“Dockwalking” essentially involves walking the docks and approaching luxury yachts and their crew for day work.
Dockwalking is also one of the best ways to get your foot in the megayacht industry.
I managed to score work onboard a 62-meter (203-foot) yacht called M/Y Virginian, owned by an English billionaire who sits at the top of the world's largest privately owned engineering and construction firm.
The yacht had just come out of a four-month refit. Our task for the day was to sand, scotch and varnish all the balustrades. On a yacht that size, which comprises three decks, it is a "shed load" of work.
Dockwalking can be a hit and miss affair – not only that, but with so many new people looking to get into the crew industry, it is also competitive. On any given morning you could have 10 to 15 people outside each yacht on the international quay in Antibes eager to earn a day's pay.
So how do you beat the rest of the dockwalkers? Here are some tips from a person who has learned through experience:
1. The Early Bird Catches The Worm
First and foremost – and I cannot emphasize this enough – get to the dock early!
You should start your dockwalk at around 7:00am–7:30am...any later and you can forget about finding anything.
After a couple days of arriving at the right place [the international quay holding all of these floating palaces] at the wrong time [8am], I was determined to get to the dock early.
I arrived at 7:15am. and was literally the only person on the quay. While waiting for the crew to surface and begin their day I noticed two people walking up the dock towards me. As it turned out, it was the bosun and the stewardess of the Virginian.
“Are you looking for day work?” he asked. The reply was, of course, “Yes!”
“Come back in 30 minutes,” said the bosun, and that was that. Easy.
2. Get A Reference
It is ridiculous how many people I have met who have done daywork on yachts and not asked for a professional reference. That's like meeting a celebrity and not asking for a photo and/or autograph. How else can you prove that your story is true?
Repeat after me: Always ask for reference.
If you are being considered for day work along with somebody else with equal qualifications, the day work will usually go to the person with the more recent experience.
In your discussions make sure you mention the reference from your previous day work. It will likely help you find your next job.
3. Safety Is Not Found In Numbers
This one is a classic.
People looking for day work somehow go from yacht to yacht in groups all asking for day work. The chatter can sound like a flock of hungry gulls. Avoid this like the plague!
If you see a group like this on one end of the dock, walk right past them to the opposite side of the dock and work your way back towards them as you look for work.
This enables you to get one-on-one discussion with a potential employer. You really want to avoid a debate with other dockwalkers as to who is the right person for the job.
4. Persistence Rules
It can be really tough to be told day after day that there is no work, but you must be persistent.
So much depends on being in the right place at the right time. Also, as with many other professions, who you know, and not what you know, is extremely important.
There isn’t any set rule to determine who is successful and who is not. You just have to keep at it until you achieve your goal.
You can help this situation by adopting a consistent strategy. If you are told that there isn’t any day work on a particular yacht, make sure you ask for the crewmember's name and give them a copy of your CV or business card. The following day, approach the same yacht and ask to speak to the person you spoke to the day before. It's called networking.
If you wind up speaking to another member of the crew, mention the name of your contact and say that you were there the day before. This will give you an essence of familiarity and a distinct advantage over someone who doesn’t. People are more likely to hire based on a referral – or a perceived referral – than they are if they know nothing about you.
5. Speak To The Capitanerie (Port Control)
Dockwalking for three days in a row and finding nothing can really test your resolve. So what are your options if you want to avoid the dockwalk all together?
One of the options is to head to the capitanerie or port control. Each port will have one.The capitanerie will have information about which yachts are arriving at any time of day. If you know where and when a yacht is docking in port, you can be the first on the scene to approach them for day work.
Trust me – this is a gem. Play it smart and you'll find that dockwalking for daywork can really pay off for your crew career.
Matt Brown is a dedicated and reliable British deckhand now living in Antibes, France and is in pursuit of a new long term position in the megayacht industry. He is certified with Powerboat I/II, STCW 95 and VHF Radio Controller qualifications and in addition to day work on board several superyachts, he holds nearly one year of experience working as a deckhand and diver on board a private charter vessel. Contact Matt Brown directly by email with your questions, comments and career offers at firstname.lastname@example.org [or visit www.mattbrownblog.com]