Hopeful in Antibes

20 July 2009 By Claire Griffiths

According to Giles Peudecoeur, landlord of the Antibes’ yachtie haven The Blue Lady pub, the yachting industry in this Mediterranean hub is “clearing its decks.” While last year, “Money was flying out the windows; this year the windows have been shut,” he says. Jobs, salaries and bonuses all are being cut.

But still the bright-eyed and bushy tailed innocents from abroad keep coming – seeking out a nugget of the “Gold Rush” they’ve heard talk of back home or on the ski slopes. Crew houses are full in Antibes. Guillaume, receptionist at The Crew House says that all 40 beds are taken with a steady turnover – although he reports a “feeling” that there are fewer yachties around than last year.

Charlie Campbell, from the UK, arrived in Antibes a week ago having gotten the idea from friends he met during the ski season in Tignes. Since he has sailed from five years old on, he's hoping for a lucky break. “I’ve registered with lots of agencies but I’ve realised captains don’t use them for deck positions and you need a boat on your CV to get a look in.”

Charlie has been dockwalking in Cannes most mornings and bumps into the same faces looking for work again and again. “Mostly everyone is really encouraging. If we see a yacht coming in, everyone races to see where she will dock to try and be the first to get daywork – you need to have a bit of luck.” He is only looking for a summer job and is going to give Antibes another week before heading home. “If I’d been more serious, I’d have bought more funds. I’ve got a ski season job in November if I want it – but eventually I want to go into film production and direction.”

Daniel, also from the UK, has STCW and diving instruction experience behind him. He came for a month in May looking for work, went home and has returned to give it another two weeks. If he doesn’t find a berth on a yacht by then, he’ll head for South America in search of diving instructor jobs.

Duncan from South Africa reckons three-quarters of the yachties he’s met have gone back home, while the rest eventually have found work. He’s hoping a proposal for daywork over the weekend is going to come off.

Clarissa has her Yachtmaster and is serious but admits she’s being picky – specifically looking for a deck/mate position on a sailing yacht.

Dogged and determined Scotsman Chef William has five years’ yachting experience behind him. He says, “I am taking what I can get – it’s all about luck and timing. Don’t give up or lose heart – getting a few boats under your belt is the hardest part.”

Debbie Staiano, former chief stew on M/Y Kingdom and proprietor of Debbie’s Crew House in Antibes, reports that eight out of 14 crew staying at her crew house in the last month found jobs. Most of them had a little experience, except for one woman who found a stew job – but she worked as a chalet girl in the past. Says Debbie, “I knew she’d get work – I can tell as soon as they walk through the door...or at least in the first three days.”

She adds, “I feel sorry for new yacht crew, all these courses, medical examinations, accommodation to pay while they look for work – in my day you got a job and that was it.” According to Debbie, by the first week in August, summer recruitment will have pretty dried up. However, she predicts, “The good people will pull through.”

Nobody in Antibes is saying the work has dried up for good – but “first on the ladder” jobs are tough to come by. The most important things you need are luck, guts and real yachting ambition, as well as the funds to hang in there for the long haul.

“I’ve lived through two economic crises and each time we recover,” says Peudecoeur. “This time will be no different, except now the industry is bigger and more professional; more jobs are on the line.” With, of course, more ‘flotsam and jetsam’ likely to wash up on the shore when the storm has passed.

How has the dockwalking been going where you are this season?