If you are wondering how to become a Yacht Deckhand, then look no further.
Having been in the industry for 10 years, I know that becoming a Deckhand with no experience can be challenging.
My goal is to equip you with the knowledge and resources to secure your first job on a super yacht, regardless of your prior experience.
Table of Contents
What is a Deckhand?
A Deckhand is an entry-level role on a yacht, and their main responsibility is the maintenance and cleanliness of the exterior of the yacht.
As a Deckhand gains experience onboard a vessel they can work their way towards becoming the Lead Deckhand, Bosun, Chief Officer, and ultimately the Captain.
What is the Salary Range of a Yacht Deckhand?
The question of how to become a Yacht Deckhand is usually followed by what they earn.
A starting yacht based salary for a Deckhand can range from $2500 – $3500 depending on factors such as the size of the yacht and your qualifications and experience.
Additionally, if you work on a charter yacht you can expect to see tips of about $2000-$5000 per week of chartering.
Another important factor to consider is longevity onboard. Boats tend to reward longevity so on some vessels you can expect annual increases.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Yacht Deckhand
The primary role of a Yacht Deckhand is to clean and maintain the exterior of the Yacht. This can include a wide range of tasks such as:
- wash downs
- scrubbing teak
- equipment maintenance
In addition to cleaning and maintenance, a Deckhand will also assist with:
- mooring operations
- tender operations
- guest activities
- water sports
- bridge lookout
- any assistance required in the daily operations of the yacht.
Mandatory Qualifications for Becoming a Yacht Deckhand
If you are looking to become a superyacht Deckhand, you will need to have an STCW Certification and pass an ENG1 medical.
The STCW (Standards of Training and Certification of Watch keeping) is an internationally mandated course and a minimum requirement for anyone who wishes to work on a yacht. During the training, crew members will learn basic safety skills and acquire knowledge to effectively handle emergency situations onboard. The training will also cover basic safe working practices to ensure the safety of all crew members.
In 2010 the STCW convention added a new module requirement to the basic safety training, so ensure that you do the additional Proficiency in Security Awareness (PSA) module which takes one extra day.
This STCW course is comprised of 4 modules, takes 5 days to complete, and is valid for 5 years. The modules include:
- Personal Survival Techniques (PST)
- Fire Fighting and prevention (FFP)
- Elementary First Aid (EFA)
- Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR)
An ENG1 is a basic medical examination carried out by an MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) certified doctor, confirming that you are in a fit condition to work on a yacht.
Without passing this medical check, you will not be able to work on a yacht as a Deckhand.
Ensure you book your medical with an MCA-approved doctor.
Recommended Additional Courses for Becoming a Deckhand on a Yacht
It is important to note that the required deckhand qualifications may vary depending on the size and type of the Super Yacht and the flag state under which it operates.
Some super yachts may have additional requirements beyond the ones mentioned above.
Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD)
The PSA course has already been completed as a minimum requirement in your STCW course. However, crew members given designated security duties under the ship’s security plan must complete this PDSD course.
This requirement is for vessels that fall under the ISPS code (International Ship and Port Facility Security Code).
Power Boat Level 2
This yacht deckhand course is essential if you are seeking a qualification to operate yacht tenders. Doing this course is also the foundation for what you will be learning in courses to come as you climb the ranks and gain more certifications.
Another equivalent course is the IYT Small Powerboat & Rib Master which is also recognized by the MCA.
In this 2-day course, you will learn:
- Basic collision avoidance regulations
- Basic navigation, actions in emergencies
- Safety equipment
- Boat handling skills
- Berthing alongside
- Turning in a confined space
- Man-overboard drills
VHF Short Range Radio Course
The VHF radios are used on a vessel for communication between the main vessel and small crafts, other vessels, or land-based authorities within the area.
Therefore, if you have crew or guests out on the tender or beach, or if your vessel is coming into port, you will be using the VHF radio to communicate.
This is a required course for some of your upcoming certifications, so it is advisable to get it done now. It is also legally required to obtain this certificate on certain vessels if you are a crew member who will be using VHF communication.
In this one-day course, you will learn the correct voice procedure, the GMDSS system, the phonetic alphabet, emergency calls, and the DSC controller
Personal Watercraft License (PWC)
A personal watercraft refers to the Wave runners and Jet skis of a vessel. If you want to become a Yacht Deckhand, certain cruising areas will require you to hold this license in order to operate the Jet skis. Therefore it is recommended that all Deck crew members hold this license.
In this one-day course you will learn:
- Recovery skills
- Passage planning
- High and low-speed riding skills
- Essential safety information
- Collision avoidance
- Orientation at sea
Recommended Courses to Consider as You Climb the Ranks
MCA Yacht Rating
The Yacht Rating Certificate is required by Yacht Crew members to be part of the safe manning requirements of the vessel. There are 2 ways to attain this certificate as per the application form:
1. With a training record book
Applications for a Yacht Rating Certificate require at least 6 months yacht service, including 2 months actual sea service on vessels over 15m in load line length plus a completed Yacht Rating Training Record Book.
2. Complete a course
If you choose to complete a course, successful candidates will receive a Course Completion Certificate. They will then apply to the MCA, and obtain the MCA Yacht Rating Certificate after completing two months of sea service on vessels of over 15m in load line length. Course choices include:
- Watch Leader Certificate together with an RYA Competent Crew Certificate
- Day Skipper Certificate with an RYA Competent Crew Certificate and/or higher RYA Certificate
- Yacht Rating Course Completion Certificate
The benefit of holding this certificate is that it informs Captains that you have advanced deck skills. Additionally, this course is a good introduction for students who want to do the EDH (Efficient Deckhand Course).
This 5-day Training Course Covers:
- Navigational Watch Duties
- Life-Saving and Fire Fighting Equipment
- Code of Safe Working Practices
- Engine Watch Keeping Duties
- Pollution Prevention
- Knots, Bends, and Hitches
- Whipping and splicing
- International Safe Management Code
- Rules of the Road
- Day shapes
- Lights and IALA A and B Buoyage system
Efficient Deckhand Course (EDH)
The importance of obtaining this certificate when you meet the pre-requisites is that you need to hold your EDH for 18 months before you can start your OOW course.
The Efficient Deckhand (EDH) course covers basic seamanship, tying of knots, and advanced rope work such as whipping, splicing, and rigging. It also teaches maintenance routines, steering, duties of the lookout, and the responsibilities of crew members under the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen.
This course is taught over 4 days with an oral and practical examination on the last day. I recommend you arrive with the ability to tie most of the standard nautical knots in order to get through the syllabus.
The pre-requisite for the course is to hold a Yacht rating with 6 months of seagoing service and a steering certificate.
Update your Yachting CV
It is crucial to have an impressive Yacht CV that catches the attention of the Captain and motivates them to read it thoroughly.
You may be wondering how to become a Yacht Deckhand without any prior experience. You will be competing with numerous crew members who may have an edge over you with their courses and experience.
Follow my Yacht CV guidelines to highlight your skills and attributes that will make you a standout candidate for the job.
Locate Yourself in a Yachting Hub and Apply for Deckhand Jobs
When you go dock walking, be sure to do your research before heading out. Take into account factors such as the time of year and port control regulations.
Some locations to consider include:
The best time of year to seek work in America would be starting in October for the Caribbean Season.
Please note that it is ILLEGAL to dock walk in America unless you are an American Citizen or green card holder. Fort Lauderdale is the best place to be based if you are legally allowed to dockwalk.
If you are looking to find work on a yacht for the Mediterranean yachting season, you should head over in March.
In Italy, you want to head to Monaco, Genoa, Loana, Imperia, or San Remo
In the South of France, Antibes is your best option, but others you could try are Toulon, Nice, Cannes, and La Ciotat.
If you head to Spain, you want to be based in Palma de Mallorca or Barcelona.
Sign up with Yacht Crew Agencies
You will want to sign up with as many crew agencies as possible if you want to become a Deckhand on a Yacht.
Here are some popular agencies you should sign up with to get started:
- Luxury Yacht Group
- Blue Water Yachting
- The Crew Network
- Cotton Crews
- Northrop and Johnson
- HR Crew
Don’t forget to keep an eye on Facebook and other social media platforms for Deckhand job postings. Join yachting Facebook groups like Fort Lauderdale Yacht Crew, Palma Yacht Crew, Antibes Yacht Crew, and any others that may have Deckhand job opportunities available. Check these groups regularly to stay updated.
Gain Deckhand Experience Wherever Possible
Don’t be afraid to accept day work on boats of all sizes. Some day work may not be on your vessel size of choice, but you want to gain experience on deck regardless.
Be sure to work hard and impress the Captain and Crew, as you will be wanting a good reference from them.
Final Thoughts on How to Become a Yacht Deckhand
Never forget that every Captain was once a Deckhand…
Working out on deck can be tiring, and you’ll need to put a lot of personal time and money into your courses and certifications.
Enjoy the experience of being a Deckhand, all the fun, laughter, hard work, and challenges that come with it. The yachting industry is a worthwhile adventure, and becoming a Deckhand on a Yacht is just the first step in your journey to some epic opportunities.