Before accepting my current job in Antibes, I have to admit that I was fairly anti the place. I had an unwarranted prejudice against it, all because my first experience of the yacht industry was in Palma de Mallorca. I loved that city and felt like I had an allegiance to it.
Along the way I met people with the same view, “Don’t bother with Antibes, it's overcrowded and there aren’t as many jobs as in Palma” - was often the response when discussing the best place for job seekers.
As a result, this also became the advice that I would give to others. It seemed like the two places were in competition with one another- and much like with divorcing parents, you had to pick a side.
Well I’m here to tell you that Antibes is the more generous, less nagging, better present-giving parent. Pick Antibes. Well, in the winter at least.
Of course there are negatives, there always are. So let's get them out of the way and then move onto the positives.
It's expensive. It's the South of France, no surprises there. Expect to pay anything up to €7ish for a pint of beer and around €250 a week for accommodation (crew houses). At least in the off season the prices are lowered, so there’s a silver lining.
Without pandering to stereotypes or being racist, the locals are French. Classically, the French and English are not meant to get along. However, that being said, if you make an effort with them and try to speak the language then they will generally be friendly and try to help you out. A lot of the time they’ll have no time for anyone speaking English straight off of the bat to them. I’m sure they’d get the same response trying to speak French to a local in a small seaside town in the UK, so no qualms here.
So you’re now left pondering how on earth can the positives out weigh the fact that it’s expensive and there’s an abundance of French people.
I’ll tell you how. Skiing, that’s how. Well in my case it’s snowboarding, and with the Southern Alps a little over an hour's drive away, weekends can be spent in the mountains, skiing resorts in both France and Italy. Passes are cheap and if you pick your days, riding off-piste can be insane!
If that’s not a big enough reason to leave your beloved Palma for the winter then maybe the following points will help swing it…
The rumors were true, Antibes is definitely smaller and generally does have less jobs on offer than in Palma. However, jump on a train and you could be dock walking in Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Italy and all ports in between. You can be in Imperia passing out a CV at the back of a boat by the time the crew have finished their breakfast. So in fact, being based in Antibes opens you up to a much larger catchment area and a greater number of job possibilities.
The Crew Grapevine. No I am not employed by them, nor do I get a commission. During a recent yard period I spent two weeks in their ‘portside’ crew house. The facilities were fantastic and the owners and staff were amazingly helpful. As ex-industry professionals themselves, they have plenty of tips and advice for newcomers, and even offer a free of charge ‘Yacht Industry Induction’ seminar in which they offload a wealth of advice and knowledge to get you on your way to your first job.
Being small, Antibes can appear a bit cliquey, especially in the case of the crews of the larger boats. Use this to your advantage - lots of people in a small area… Put yourself out there and meet as many people as possible, you’ll more often than not find people are willing to help you. Whether it’s an offer of daywork, a lift to the mountain or just someone to have a beer with, you won’t know until you ask, so network.
So, after all breaking my long-held allegiance to Palma, I feel I’ve made a valid argument for spending your winter season in Antibes. As for the summer season, all bets are off. I’ll write about that one when we get there.
About the author: Originally from Bristol in the UK, Ed has been in yachting for two years and has a degree in marine engineering and naval architecture. He's currently employed as Mate on a 32m sailing yacht.