World adventures come in many forms, be it a short vacation over the weekend to a nearby town, a two week holiday to an exotic island destination or a round-the-world year long trip exploring everything the world has to offer (everything being a loosely employed term). But one thing’s for certain, and that’s that travelling, no matter how close or far away, costs money…. that’s just life. So when I learned of my friend Stef heading overseas to begin a stint as a stewardess on a mega yacht as a way of financing her travels for the year that ensued, I was interested to learn more about her choice of career. What followed was an incredibly intriguing and insightful look into the life of a ‘yachtie’, and a particularly charismatic one at that.
The life of a Yacht Stewardess
World of Wanderlust: How did you get into yachting?
Stef:About 3 friends of mine had done it before and I saw it as a good way to spin working and travelling – and the pay is much more favourable than most “backpacker” jobs. Most people I’ve come across know at least one person who works on super yachts!
World of Wanderlust: What qualifications are required for yachting?
Stef: Required is the STCW95 certificate, and favoured for a Stewardess job like mine is a background in hospitality, waitressing, cleaning, concierge, hotel, butler – etc. I took my STCW95 at super yacht crew academy in Sydney. I also did a Stewardess Course through them which is a good idea when breaking into the industry like me as it gives you a leg up above everyone else who don’t have experience and are also looking for jobs.
World of Wanderlust: Were you lucky to land your job/describe how hard yacht jobs are to come by?
Stef: When i arrived in the South of France I kept being told “everyone gets a job eventually”. It did take me 6 weeks but it was an amazing 6 weeks of hanging out in a crew house (basically a 30 person hostel for yacht crew) with some absolutely amazing people from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England and Europe mostly. Lifelong friendships were formed! The first job is traditionally hard to get and then it becomes easier as you become more experience and are vouched for as hardworking by other boats you have worked on.
World of Wanderlust: How much did you earn as a yacht stewardess?
Stef: Average wage for an entry level stewardess is 2500 euros a month, plus tips. I know people who worked on charter boats whose monthly tips exceeded their wages. I worked on a private boat, however the owner’s friends would tip the crew generously on many occasions. The owner even took us out one night as a thankyou for our hard work. 4 magnums of Dom Perignon rose from the year 2000 later… and some very very sore heads to show for it!! As an example of yacht tips, the owner lost his iPhone somewhere on the boat and when we turned the boat upside down trying to find it (I found it in his dressing gown), I received a big hug and a 500 euro handshake!!
World of Wanderlust: Not bad for a days work! Would you say you do the job for love or money or both?
Stef: THE MONEY!!!!
World of Wanderlust: That was a fairly clear answer! So if you didn’t enjoy the work, was it what you expected?
Stef: Relatively so, yes. I think because I did the Stewardess course I was more prepared and knew what to expect, as we learned from an experienced stewardess.
“Obviously you have to have a ‘professional’ relationship with the guests as you’re their glorified servant on their floating palace…”
World of Wanderlust: What are the basic rules of being a yachtie?
Stef: You have to look presentable with no visible tattoos (some boats no tattoos at all) however I have friends who have tattooed hands and feet and still got jobs. Four out of the eight crew on my boat had tattoos, some visible too, so it isn’t as much of a big deal as it’s made out to be. Obviously you have to have a “professional” relationship with the guests as you’re their glorified servant on their floating palace. However my boat was a special one – the owner was absolutely lovely (albeit a party animal!) and made sure we were looked after. If we threw really good parties for him he would decide that HE was the stewardess and pour US glasses of wine!
World of Wanderlust: Describe the basic day of a yachtie from the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep.
Stef: It depends on your job – captain, first mate, engineer, deckhand, chef, stewardess etc. It also depends on the boat. Mine was a party boat but not all of them are! My basic day would be:
7:55am wake up and throw on uniform, run out into the crew mess
8am start work, run the washing machines and while they are going, head upstairs to see how much mess the guests made last night. Clean up their mess. Wash glasses, mop the floor every day, dust & polish EVERYTHING spotless. Tiptoe around as to not wake the guests. Fluff the cushions on the aft deck, Set the table for breakfast, run downstairs and put everything in the dryer, start the washing machines next load. All the while trying to grab some breakfast because I slept in too late.
9-10am guests are awake, greet them on the aft deck and offer drinks & refreshments, lots of water cause they’re always hungover. Take their breakfast order (whatever they want the chef will make) they would usually have a fruit platter and toast or omelettes. Take their breakfast to them, go into their cabins and make the beds while they’re eating breakfast, clean their cabins and bathrooms spotless. Clear the table, they probably then go back in to their cabins to shower, after that you have to clean it again.
Any time between 11am and 3pm we would take the boat out to an island for lunch, so I would go outside and help the deckhand while the boat is leaving the berth. Then downstairs to start ironing. Once we were anchored near the island we would set the table on the upper deck for lunch, and same deal as breakfast really. Either that or the guests would all take the tender boat to the island for lunch, in which case we would vacuum as you can’t do it while the guests are onboard as its noisy. Either that or we would get a break. All the while making sure the boat is spotless at all times. Any free time is spent doing laundry or ironing as there’s A LOT!
6pm: The call goes over your radio that crew dinner is on the table when you’re available for it. Run down and eat!
Anytime between 3 and 9pm (depending on whether they would have lunch or dinner onboard) they would call us to pick them up with the tender, then head back to our berth – they would then go ashore and go out to party. Once they’re gone you do a final run around the boat and clean their bathrooms again as they would have all showered, put make up on, have clothes everywhere from trying on outfits (keep in mind there’s 5 cabins sleeping 2 in each – thats a lot of mess!) Then turn down the beds and put water and chocolate on their bedside table. Back to finish the ironing and by that time it’s any time between 10 and midnight – sometimes even later! So its bed time. Phew! Sore feet! On every boat its different though – that was just a day in MY life.
World of Wanderlust: What has been the most exciting place you have visited (through yachting)? Why?
Stef: My boat was based in Ibiza for two months – so every day that we weren’t working we were spending our money in the clubs! Our captain had a Pacha membership card too so he could get us in for free. It was the 3rd time I’ve been to Ibiza but we saw a lot of my favourite DJ’s play over those months! And Fedde Le Grand was even a guest on the boat! Also on boats you get to see landscapes that you would never normally get to see – for example we went to the magical rock Es Vedra (the 3rd most magnetic place on earth) and you normally would have to go there by helicopter.
World of Wanderlust: What is the most common question you get about yachting from friends/family back home?
Stef: “Did you love it?” i always find it hard to answer because at some points I loved it and at some points I absolutely hated it.
World of Wanderlust: Now that you’re home for the moment, what do you miss about crew life?
Stef: NOTHING! I miss living in the crew house pre-job though.
World of Wanderlust: What is the worst part of yachting (or parts)?
Stef: Cabin fever and your superiors being mentally insane from working on boats for too long. And the long hours.
World of Wanderlust: Have you ever wanted to throw a guest overboard (kidding, but..)?
Stef: Our guests were amazing – they’re on holiday all the time so they were always happy! Sometimes i wanted to throw certain crew members overboard though (laughs).
World of Wanderlust: Your advice to readers considering life working on a yacht?
Stef: It’s hard work and not for the faint of heart! The money and travel opportunities are amazing and the people you will meet are amazing. It’s a competitive industry because of these things, but highly recommended if you have the drive. I know I won’t do it for the rest of my life but it’s a great way to make money for travelling after – i.e I worked for 3 months then travelled off the money I made for 5 months.
Thanks, Stef! All the best for your travels and I’ll be sure to run into you again somewhere soon!