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The Crew Coach: a Decent Salary vs a Foot in the Door

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Q: Anonymous, Junior Deckhand:

"Should I accept a junior deckhand position for $1200 on a 60m MY with an exotic itinerary? Where will this lead?"*

A: The Crew Coach:

I’ll admit that that is an extremely low starting salary, but if you are new to yachting and currently unemployed, the answer almost has to be… ‘TAKE IT’.

Let’s look at this realistically. As you already know, there are not many jobs around, and those that are floating about so late in the job-hunting season are often reserved for those with experience, and very quickly snapped up.

You don’t have a job at present, and while this is not offering a large salary, it is $1200 more than you are earning now. Once you take into account the amount you’re spending while job-seeking and the fact your expenses are covered once onboard, the low starting salary starts to look more attractive.

But money is not the primary issue here: what is being offered is experience. Knowledge, contacts, and your professional reputation: your career begins the day you step on that passerelle as crew for the first time. At entry level, experience is worth 10 times the money: it's a stepping stone and if you prove yourself worthy you can move up pretty quickly. Perhaps think of it as a paid apprenticeship - it is the gateway to a long and prosperous career. So forget about the money for now.

A lot of crew come into the industry with very firm, preconceived ideas about what kind of job they want and what money they expect to be paid, yet the reality is often quite different to the dream. However, when you make good decisions, the ‘reality’ can become the ‘dream’. In other words, once you have experience behind you, you can start being more selective about roles and salaries.

What is clear is that it’s no-one’s dream at all to sit around in a crew house for months, eventually giving up and returning home broke to a job in a call centre or pulling pints for £5 an hour. You have to ask yourself at this stage of the game: what do you have to lose?

Also - plenty of established crew would be quite jealous of that exotic itinerary you mentioned! Many yachts only do the ‘milk run’ route along the French and Italian Rivieras, with the occasional trip to Corsica or Sardinia, but never making it out of the Med. So maybe you should consider this a grand adventure and get excited about it?

Let’s look at your alternatives. How long are you going to wait for a ‘better’ job offer? What are the chances one will come along? And do you have the money to do so? I think people sometimes forget, when talking about yachting salaries, that we are not comparing like for like when talking about a land based salary or daywork in comparison.

When you live on a yacht you have ZERO expenses. You don't have to pay for anything at all, apart from personal choice items like going out or personal clothing. If you wanted to, you could bank 100% of your salary - and during the season when you can't go out or leave the yacht, you do. This is not the same as living ashore where you have to pay for food, rent, clothing, transport, internet, etc.

So yes, if you divide the salary by the number of hours worked or compare it to a land based salary, it's going to seem low. But you're not counting all the other benefits that come with the job such as free food, accommodation, etc.

Effectively if you take this job you are saying yes to the incredible opportunity of being given over 1,000 dollars a month in savings while learning how to move up into a higher paid position. How many other people do you know who can bank over 1,000 dollars a month in savings while being paid to learn how to advance their career?

While it’s not black and white, any offer when you’re brand new to yachting is a good offer, and any offer made in July to a newbie is a very good offer. Having said that, it’s good to ask around to find out what the yacht’s reputation is, because bouncing off your first job a few weeks in is frowned on and can damage your reputation and hireability.

One more bit of advice. If you decide to take the job (and I recommend you do), then commit to it wholeheartedly and put your reservations about the salary out of your mind. Certainly don’t ever complain about it or let it affect your work ethic or attitude going forward. Seize the opportunity and be grateful for it, and then honour your commitment, whether it be for a season or a year.

Don’t make the mistake of jumping ship early if you get a better offer; that first season or year on your CV and a good reference will pay financial dividends in the long run when it comes to choosing your next job, and making your yachting career dream a reality.

*This question was posted on Palma Yacht Crew on Facebook.

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