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Living Your Dream, on a Yacht

Lily Snowden

Imagine waking up on a yacht every day, perhaps in the Bahamas, Mediterranean or Virgin Islands. Sounds like a dream, right? For many young 20-somethings, this is a reality. But how?! One word: yachting.

Though many people don’t realize it, the yachting industry has a high demand for workers. With a low cost of living, extended travel dates and other perks, this career has quickly picked up popularity among young Floridians and adventurers alike. Known as “yachties,” they are paid to live what many would consider a dream life: Work on a yacht, travel for free and use the amenities when owners are not aboard. While a starting salary of $3,000 a season may not sound like much, food, utilities, gas and sometimes insurance is covered, leaving room for a very low cost of living, while getting to travel the world.

Does this sound like your dream lifestyle? It’s easier to get started than you might expect. The base requirements for working on a yacht are obtaining two key things: an ENG1 medical certificate and STCW or a Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping certification.

An ENG1 is essentially a physical assessment by a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) certified doctor. It ensures candidates are physically fit enough to travel and work at sea. The exam is relatively short and costs an average of $200. The STCW is a five-day course that teaches about fire safety, personal life saving techniques, CPR and other subjects and costs roughly $1,000 depending on the provider. After completion, candidates can take additional courses to help them stand out from other candidates, depending on which position they are applying for. The third requirement is an American passport or a working visa. Due to COVID-19 and high demand, a working visa is extremely hard to obtain right now. In turn, yachts are in search of candidates with U.S. passports.

With the ENG, STCW and U.S. passport, candidates can work in a number of positions on the yacht. On the interior, there are stewards and stewardesses (aka stews) including chief stew, second stew, third stew and junior stew. They are responsible for guest services, housekeeping, laundry and luggage. Exterior positions include mate, bosun (or ​​boatswain), lead deckhand and deckhand. They are responsible for keeping the exterior of the yacht clean and assisting guests with outside activities. Other positions, like captain, engineer, ETO (electro-technical officer), electrician and first mate, are more specialized and require additional training and experience. There are lots of opportunities in the yachting industry, making it a sustainable career for many years.

Though the idea of getting to travel all the time to tropical locations sounds glamorous, yachting is hard work. Yachties typically work 18-hour days, as they are on the job before the guests wake up and after they go to bed. There is a lot of cleaning the exterior, laundry, polishing, laundry, hauling heavy items, laundry, packing up, unpacking and laundry. Did I mention laundry? There are night shifts as well as day shifts for every position on board. Many yachties say that the travel and experience outweighs the hard work and makes it all worth it.

As I write this piece, I am riding in the car on the way to Ft. Lauderdale to get my ENG1. I graduated college two days ago, and I plan on taking my STCW sometime in early June. I am hoping to be a stewardess for as long as I can or until I decide working on land sounds more appealing than getting to go to the Bahamas several times a year. Though the working days on yachts can be long, I am excited to start this adventure and be on the sea at all times of day.   

If you are interested in starting a yachting career, several helpful resources include:

Blue Water Yachting: a training, management and placement agency based in Ft. Lauderdale that also provides brokerage and charter services

DayWork123: a free worldwide digital job posting board for both daywork and temporary and permanent yacht and maritime positions

That Yachtie Girl: “yachtie tips and travel clips” from 25-year old Emery Wallerich, a working yacht stewardess, who shares insider info about the yacht industry on Tik-Tok