For many crew, the opportunity to experience life at sea makes working on board a superyacht one of the most unique and rewarding professions out there. After all, in what normal job could you potentially fall asleep in one country and wake up in another? Or be able to experience different cultures, languages and foods on an almost-weekly basis?
There is no denying the fact the superyacht industry is a fantastic one to be part of. However, at some stage or another, which is normally around October after a long season with demanding guests and little sleep, there comes a time when the question of ‘what to do next’ inevitably springs to mind.
For this article I spoke with Leila Nafa, pictured left, who, now Sales & Marketing Manager at Cornerstone Crew Payroll, spent years working as yacht crew and travelling to the most far-flung corners of the world on an explorer yacht.
For Leila, the initial draw of the remoteness actually became a deciding factor in her wanting to leave the industry. “I absolutely loved my time working on yachts – we travelled from Antarctica to Polynesia and Africa, allowing us incredible times with fantastic owners,” she says. “However the long itineraries meant being at sea for extensive times and far from home. I had properties in France and the UK and needed to be closer to manage them. I also had a family, and time away from them made me feel negligent.”
This feeling of being far from home and feeling cut off from friends and family has become more common than ever since the pandemic, and has really struck a nerve with yacht crew who are opting to leave the industry to settle near friends and family. But how easy is it to make this dream a reality?
Here are five important steps to consider:
- Choose a career. While it may be a pretty obvious point, this should be the first step in your exit plan. What skills have you got that could stand you in good stead in the ‘outside world’? What are your passions, and what aspect of yachting did you love? What sets you apart from other candidates? For Leila her main asset was her people skills. “Yachting teaches you people skills that you can really hone in on in the future,” she explains. “Working on a yacht helps you learn to read people, read your guests’ needs, and tap into guests’ expectations. These skills are invaluable for your future life and career.”
- Make a timeline. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and embarking on a new life requires a carefully thought out timeline. Start by thinking six months ahead and set out where you want to be both physically, financially and emotionally. It really does help to have a plan and to be upfront with your current captain about when you might leave, too
- Ask for advice. There is a wealth of information available these days for yacht crew who have left the industry and are looking to transition to shore - social media, podcasts, life coaches and financial advisors can all help you make the right decision. “My advice would always be to talk to as many people as possible, listen to their stories and take their advice,” continues Leila. “There is so much to learn, and yachting is an incredible industry with so many different walks of life – take advantage of every person you meet! It’s amazing how many people I deal with in my current job who were clients from my Crew Eyewear days.”
- Start saving. Life in the real world is expensive! The little things you took for granted – toiletries, food and obviously rent - aren’t for free and they don’t come cheap. “Make sure you have made enough money for your next endeavour, be it starting a business, investing in a property or something else,” says Leila. “For me, I think investing your money whilst you’re earning is the best bet. Property in the South of France, for example, is always going to be a high yielding investment.”
- Don’t burn any bridges. Never leave your job on a bad note, as you never know when you may want to return to the industry. And when you leave a job, always make sure you’ve done your best - people will often remember you by who you were in stressful times! “I left yachting a long time ago now but often get asked to help out for the likes of the Grand Prix, Cannes Film Festival or any other event on board if needed,” continues Leila. “It can be a really good side gig if you have the experience. Now, though, it really is fantastic having the opportunity at Cornerstone to work with a really tight knit team of people who really care about crew welfare and wellbeing. The team is made up of industry professionals who have been around for a long, long time and personal recommendations go a long way!”