So, you’ve been reading all the information online about the skills needed to be a deckhand, but you still have no idea what a deckhand actually does… Here i’ll run you through in detail a day in a life of all aspects of the job of a deckhand on a Superyacht, to allow you to visualise what you will actually be doing day-to-day on a Superyacht, not just listing the skills required to get a job on a Superyacht.
Contrary to how most deckhands can look sometimes, a deckhand will be the workhorse of the deck team. Keeping the exterior of the yacht immaculately clean, watersports equipment at the ready, and the vessel secure and safe at all times. If you’re not keen on being the workhorse of a deck team then you should stop reading now, the job is not for you! There is a lot of work to be done as a Superyacht deckhand and this is why.
Superyachts only want to employ people that are willing to go the extra mile to maintain the yacht, help out their fellow crew members and complete 80% of the physical work required on the exterior of a yacht. It's not just a place to lay your head to work and get paid.
Job description for a Superyacht for deckhands: We could make up a list of all the skills that you will need to become employed as a deckhand (line handling, cleaning, painting, varnishing, polishing, tender driving, scuba diving, watersports knowledge ) but instead of documenting what you can find 10 times over on crew agent websites we’ve decided to run you through a full days work during the 3 main phases of a Superyachts program to give you a clear idea of what a deckhand will do, day in and day out, and not just the skills you will need.
The daily duties of a deckhand: These daily duties vary completely depending on if you have the boss on, or the boss off, or if you’re in the yard (shipyard) having some scheduled work done (maintenance) on the yacht. But this will give you a good grounding of what to expect.
Deckhand duties with guests on.
Mornings - are usually devoted to setup. You can expect to wipe the yacht down completely with a chamois (all flat surfaces), bucket of water and some vinegar and water spray to clean the windows. As you go around each deck you will also be taking off covers from all the chairs and bench seats around the yacht from the night before. We put these covers on late at night once the guests have gone to bed to protect the seating areas usually from overnight due and moisture, but also rain, dust and any particles from the air that tend to drop and stain the covers. It sounds like overkill, but if you don’t do it and the seats get wet from an unexpected rain shower or dew, do you think the guests will be happy with a wet bum…? No, so get used to the overkill!! That is job security for a Superyacht deckhand! Plus, don’t forget to put the flag up.
Days - when not cruising, days are devoted completely to maintaining the guests wellbeing and happiness. Yes sir, no sir, and there will be plenty of that! The boat is now set up, so you’ll be monitoring all guest movements, taking guests ashore in tenders, or preparing and instructing their water sport entertainment and safety. You could be helping with waterskiing, tubing, on the jetskis, cruising around on the Seabobs, fishing or just hanging around the swim platform on the ready for any guests coming down for a swim. You are their servant and will have to be ready to jump to attention for them any time they are around, or want something. Get used to this.
Nights - usually this is the quieter time for most of the deck team, however if you’re underway, or the guests need to go ashore for dinner or return, then you will be always on call to take off at any moment. Nights will be made up of a list of different jobs. It could be, washing any of the toys that haven’t been washed during the day, flushing them with fresh water and refuelling. Packing away everything from the day and making sure it all goes back to its designated place. Or, you could be washing and rinsing set areas of the yacht that could be salty if the yacht has moved during the day, or just got wet during the water sports fun of the day. If you are at anchor you will be consistently heading to the Bridge (or even based in the Bridge depending on weather) maintaining a safe bridge watch, and an eye on any tenders still in the water, to make sure the vessel is safe and not dragging anchor. You’ll be monitoring radars, other vessels positions, your navigation system, wind speed and weather, all of this equipment will help you make certain that the yacht will be safe overnight.
If you are at the dock then some of the daily routine will be altered, and manning the passerelle (security) will be of most importance.
Manning the Passerelle - This is not a tough job, and from the outside it looks like deckies are doing absolutely nothing, and in most cases the deckhand will be doing just that, absolutely nothing. Standing there looking pretty cool (which is easy to do when you are on a multi million dollar yacht), but the purpose of crew member standing out there goes way beyond the actual work productivity completed when standing on the aft deck. Because Its all about security.
Deckhand duties with the boss off.
This can be a great time to be on deck. Without the boss off you could be in one of three phases.Delivery - moving the yacht to a new location or doing an ocean passage. On call - waiting out time between guest trips, waiting for the boss to call, or picking up a new charter. Or Getting setup - The last week more or less before a guest trip when everything is getting touched up and you are doing your final wash downs and setups.
What will your role be during a delivery. Dependant on the size of the yacht you will most likely continue to maintain the exterior of the yacht during the day, and then act as a Lookout during the night (on smaller vessels you may be acting as a Watchkeeper but that is for more advanced deckhands, we’ll concentrate on when you’re new to yachting). The Lookout is there to aid the watch keeper, keeping an eye out for any yachts that appear on the horizon, or on the radars for new targets. You are there to help and assist in every way. The ability to make a good coffee or quality toasted sandwich will always add value to your position as a proficient Lookout!! During the day you will be rinsing down once or twice a day in some cases depending on the weather. (If the weather is bad, you’ll be back up in the bridge acting as a lookout, or laying flat-out due to sea sickness. For your future progression in the industry, lets hope you are back up in the bridge!) Rinsing down and washing the hull underway can be the staple diet of your daily routine, then you can be assigned any maintenance jobs that may need to be fixed or attended too. Rarely if ever, when moving the yacht will you have days off or complete downtime, you are always on call on a yacht!
If you are on call waiting for the bosses instructions then this can be the best time onboard. Your work days are can be less stressed as you are keeping up with the general upkeep of the yacht which is already in good shape after a trip. You could be in a fantastic location, port, or shipyard (not so great). The days can be hot and things will feel like they can’t get any better. Enjoy these moments. During the days you could be washing all of the cushion covers, detailing tenders, detailing the jacuzzi or swimming pool, or repairing any small things that may have got broken or damaged during the guest trip, like jetski fenders or fibreglass where guests (or crew) have put tenders onto coral, rocks or into the swim platform too fast... It does happen, just don’t let it happen twice.
Getting setup: Depending on the size of your yacht this could take a couple of days, or a week. Its the last minute touches you need to do to ensure that you are looking a million dollars before a guest trip. This usually entails “doing the decks” which is scrubbing the decks with acid to clean them and make them look a honey coloured brown. Some yachts will have a machine that you use, but others won't. Either way this can be a one, two, or three day job and requires plenty of muscle and getting the guns out! After the decks you will do a final wash down to get off any marks from rain, carbon or just the general atmosphere that will dirty a boat within a week, plus any residue left over from doing the decks. After this the yacht will be clean and looking great, now you’ll put all the cushions out, setup the furniture, most likely put up some umbrellas or some sails that are for shade and then just to top it off throw on some covers on all the cushions and chairs depending on how long it is until the guests arrive, to make sure nothing gets wet, dirty or dewy.
On Watch: During any day onboard a yacht (less important with guests on as you will have different roles) there will always be a designated Watchkeeper (sometimes two, or more including an engineer depending on the yacht size). You’re in charge of the yachts daily wellbeing. If it is a day off, then it usually goes like this at a minimum:
08:00 put the flag up, check all lines and fenders that everything is in the correct place and the yacht is secure. Walk around the decks to make sure nothing is lying around, plus checking the bridge for any alarms or anything that may not be normal (do this continually throughout the day, every hour or more). Continue on with your day, you may have a job list to be done.
12:00 lunch, setup for lunch in the crew mess, then tidy up and put all the food away, vacuum, and wipe the tables down once everyone is finished. Back to work until 17:00 if necessary.
18:00 dinner, setup for lunch in the crew mess, then tidy up and put all the food away again, vacuum, and wipe the tables down once everyone is finished, AGAIN!
21:00 or 22:00 you are free to go to bed. Some yachts will have the alarms in crew cabins that you will have activated in case of emergency. You are required to be on call all night.
08:00 your watch officially finishes and goes onto the next designated watch keeper.
Deckhand duties in the shipyard.
When you’re in the Shipyard you will get some major repairs done to make sure the yacht is at its peak for the next season. You may or may not get “hauled out” depending on the type of work to be done, but when you’re hauled out it is the perfect time for any bottom painting or cleaning to be done. This could be done by you or the yard, but if it is you, please make sure to wear a quality respiration mask. The dust created from sanding back the bottom is toxic and can be easily inhaled (although it may not be paid attention too by the yard workers), do everything you can to protect yourself! When painting the bottom be careful, there is a reason why it is applied to repel barnacles and other sea matter. Because the paint is very toxic. Pay attention in the shipyards for safety as there is always people working with heavy machinery, the possibility for inhaling fumes, or the fact you are out of water means working on deck you could be an extra 5m higher than normal without any soft landing. It can be a strange feeling at first, just be careful!
Other yard work tasks: