Name: Madison Bailes
Yacht: M/Y Unbridled
Years in current position: 4 total as deckhand, 2 as captain on small boats
Years in industry: 6
Previous vessels: M/Y Pelorus, M/Y Benita Blue, S/Y Cuan Law
Becoming mate is a good goal for anyone who plans on working their way up the ranks on deck. Or eventually a captain, but that is a whole lot of responsibility and admin on superyachts. I personally enjoy being a captain on smaller vessels.
I grew up on a sailboat — 10 years living aboard from five to 15. But I became a dive instructor in 2010 and got my first deck/dive gig.
If I weren’t on a yacht, I would probably be swimming…but work-wise I have no idea. I will always make a living on or in the water.
The long hours are the toughest part of the job. Otherwise, just staying motivated, especially mid-season with nonstop back-to-back charters. I’ve been very lucky to always work alongside awesome crew and great captains; that definitely lightens the load.
My advice for those looking to get started is to get out on the water! Get experience, make mistakes, and learn. Get as many courses under your belt as possible.
My advice for those looking to impress on the job is a good work ethic! Look around; what needs to be done? Do it! And not just on deck — if the trash needs to go out or if you see an opportunity to lend a hand in another department, then be that person. There’s no such thing as, “That’s not my job.”
I think every skill you have is going to ultimately add value to you as a crewmember. I was a diver before I was a yachtie and now I’m doing both and it is the best job I’ve ever had. Lots of boats have owners who want to surf, dive, kite surf, and if you have those skills, you are going to stand out from the crowd.
Besides obvious invaluable experience, I’d say the most important thing I’ve learned on board is people skills. Learn to live and work with so many personalities and backgrounds.
I’m proud of myself often just for conquering little things, like rescuing a tender or having a previously terrified new diver coming up with a huge smile. I’m pretty proud of my licenses, getting my sailing instructor’s certification, and when I got to hand-steer Pelorus (115 meters!) through part of the Suez Canal. I also got to dock Unbridled — I felt like such a badass that day.
My best deck hack: Oxy and vinegar (not together) for the teak. This brightens her right up. Rinse, rinse, rinse! And keep those wash lockers organized!
This article originally ran in the July 2021 issue of Dockwalk.