The Crew Coach: Packing Essentials for New Yacht Crew
Knowing what to pack for when you first step onto a yacht can seem like a daunting task and is one of the most frequently asked questions by green yacht crew.
So many people have been asking me this question lately I thought I’d resend this article about what to pack when you’re coming to the South of France to look for work on yachts.
Q: T, England:
“I’m coming to look for a job on a superyacht this summer, and I was wondering if you have any advice on what I should pack, and what to wear when dockwalking. I know packing light is essential, but are there any other things you think I should bring?”
What a thoughtful, useful question! There’s actually a fair bit to know about what to pack for a yachting career, things that you couldn’t possibly know without experience.
Before you even start deciding what to pack, it is crucial to know what to pack your stuff in. A hard, square-type suitcase is not going to win you any immediate friends when you do get a job as hard suitcases are really problematic for onboard storage. Use a collapsible bag instead – either a MacPac type backpack or a sports bag that has wheels at one end for ease of lugging from the station to your accommodation.
No yachtie could live without flip-flops. You may wear deck shoes while dockwalking, but as soon as you get that job you will live most of your yachting life in flip-flops.
Storage space in crew cabins is extremely limited- you risk getting off on the wrong foot with your cabin-mate if you try to force masses of clothes into the tiny shared hanging space. Once the season starts you’ll be wearing your uniform or PJs most of the time, and you’ll soon be shopping for nice new clothes with those lovely yachting dollars!
When you get a job on a yacht you won’t have to buy the following: shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, shaving cream, razors and blades (some yachts), suncream and moisturizer. Therefore bring small travel size versions of these to tide you over and don’t bring a truckload of cosmetics and other products to clutter up your cabin bathroom with. Keep thinking bare minimum, you will have plenty of chances to buy new fancy products once you get a job.
If you’re arriving in March/April the weather can be quite changeable: glorious sunshine one day, raining or even hailing the next. In fairness it’s mostly sunny but it can be quite chilly so bring a couple of sets of warm clothes and a warm jacket – preferably not a bulky one: a puffer that squishes up small for packing is perfect. If you're arriving from May to August you can safely leave the winter coats, scarves, gloves and boots at home - you can always get them sent over later if you’re going to be somewhere cold (or buy new ones!). A light jacket or jumper is all you need. On that one day it rains, buy a small foldable umbrella.
Other than that, casual summer clothes like dresses, skirts, t-shirts, shorts, swimwear, a beach towel or sarong and sunglasses really are the staples of a yachting wardrobe. On that note, good sunglasses are really important: get polarised lenses if possible, especially if going for a job on deck. I think it’s a good idea to pack a good pair of sneakers too: keeping fit is a great way to stay in shape and keep your motivation up. I’d also throw in a comfy pair of tracky pants and sweater top or hoodie for chilling out watching movies on watch or in the crew house.
Most yachting ports are quite casual places. High heels and lots of makeup at a yachting bar (such as the Blue Lady in Antibes or the Corner Bar in Palma), are going to make you look a bit out of place (especially if you’re a guy!). Pack mostly casual clothes.
Your interview clothes should be able to double up as a ‘going out’ clothes if necessary for a smart dinner – pack one pair of good shoes for this purpose as they will be the most expensive thing to buy if you forget them.
You’ll need dockwalking clothes and a smart interview outfit for registering with crew agencies and job interviews. See my Pinterest page HERE for ideas of what to wear depending on the type of work you are looking for.
Day Work Clothes:
If you have a pair of old shorts and an old Tshirt, pack them too – you may be asked to do some grubby work while dayworking, and while most boats will provide uniform for you to daywork in, others won’t. You don’t want to be paid 100 euro for a day’s work, only to have to spend a chunk of it on a new pair of shorts because you ruined your good ones.
The Right Technology:
A USB stick (and a spare) for your CV and other documents. Laminate original documents such as certificates and email yourself scanned copies of these, your passport, driving license and credit cards. Get an international driving license if possible. Don’t forget your global adaptor plug and an unlocked smartphone you can put a local sim card in. Some movies on your hard drive and books on your Kindle for those occasions you want to hide out in your cabin and get some ‘me’ time.
If you have a light, small laptop or iPad do bring it but make sure you have travel insurance (health and theft). Forget your massive camera with all the fancy lenses and stick with your smartphone camera. Less is more, believe me. Tip: download books or movies before you leave your strong land internet connection-you’ll be unpleasantly surprised at how slow the internet is on many superyachts, and captains often will restrict your access to preserve bandwidth for the guests.
Pack to look the part and get your yachting career off to a good start. Don’t try and stand out with what you wear – let your personality do the talking. Yes, you will look like everyone else in white and beige, and that is perfect: you will look exactly like yacht crew.
Do you have any other things to add to the essential packing list for prospective yacht crew? If so please share them with us in the comments below!
First published by OnboardOnline on 9th March 2016. Last updated on 15th December 2020.
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