Networking to the Top: Cell phones, job swaps and beer

16 October 2008 By Di Thompson

“You can hear it on the Coconut telegraph saying who did this and that.”  – Jimmy Buffett

Twelve years ago when I began my yachting career, I had only ever used a computer in one previous office job. I'd never seen or heard of email, and if my memory serves me well, mobile phones were only being used by company executives and those who could really afford them.

My, how times have changed.

These days we all carry laptops and mobile cell phones. The latest Blackberry, iPhone or Sony Ericsson is as much a computer as it is a phone. This makes it just too easy to send an instant message to the captain of a superyacht advising him of your interest in his senior officer's position on board. Just tell him you saw the ad on Facebook.

But I kind of miss the old days of finding jobs “the hard way.”

Phone cards were big business back in the day. The crew who I was in company with used a beeper for receiving messages and we all made sure everyone who knew someone involved in the industry had our beeper number.

And boy, did we love the sound of it going off. Especially when it was the number of that dream boat with Capt. Goodvibes on board and his fun crew.

Then there was the round table at a Fort Lauderdale crew house. On it was a book with incoming messages about yacht jobs of all descriptions and a single telephone. This was networking headquarters.

Nearly everyone who came through landed themselves a delivery job down island, or a 40-meter ride to Newport. I scored two sole stew jobs while sitting at that round table. I also made some very good friends.

After a busy Caribbean season, I was ready for a change of scenery and better crew quarters. Seemed like there were plenty of crew changes going on at the time and Antigua Race Week was the place to network. I was also looking to find a chief stew role, ready for the responsibility and challenges that go along with it.

Word-of-mouth was pretty much all there was and everyone was talking. I was lucky enough to meet a lovely English girl who wanted to swap jobs.

I was doing exactly what she wanted to do and her gig was exactly what I was looking for. The salary was very agreeable as well. We had already met each other’s current captains and crew. So that was it. No phone calls, agents or paperwork. Pure networking luck!

With so many vessels now traveling all over the world, no matter which port you're in, there's bound to be a yachtie-friendly bar. This may be your ticket to landing your next crew job.

Many captains will recruit this way. It's informal and relaxed. As a bonus, they get to see what the potential crewmember is like on the drink. They can observe character, manners and, of course, potential.

Crewmembers can decide if they can stand to spend a chunk of their life in the forepeak of a yacht with “he who must be obeyed,”  who is now scrutinizing every move you make.

With so many networking tools available today for captains and crew – including job postings on – there is no reason why anyone who is suitably qualified cannot network their way to the top.