them away for Christmas, working in far worse conditions with less access to speak to loved ones - so in that respect I felt very lucky. We were always well looked after and the yacht’s management did their best to provide us with some form of Christmas celebration. But for me Christmas was and always would be the hardest time and the furthest I ever felt away from home, family and friends. 

However, looking back I appreciate my time away at this period as it has made me appreciate those I love and how very precious time is when with them. So if you do ever spend Christmas away, just know that your next one at home will feel all the richer.  

Next blog... Top 3 lows of my time on a super yacht.

Written by Ben Proctor

For more information read Work on a Super Yacht: The Beginners Guide by Ben Proctor 

Working on a yacht in the Pacific

Working on a Super Yacht in the Pacific

This area is growing in popularity with super yachts as guests seek ever more exciting destinations to visit and a change from the more standard Caribbean and Mediterranean seasons. It provides an incredible travel opportunity should you be fortunate to be on a yacht heading to the Pacific.

Below is a brief summary:

-    This is where most yacht crew hope their yacht will take them! This is becoming more popular as owners and guest seek new experiences and adventures. Generally the yachts head here after the Caribbean season in March/April via the Panama Canal.

-    The places that are visited could include Galapagos Islands, Pacific Islands (Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga) around May – September. Then onto New Zealand and Australia in November – May.

-    An incredible adventure awaits those crews fortunate to join a yacht considering this route, which unfortunately the yachts I worked on never venture here. I have been informed by other crew members I met that the Panama Canal is an incredible sight to witness an incredible demonstration of human engineering. The Galapagos Islands I have been told are incredible, one friend was lucky enough to see the islands by air on the yachts own helicopter. Exploring these areas all from a yacht adds to what must already be an incredible experience.

- Australia and New Zealand, both up and coming destinations for super yachts and an increasing number of yachts attend ship yards here, allowing crew to explore these incredible countries.

Next blog... my top 3 highs of my time in working on a yacht 

Written by Ben Proctor

For more information read Work on a Super Yacht: The Beginners Guide by Ben Proctor