Crew Life » Career & Training » Yacht Crew Training: More Needs to be Done

Yacht Crew Training: More Needs to be Done

John Wyborn

There is a popular myth that all of us training providers are at each other’s throats, stabbing each other in the back (mmmm…can you do both?...maybe not). But anyway it’s not true! Yes, there is a healthy commercial rivalry between us (which is in all yacht crew’s best interest). Unfortunately quite a few of my fellow yacht crew trainers are quite nice people (dammit!), so it is quite hard to get nasty. It gets worse…In fact, we talk together a lot in various places and share ideas and problems.

One problem we are really struggling to crack is how to get agreement from the yachting industry about what crews need to learn. Some of you may have read the rant that I put on paper in an article in the Crew Report about yacht engineers getting blamed by builders and engine manufacturers, but the problem is not just with engineering, it is in all departments. It is incredible that until recently the crew with the most direct contact with owners and guests, the interior crew, had no training at all sponsored by the industry itself. Only in yachting could this be allowed to happen!

At this time every year the streets of Auckland, Brisbane, Cape Town and Manchester are emptied of 18- to 24-year-olds who gather in a great annual stampede, like the migration of the wildebeest, at Antibes and Mallorca to find work in our industry. The Antibes and Palma crew agents get them all scrubbed, washed shorn, studs removed and then most of them need just STCW basic training and little else to get work – other than a winning smile and bit of luck.

Should we expect anything else? What about a standard industry induction course? Wouldn’t it be good if people knew what the pointy end is called, or the nautical words for the kitchen and the ceiling? The Maritime Training Academy do an online course for all this (and it’s an ideal subject area for computer based training) but how many employers ask for it? What do you think should be in an induction course for new crew?

Deckie cleaningWhatever department a new crewmember ends up working in, they will be doing a LOT of cleaning. What about some training in the basics of of how to operate a scrubbing brush, what products to use and (more important) what not to use? Do you have problems with training crew on board to use two-part paint and varnish? Is it frustrating, having to constantly purchase new brushes because the old ones were left un-cleaned and have hardened like rock chisels? Has a new stewardess used scotchbrite and Jif on a beautiful Carrera marble sink?  What drives you ‘round-the-bend’ with new crew, which we, as trailing providers, could help with?

Please tell us! This is not a school conspiracy to screw more money out of hapless unsuspecting yacht crew; it is a genuine attempt to provide training that YOU need on top of the training that the MCA say you must have. Send your comments to OnboardOnline to be shared amongst all of us for our discussions next September.

The Yacht Qualification Panel

Next September? Yes, we yacht schools all meet once a year with the MCA in Southampton to talk about what is happening next in training and any problems with any of the courses. The Professional Yachting Association (PYA) have a permanent seat too, to keep an eye on us. Because representatives from schools all around the world come for this meeting we decided three years ago to have a ‘pre-meeting’ the day before. It seemed unfair that MPT and ICT in Florida and PYT in South Africa (not to mention Bluewater and DSB in France) travelled all that way for a three hour meeting. The UKSA have hosted the last three pre-meetings and very useful indeed these have proven to be.

German Anni ironing3It took me a little while, on first visiting the UKSA, to get over my ‘boat envy’. It seems, because they are a charity, that people in the UK are falling over themselves to give them money, or boats, or both. Getting sicker and sicker as I walked past their private slipways and boathouses, I resolved to sabotage their fleet of kayaks with the corkscrew on my Swiss army knife but the glowering frowns of 50 twelve-year-olds, staring at me through the canteen window, forced me to reconsider.

Three years ago we deiced that it was ludicrous (see above) that the crew most in contact with owners and guests – the interior crew – had no industry-sponsored training. So we decided to try to change that. The PYA took on the task of coordinating industry-wide consultations to work out what should be taught. Schools from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.S. joined those from the U.K. and Europe in an epic series of meetings in various places, by Skype and conference call, so that just one year later we had a plan which has now been rolled out into the fully fledged PYA GUEST programme.

Whereas before, an ‘introductory’ yacht service course could last anything from one day to one month, depending where you went, there is now an industry standard, set by agreement and subject to regular review. More of this needs to happen!

What is the most important job on board? Avoiding rocks? Putting out fires? Driving boats? No! It is making sure that the satellite TV and broadband Internet work! (Fair enough…food and service come a close second, at least in the eyes of a typical owner.) But what training do Electro Technical Officers get? None… at least nothing directed and yacht industry needs. Another job for the YQP.

If you want your voice heard at the YQP, or the pre meeting, you need to join the PYA and get involved. Don’t just be a passive recipient of what others decide; become part of the process. The PYA telephone number is +33 493349116 or email


John Wyborn is a co-founder of Bluewater Yachting. He works as the company's Training Director, and has helped to build the company into the largest training provider dedicated to the industry. Wyborn joined the Royal Navy as a seaman officer after university and served on various types of vessels including frigates, destroyers, and finally in command of HMS Mentor; a navigation and seamanship training vessel teaching RN trainees and foreign navies. Bluewater was established in 1991 and has become an innovative industry leader. Having over 20 years of applied experience, demonstrates that we are able to identify the industry’s diverse requirements and still maintain our initial philosophy “one company, one complete service.” Bluewater provides luxury yacht charter, yacht sales, yacht management, yacht project consulting, crew training and crew placement. Our headquarters are situated in Antibes with satellite offices globally. In today’s ever evolving market we stand strong, with a team comprising of the world’s most diligent personnel. Place your trust in us as we guarantee a complete and professional service. For more information please visit

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