Wake Up or Hit the Snooze Button?

23 February 2010 By Claire Griffiths

If, when the crisis struck and the work dried up, you headed for bed with strict instructions: don't wake me until it's all over, it may be time to start rattling your cage. But will the Med season 2010 really be worth shaking a leg for?

Even superyacht industry experts can't say exactly which way the wind is blowing, but Deborah Blazy, crew placement manager at Camper and Nicholsons International, senses a whiff of good news blowing in. “Things are much more positive than this time last year. When we came back in January, there was a surge in enquiries from owners looking to fill positions across the board. Last year at this time, it was looking bleak but this year there's a lot happening – even compared to ‘normal’ years,” says Blazy.

YCO Crew General Manager Hatty Campbell agrees. She says things are busier with owners who feel ready to re-stock their human resources and crew who feel more confident about making a move that they may have put off last year.

The folks who will get the good jobs this year will have properly adjusted their compass settings to be in line with the change in “trading conditions.” Blazy explains, “The guys getting the jobs have aligned their expectations to the market place. Salary should not be your number one priority; rather look for the good boats, good owners and the long term prospects. Junior crew who used to lay down demands for salaries with ‘I won't work for less than...’ won't get away with [it] anymore.”

“We don't have queues outside the door yet, but crew are definitely waking up and we're placing crew from a distance. The guys that get here early will get the jobs. It seems to be pretty busy already so I'd say get here by March, if you can,” adds Blazy.

Others are more circumspect in their predictions. Chloe Collet, manager of the crew agency at Peter Insull Yacht Marketing, says it's still a question of “wait and see.” Junior crew will be up against tough competition from qualified crew, especially chefs and steward/esses who were the first to be laid-off.

Phones are also ringing at Blue Water Yachting in Antibes where Louisa Gallimore is taking calls for positions across the board, but especially for engineers. She agrees that even junior positions need at least a season behind them to find work but adds, “Yachts tend to broaden their requirements later in the season and some boats like inexperienced crew who can be trained to suit, for example, the chief stew's needs.”

It's busy in Palma too, where Erica Lay of YCO Palma is getting job orders for all positions whereas last year there was more of a focus on captains. She says, “It certainly appears to me that owners are loosening the purse strings and dusting off the Biminis to get their yachts back on the water again. Judging by the amount of job orders we’ve received already, there's hope of a busy season.”

New recruits need not lose heart with all the talk of tough competition. Lay has a theory that goes like this: “Last year there was a significant shortage of deck jobs; although we did have a number of OOW positions which were tricky to fill. There wasn’t much room for new deckhands to enter the industry as most captains simply hired an experienced deckhand as there were so many available. Many Yachtmaster level deck crew took their OOWs last year when they couldn’t find work, so this year we should see more senior deck crew competing for bosun/mate positions, which frees up the deckhands who’ve done their Yachtmasters to move up into senior deckhand or bosun roles, allowing new deckhands to break into the industry. I might be completely wrong, but it’s fun to speculate!”