Dayworking: The Crew Perspective

7 June 2019 By Lauren Beck

All crew know that dayworking can be a vital part of getting started in yachting. Here, two crewmembers share their experiences on what you need to know to be successful.

“I have used many dayworkers on board to help turn the boat around during charter season, put the boat back together after a shipyard period, or during a large event,” says former chief stewardess Sandra Jordaan, who now works as a yacht crew coach in South Africa.

Michelle du Plessis, currently a chief stewardess on a 50-meter yacht, has also used dayworkers without incident in the past. It can be a very useful experience for a yachting career, she says.

For newbie crew, “having daywork on their CV shows that they were proactive in trying to find a job and upskilling themselves and that will hopefully translate to them being proactive on board — always a WIN,” she says. Jordaan also points out that this provides a basic intro to life on board and yachting etiquette. “Captains and HODs want to hire people who will make their lives easier and who will also go the extra mile to make sure guests have the best possible time on board,” she says. “Keep these two things in mind when you are doing anything on board, applying for jobs, and interviewing.”

Before you hit the dock, make sure you’re presentable and wear appropriate clothing because you never know who is watching, says du Plessis, who likes to meet her potential dayworkers. “I know you think that by wearing a short skort with a lot of makeup, loose hair, and tight shirt, you might land the job, but really it is not professional and to me you are just showing that working and getting your hands dirty is not going to be your first priority,” she says.

She also cautions against simply leaving your résumés at the passerelle as she wants to know whether you can do the job and first impressions count. “Just be yourself and don’t be fake,” she says. “At the end of the day, you are here to work, not to have a holiday. Try to look at least enthusiastic — we know it’s hard and discouraging at times but try to seem like I am your first boat.”

Du Plessis also tells crew never to work for free. “Don’t let people take advantage of you because you are green and a dockwalker — you’re a human being at the end of day and they were also in your shoes. Respect yourself,” she says. It’s also about who you know so you need to be out there making friends and networking — but not drunken socializing. “Ninety percent of my daywork came from someone I met by accident one day while dayworking on a boat,” she says. “So always, always be the best of yourself.”

In Jordaan’s experience, the biggest issue she would notice from her dayworkers was a lack of expertise. “To get around this as an HOD, you need to have detailed work lists that can be checked off and assign the dayworker to work with an experienced crewmember or give them very basic tasks (unless they are an experienced crewmember helping you out),” she says.

She also advises crew give dayworkers a timeframe and always explain the level of detail expected in a job — for example, “[a] quick wipe versus getting out the cotton buds and toothpicks,” she says. “It is not realistic to expect someone with limited experience to complete work to the standard that is needed on board and a recipe for failure for everyone.”

She also cautions crew to ask questions if you’re unsure of anything. “If you don’t know what product to use on something, ASK! If you mess something up, always tell the head of department who has hired you and be honest about it and apologetic about it,” she says. “They will find out anyway, so it’s better if it comes from you.”

“Do not take photos of anything in the interior,” du Plessis says. “Put your phone away at all times, never to be seen.” She also tells crew that if your job is done, tell your superior that you have finished and ask for another task. “Rather take longer with something, but at least do it properly rather than trying to look like you can work fast and then you miss a lot of details,” she says. “Attention to detail is key. Never touch the stainless on deck, especially the passerelle when you walk on,” she advises. “Also, someone [who] can’t remember or follow simple instructions because their head is somewhere else — listen and concentrate on the job at hand. Remember that you want to make the best impression possible.”

Also, do yourself a favor and don’t complain about being tired. Chances are, everyone is and it just makes you look bad. “I know you’re tired and everyone always is, but we all push through it,” du Plessis says. “And I don’t want someone like that on my team that is negative.”

All the hard work in the world doesn’t count if you don’t include it on your CV. And details get fuzzy if you wait too long. “When you have finished your daywork, write down a list of EVERYTHING you did on board for future reference and get the name, surname, position on board, phone number, and the email address of the person who will provide you with a reference,” advises Jordaan. “Note the name of the vessel and the size too.” Make sure to include a dayworking section in your CV, even if it’s short. “If your CV is very short, try and provide a little more information about the duties you have done for the daywork because when a captain is looking to hire someone, they need people with certain skills on board,” says Jordaan. “If you don’t write down what you have done or can do, how will a captain ever know this?”

“It is a tough world of dockwalking out there,” says du Plessis, who did 45 days of it herself. “Don’t give up — there [are] a lot of crew looking, but there [are] also a lot of jobs. Don’t party too much, keep your eye on the prize, and make the best of every chance you get.”