Getting your foot in the door in yachting can be a slog. If you’re brand new, dayworking might be your best bet — you can make some contacts and begin building your yachting CV. “It’s amazing for new crew,” says Erica Lay of EL CREW CO in Palma. “Just a few days can make all the difference.” The more work you can include on your CV, the more references you’ll have for future job applications, she says.
Louise Cailbourdin of The Crew Network in Antibes notes that the term dayworking usually applies to those at least 18 years old who are hired to work during the day aboard a yacht that might need help for any added workload. Dayworkers do not sleep on board.
If you’re new to yachting, dayworking is a great way to learn what to expect in the industry. “Daywork experience is super important for green/new crew,” says Diane Leander of The Crew Network’s Fort Lauderdale office. “It gives you the basics in what to expect. You learn detailing, following directions, responsibility. It shows a future employer that you are proactive and have some idea of what your daily job would be.”
In a 2019 blog, UK agency wilsonhalligan included its dockwalking tips for the upcoming season, noting that crew who wish to daywork “need to ensure you have enough money saved to survive for roughly three months; this includes accommodation, food, transport to various marinas, and socializing.” They also advise it’s a good idea to get a local SIM card for your phone.
But before you hit the dock, several crew agents share their best tips to dayworking successfully. “Get out on the docks first thing every morning,” says Lay. “I hear a lot of crew saying there’s no point in going every day but there really is — you never know when a yacht will actually need an extra pair of hands unexpectedly.” She also points out that if they see your face enough, you may become their first choice to give some work to.
“First impressions are the most important, as the saying goes,” Leander says. “Always keep in mind when meeting anyone that it could lead to a job.” It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, she says, but don’t sit around and wait. Networking is very important — “go to marinas, crew hang outs, social yachting events…. Read online social media ads from crew agents and yachting organizations. Visit crew agents job boards regularly. TALK TO OTHER CREW. Be proactive,” Leander says.
Always dress smart, but not so smart you can’t kick your shoes off and get stuck in with a chamois or a Q-tip
You should also be prepared to begin immediately if you get lucky and find work. “Always dress smart, but not so smart you can’t kick your shoes off and get stuck in with a chamois or a Q-tip,” Lay says. And perhaps most important: “SMILE. Keep smiling!”
You want to make sure you’re doing your best to stand out for the right reasons. “Don’t ever show up late or not show up at all,” Leander advises. Also, stay off your phone, she says — keep the line free for important job calls. Being too attached to your phone also does not leave the best impression. Leander also says that you should have your voicemail reflect your status, suggesting something like, “You have reached XXXXX. I am dayworking this week until 5 p.m. and will be available to return your call ASAP.”
Something to keep in mind, too, is that you don’t want to annoy the crew. As wilsonhalligan highlights, “Avoid engaging crew during tea and lunch breaks as this is their time to relax and rest,” the blog notes. “They won’t be enthusiastic about being questioned during downtime. When you do get the opportunity to speak to someone, try and start an actual conversation with a view to being more memorable than someone that just asked if there was work and then left.”
Whatever you do, make sure you’re following the law in whatever country you’re in. “In the U.S., if you are not a U.S. citizen or Green Card/U.S. work permit holder, beware!” says Leander. “If you get caught working in the U.S., you could be deported and that puts a major damper on your future.”
Cailbourdin urges those dayworkers who join a yacht to sign a Day Worker Contractual Agreement with the owner, which should include contract dates, payment details, and hours of work. “By signing the contract, crew attest to the fact that they are physically fit, have the legal right to work in the country of daywork, and agree to confidentiality,” Cailbourdin says.
You should also have your ID with you, along with a copy of your medical fitness (ENG 1) certificate and whatever other relevant documentation required for the job. “Importantly, it is the yacht’s responsibility to familiarize dayworkers on the onboard safety and security before work begins and to provide any necessary protective clothing or equipment,” says Cailbourdin. “By signing a Day Worker Contractual Agreement, you know you are working on a serious vessel that respects seafarers’ rights whilst expecting professionalism from crew in return. This is exactly the kind of yacht that will provide you with a dayworking reference that holds weight in the industry.”
If you’re looking confident and approach a yacht with a smile on your face and a keen attitude, you may well land a permanent job from the off
On one last point, Lay weighs in. “Don’t believe everything you’re told,” she says. “Some people may take advantage of new crew and under pay/over work, etc. If you’re not sure about something, then ask someone else (I’m always happy to get emails with questions from crew about potential job leads found whilst dockwalking). Usually if something seems too good to be true, it is.”
Of course, COVID has changed things somewhat. ”The fact that there are still travel restrictions across Europe and it’s not as easy as it once was for crew to get to key locations like Antibes or Palma to be available in person, has left the gate wide open for those who have been able to get here,“ says Lay. ”Crew are in high demand right now — there aren’t enough to go around so if you’re looking confident and approach a yacht with a smile on your face and a keen attitude, you may well land a permanent job from the off.”
She also shares that dockwalking can be helpful in meeting new people in the industry. ”You may get invited out to join some crew on a certain activity (I’ve had a guy recently who listed mountain biking on his hobbies taken out for the day with a crew who saw it on his CV), and make some friends.“ And word of mouth can be a powerful tool in yachting.
Leander recommends that crew should also carry their COVID vaccine card. “And find out about COVID guidelines/protocols on board," she says. "Masks, social distancing, etc. Today with COVID it is so important to be in a safe working environment.”