Seven Ways to Beat the Yachtmaster

5 December 2008 By Matt Brown
Deck crewmember works to launch the tender from the yacht.

RYA Yachtmaster Offshore or the IYT Master of Yachts certification is fast becoming an important qualification for deck crew working within the superyacht industry. If you think you only need an STCW to find a job as a deckhand, then think again. Many yachts require that all their deck crew hold a Yachtmaster certificate before they can be considered for employment. So if you have a minimum of six months on board and have accrued the necessary sea miles, consider taking the next step in training.

The current paradigm is shifting — today you need a much higher level of training and experience in order to land a job as more and more superyachts use this certification to weed out the good crew from the rest of the melting pot.

I recently undertook my Yachtmaster Offshore exam with Maritime Professional Training (MPT) in Fort Lauderdale. If you’re in doubt how to best approach Yachtmaster training, then the following tips may help:

1. Prepare Early. Preparation is vital to you being successful at passing the Yachtmaster Offshore certification. While crossing the Atlantic, I walked through the RYA Yachtmaster training manual with the first mate; this was invaluable when it came to the actual course itself. Where others were grappling with tidal correction principles for the first time, I was already on my fourth or fifth iteration.

2. Choose Your Training Provider Wisely. Good trainers who are experienced and patient are worth their weight in gold. If you happen to be located near one of the few large schools that has a simulator, then take advantage of it to practice your driving. It effectively enables anyone to drive almost any type of oceangoing vehicle from U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats right up to the world’s largest oil tankers. You can even dock them in any major port throughout the world…virtually, of course! Keep your seasickness tabs handy as it’s incredibly realistic.

3. Play to Your Strengths. There are two aspects to the Yachtmaster Offshore training course: Theory and Practical. In each case you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a case in point: There was a woman in our course who managed to score 100 percent on her theory exam but then surprisingly failed her practical for one simple reason — she simply did not have enough drive time behind the wheel of a motor yacht before she enrolled in the course. So what’s enough time? Well, you need to be confident in your abilities as a potential captain and you can only achieve that through experience. At a minimum you must have good tender-driving skills with both single-screw and twin-screw engines, with the emphasis being on the latter. You should also know how to interpret wind conditions and their effect on a docking procedure. If you think you can simply “wing it,” you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

4. Create a Study Group. After the first week, we decided to put together a study group on a Sunday where eight of us thrashed out any misunderstandings and confusion we had about the syllabus. This proved to be invaluable when it came time to take the exam. Collision regulations are tricky at the best of times, but with the help and input of the group we all passed this element of the exam with flying colors.

5. Purchase Study Aids. I highly recommend buying the flash cards for both day and night shapes. They’re a fantastic study aid and they’re fun to use in a group.

6. Be a Team Player. One of the defining characteristics of any good captain — no matter how experienced he or she may be — is the ability to keep their cool while everybody else is losing theirs. It is this principle that will ensure you succeed, not only in your Yachtmaster exam but throughout your yachting career. During the practical exam, the examiners look not only at your ability to navigate and steer a motor yacht, but also at how well you work together as a team. During the practical exam, things often can and do go wrong, and when you’re under pressure it’s very easy to lose it. In such instances, remember to relax, take initiative and help others where they may need it.

7. Learn to Anticipate. The woman who failed the Yachtmaster practical exam would probably have passed if she’d adopted this philosophy: “Go slow, look like a pro.” During the exam there is no need to rush. Just take your time and learn to anticipate what’s going to happen with the yacht in the prevailing circumstances and weather conditions. As the yachts you drive increase in size, things tend to happen more slowly than usual but the ramifications are, of course, worse. Rushing your business will nearly always end in failure.

What helped you get through your Yachtmaster exam? (Or are you just naturally brilliant?)


More from Dockwalk