How to Handle the Pandemic as Yacht Crew

2 April 2020 By Lauren Beck
One deck crewmember washes down the yacht.

Lauren Beck is the former editor of Dockwalk and was with the publication from 2006 to 2023. At 13, she left South Africa aboard a 34-foot sailing boat with her family and ended up in St. Maarten for six years. Before college, she worked as crew for a year, and then cut her journalistic teeth at Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal online. She loves traveling, reading, tennis, and rooting for the Boston Red Sox.

Crew agents from several agencies around the globe have weighed in on the current crew situation, sharing their experiences with the recent job market after COVID-19 swept the world. In light of the pandemic, it’s surprising to no one that it’s not business as usual. But just because things have changed, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost.

All the agencies we spoke to stressed that while the doors to the offices may be temporarily closed, they are still working, and crew are encouraged to reach out to their agents for advice and help. Things will get back to normal, although we may not know when. Here, these crew agents offer their advice on how you can still keep your career on track while staying safe (and sane).

1. Keep Your Job

While this might sound obvious, if you can stay in your current position, do so. Of course, you may have no control over ultimately keeping your job in light of the global uncertainty, but at least don’t give your boss more reason to get rid of you. “Best advice now for employed crew is don’t switch jobs unless for a promotion,” says Nick Hill, director at Hill Robinson.

“If employed, thank your lucky stars,” says Rupert Connor, director of Luxury Yacht Group. “Stay safe and hope that normal resumes soon. Don’t do anything to jeopardize your quarantine status.” He notes that some crew have been fired — with cause — for breaking quarantine and partaking in some spring break-like activities. Don’t be one of them. If you’re unemployed, he advises that you stay safe and reduce your overhead as much as possible.

2. Stay Safe and Informed

“Our advice has always been to stay safe, follow your government guidelines, as well as the WHO guidelines,” says Laurence Lewis from YPI CREW. “We feel that once the market picks up again, there will be a flurry of activity; there will be light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sue Price, director of Viking Crew (U.S.), echoes this sentiment. In this time of insecurity, she also recommends that all crew should “get your info directly from the sources — MCA, USCG, etc. Some of it is hard as everyone around the world is trying to figure it all out so there is not always an answer to find right away,” she says.

“Stay calm and prepare for changes,” Connor says. “Most of our clients are resilient financially — help them get through this miserable time for everyone and present them with a safe haven as soon as we can go yachting again.”

Ian Pelham of Preferred Crew in Fort Lauderdale urges patience. “I imagine that as with the rest of the travel world, we are going to see even tighter restrictions before things loosen up,” he says.

3. Prepare for the Job Hunt 

“Now is a great time to update all your info and complete the things you always want to do — websites, résumés, videos, etc.,” Price says. She advises all crew to get their info ready and keep updating so you’ll be prepared when the jobs start opening up again. “[For] crew looking for a job, updated and fantastic CV [is] always required, and keep training,” says Hill. “Undertake some online courses, learn a language, etc.” Hill shares that Hill Robinson has a list of online courses for crew in addition to onboard guidelines and suggestions. “We are also in the process of setting up some webinars on various topics,” he says.

“Our belief is that this will end, sooner or later, and we want to be here to help both clients and crew when that time comes,” Pelham says. He points to two projects they’re currently working on: CVs and Interviewing. He explains that the CV project will be an easy tool on the importance of using your CV as a communications tool. The interviewing project is “all about the importance of communication in an interview, not how to try to ‘pass’ or ‘win.’”

Crew4Yachts echoes the sentiment of other agencies — now is the time to brush up your CV and make sure your credentials are updated. “We are advising crew to take this time to concentrate on their profiles — adding information and updating any files that they need to, working on their CV or taking a new headshot photo,” says Crew Manager Sandra Murphy. “Whatever they can do to occupy their time in a productive way. Stay positive and most importantly safe.”

In a world where the importance of being digitally savvy is becoming increasingly clear and more vital, Denison Yachting is capitalizing. As Yacht Crew Placement Manager Jill Maderia shares, she has been conducting virtual interviews and crew meetings. “On paper, anyone can look great,” she says. “But that one-on-one via FaceTime was a way that made me feel that human connection.” Denison also hosted a virtual boat show on March 27, which she says was a positive experience. The bottom line is that they’re still able to help, so reach out if you have questions or concerns.

Louise Cailbourdin of The Crew Network in Antibes also suggests that crew and clients check out their new website, which is offering an interactive introductory eLearning course [] that was created with Marlins, a maritime educational specialist. “We encourage continuous learning for all crew as an investment in their future, particularly if they may have more time available during this period of pandemic,” she says. “Useful links to professional academies and associations can be found on our training page.”

“We encourage crew to continue to reach out to us as we will still be interviewing for our vessels,” says Monique Dykstra, director of Saltwater Recruitment. While jobs may be on hold currently, they will open up again. “If you are seeking work, please stay at home and ensure you stay in a strict quarantine wherever you are,” she recommends. “Captains want to know where you have been on lockdown for two weeks prior to joining the vessel. Be prepared to quarantine on your own in land-based accommodation near the vessel for up to 14 days before you embark the vessel.”

Dykstra also shared these resources for crew:
PDSD (they recommend all crew hold this)

WSET WINE: Coursework can be completed online
Purser course

RYA Theory courses online
SSO course
OOW oral prep assistance

Food hygiene L3

4. Stay Busy

Diane Leander of The Crew Network’s Fort Lauderdale suggests that online training courses are a great option for time ashore. “There are many online yachting-related courses, so while you have more time on your hands, why not check them out?” says Debbie Blazy of Camper & Nicholsons. “Any additional course may set you apart from the competition once the hiring kicks in again.”

While an enforced break from reality can be a good change, it’s easy enough to be bored if you’re used to being busy. Tim Clarke, director of Quay Crew, suggests checking out Udemy for some online courses for the interim. “Things will improve and to remain positive,” he says. “Upskill whilst you are under lockdown. Be patient, be careful with your money, and hang in there, and follow your government’s guidelines.”

Crew4Yachts has also partnered with The Green Stewardess and Salt Lick Surf to create a photography contest for crew. Open to all crew, send your entries to (Subject: Earth Day) before April 22 for a chance to win $100 prize money. They will also donate $100 to Earth Day in your name. Check out more contest details here:

“We are advising crew to make the most of this free time and not panic about finding a job tomorrow,” says Tom Aveling, director of YOA Yacht Crew in New Zealand. “We are all in this together and it has affected everyone in the industry in different ways.” While he recommends using the time to obviously improve your CV and online profiles — and reach out to your crew agent — he also advises that crew should pay attention to their wellbeing. “Most importantly to focus on improving themselves, not only with online superyacht training courses, but also their health and wellbeing,” he says. Aveling says their online system will be free until July 31.

5. Keep the Faith

Don’t let the uncertainty keep you down. This is definitely easier said than done, but the whole world is in the same boat, so to speak, and you’re not alone in feeling adrift. “We understand the uncertainty right now but feel confident that things will come back even stronger,” Leander says. “Stay positive!” Cailbourdin also weighs in: “In the Med, we’re counting on a very busy late season with a sudden, urgent demand for great crew.”

“For those that are getting let go due to the restructuring of the yacht during this time, this will pass and the boats will be crewing up when this is all over,” says Marcy Williams of Northrop & Johnson. “Hang in there and we are here to help!”

“This is a very tough and challenging time for everyone,” Clarke says. “Be optimistic and help others when you can. Yachting will return to normal, but it will take a good few months so try and be patient!”


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