Training You'll Need to Get Started as a Yacht Deckhand

8 December 2022 By Ted Morley
tied docking line

Capt. Ted Morley was raised aboard a schooner and has made a career working on board vessels ranging from superyachts to super tankers. During his tenure at sea, he worked his way up from seaman to master. He currently holds a USCG Master’s License, Unlimited Tonnage as well as several foreign certificates. Capt. Morley actively participates in maritime advisory committees in the U.S. as well as overseas and is involved in regulatory policy review in the U.S.. 

Breast line, aft spring, monkey fist, figure eight, heaving line, surge it, make fast…. If you’re new to the industry and looking to serve on deck, understanding these terms is a must.

Docking situations invariably become a stressful environment with close-quarter maneuvering that require prompt action and the potential for injury or damage is high. Many a captain can tell you a story about a missed heaving line or a slack line causing an issue during docking and many a deckhand can tell you about being the one getting yelled at over the radio because of that missed throw or slack line.

Those experiences ultimately help improve your skills, but proper training is a much safer and less stressful way to improve. The USCG, MCA, and the STCW Convention all recognize the need for training and have a variety of requirements to ensure deck personnel operate safely and efficiently.

The MCA pathway includes certification as an EDH (Efficient Deck Hand); this training includes topics such as basic seamanship, marlinespike, use of lifting equipment, basic painting, maintenance routines, steering and duties of the lookout, and more under the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen. This course is also a prerequisite for your OOW CoC and a certificate must have been issued at least 18 months prior to the issuance of your OOW CoC. Because of this, many deckhands pursue this course early in their career, but it’s important to note that six months of sea service on vessels larger than 15 meters is required prior to certification.

Experiences ultimately help improve your skills, but proper training is a much safer and less stressful way to improve.

The USCG breaks the requirements out even further with a specific course in Marlinspike Seamanship, with practical examination and demonstration of skills. This requirement, outlined in 46 CFR 12.05(c), is compulsory for anyone seeking endorsement as an Able Seafarer-Deck. The requirement can be satisfied via a practical assessment at a USCG Regional Exam Center, or as part of a USCG-approved Marlinspike course. The requirements and tasks in STCW Section A-II/5 and 46 CFR 12.405(b), 12.405(c) and (d) lay out the practical abilities and theoretical knowledge that a candidate must possess to obtain certification. These tasks include topics such as watchkeeping and watch relief, anchoring operations, deck fittings, line handling, docking, rigging a gangway, crane operations and rigging, surface preparation, painting, and more.

Both the MCA and USCG have specific sea time and additional course requirements for certification as EDH or Able Seafarer. However, many new crew decide to take a Marlinspike Seamanship course along with the Basic Safety Training and Security Training that’s required for those serving on board. While not compulsory, having the additional training will not only make you stand out from other candidates, but it will also make you safer and more valuable on board.

This article originally ran in the March 2022 issue of Dockwalk.


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