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The Do's and Don'ts of Dockwalking

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Each year around March, the yachting industry experiences a surge in the number of job seekers, while crew begin to prepare the boats for the busy summer season ahead. Some of this preparation will include the taking on of new crew and/or the finishing off of maintenance tasks; either way, both provide an opportunity of employment for the lucky few.

Unfortunately, newcomers to the industry and those less experienced will almost certainly have to endure the hardships of 'dockwalking'.

Dockwalking is the laborious task of marching around the docks and marinas handing out CV's and trying to meet the crews and captains in the hope of securing some type of work. Nearly everyone in the yachting industry has dockwalked at some stage; it's almost a rite of passage. 

Now that my dockwalking days are behind me and I receive many CV's from dockwalkers in my current job, I feel that I'm in a position to offer some advice to the newcomers. Many of these will seem like common sense, but they've made the list because I've witnessed evidence to the contrary.

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In no particular order:

  • Do - dress smart, but keep it relevant. Last week I saw a girl on the dock wearing a woman's suit, perfect for a middle management job at a bank, not so great for a job on a yacht. Crew uniforms are almost always shorts/skirts with a polo shirt (or a variation), so why not wear a white or blue polo and a pair of chinos? Deck shoes won't go amiss either. Dressing in this fashion not only makes you look like you might know what you're doing, but also gives the captain an opportunity to see you in something that resembles a crew uniform.

  • Don't - limit your options. If you have little to no experience, try not to be too narrow-minded as to what position you are after. Gain some experience and then you can start to be picky. Too many times I've seen dockwalkers bypass the sailing yachts on the dock and head straight for the motor yachts, and I know for a fact that those sailing yachts have been looking for crew - opportunity lost.

  • Do - be polite and well mannered. Always introduce yourself with a firm handshake, a smile and good eye contact. Do not shout to get the crew member's attention, wait attentively. Catching their eye and smiling will almost always get them down the passerelle to where you'll be waiting with your CV.  

  • Don't- take things too personally. Sometimes crew will see you waiting but ignore you, try not to be offended and instead move onto the next yacht with a smile. Crew have to interrupt their work many times each morning to speak to dockwalkers, and if they know there's no work on their boat, then sometimes they just don't see the point of having the same conversation over and over again. This is especially true when the crew are on deadlines getting the boat ready for the boss or charter guests. (When you get a job, you'll understand.) Whatever you do, don't badmouth a boat for ignoring you- talking negatively about yachts in such a small industry is an extremely bad idea, and one which may scupper your chances of yacht work entirely. 
    No crew or dayworkers required alison rentoul

  • Do - thoroughly spell check your CV. Have a few people proof read it before you spend money printing and making copies. A well written CV can be the difference between looking professional or incompetent.

  • Don't - party too hard. Networking is all well and good but you have to remember that your prospective employers could be in the vicinity. Getting yourself a reputation as someone who parties hard and often will hurt your chances of gainful employment.  The industry is relatively small and cliquey, word gets around. Save it for the weekends- and even then, be aware of who might be watching.  

  • Do - cast a wide net. Wake up early, jump on a train and you could be dockwalking in Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Italy and all ports in-between. It's easily possible to be in Imperia waiting at the passerelle of a boat by the time the crew starts work. Opening yourself up to a larger catchment area is only going increase the number of job possibilities.  

  • Don't - dockwalk at lunch time. You may think that you are taking an opportunity that others are missing, but in reality you're just going to annoy the crew. Since they started work all they've been looking forward to is stopping for lunch and having a break, they'll resent you for interrupting and will be less inclined to pass your CV onto the captain.

  • Do – stay positive.  Even if your dockwalking is unsuccessful, consider it research- every port you know, every boat you see is just adding to your yachting knowledge and making you more employable. Green crew are generally identified within a minute of opening their mouths -so the more ports and yachts and terms you know, the less green you will sound. Yachting has its own language, make every effort to learn it.  

  • Don't - approach a boat that has guests on!  How can you tell?  Uncovered cushions, flowers on the aft deck and crew standing around attentively are universal signs that there are guests on. You will make no friends by yelling out and waving to crew on that boat.  

  • Do – make technology your friend.  A useful trick is to use, see which yachts are on their way back to port via their AIS.  Be the first one they see on the dock, take their lines, offer to help with a wash down, etc. 

  • Don't - think that it's going to be easy. Plenty of people before you have tried and failed. Try to stand-out from the crowd, identify your strengths and play to them. While you shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty, don’t sit around complaining how hard it is to find a job either. Get out there and stay positive.  

So if you're thinking about heading out to the South of France in pursuit of a yacht job- or if you're already here and struggling, take the above in to account and you'll give yourself a healthy head-start. Good luck, stick at it and work hard. Fair winds and following seas.

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'No crew required' image courtesy of The Crew Coach: see more CV and career advice here.  

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. 

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