Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Super Yachts - Dock Walking, Day Working and Job Offer

Apart from a broken toe, my time in Antibes couldn’t have gone any better. It took me three days of dock walking to find ongoing day work and within 2 weeks I was offered a month trail for a permanent position.

Dock walking never really bothered me but most people you talk to hate it. As the name suggests you walk around a dock asking each boat if they have permanent positions or need day workers? I went in with the mentality that 90% of boats wouldn’t have any work and expected to get rejected. I considered a lead, advice or ‘we might need a day worker in a few days’ a positive and left a bit more pumped.

To start with I didn’t have a clue and would approach every boat that looked a decent size. Towards the end, I had figured out the size of boat that I wanted to work on and only approached boats around that size. The best bit of advice I got was from someone staying in my crew house that said when you approach a boat you need to sell yourself as chances are they will scan your CV and only remember what you tell them. I trialed this advice and my approaches improved 100%. In day one, I approached each boat thinking I don’t want to take up much of their time, by day three I was having decent conversations with the crew even if there was no work going. I approached one boat where two guys were chatting at the end of the passerelle and asked to speak with the mate. As they saw me approaching one guy started walking up the passerelle onto the boat. I started my pitch to the deckhand that was still on the dock and when I mentioned my time on Lord Nelson the guy that had walked back onto the boat stopped to listen to what I was saying. By the end of my pitch he was standing back on the dock asking me questions. He was the first mate, who on the bigger boats is in charge of hiring all deck crew. As it turned out I never heard anything from that boat but the experience will always stick with me and prove to me that you have to sell yourself.

Suakin in Beaulieu Sur Mer shipyard.
My day working gig was secured on day three. I started early morning dock walking in Antibes, and decided to hit every super yacht in Port Vauban. I approached one boat and was having a decent chat with the deckhand even though I knew there was no chance of work. At the end of the conversation I shook his hand and approached another boat. I turned around and the deckhand was running towards me to saying that his captain was on the phone to another captain that may need a day worker. He told me the boat is in Beaulieu Sur Mer shipyard, which was about four stops from Monaco on the train, given the captain, Pete’s mobile number and told to give him a call. I instead of calling him I decided to catch the train to Beaulieu Sur Mer, find the shipyard and chat to the captain in person. Fortunately I found the shipyard easily and somehow managed to get in. Looking back it was a stroke of luck getting in as the gate is always locked and you need to know the pin code to get in. I met with the Pete who told me he may need some help next week and would give me a call to let me know when.

Dock walking in Beaulieu Sur Mer
I spent the rest of the afternoon dock walking in Beaulieu Sur Mer and Monaco. I didn’t have much luck in Beaulieu Sur Mer as the boats were smaller, and mainly French owned, so were staying in France for the winter and finishing up for the season. My dock walking in Monaco however was very fruitful. The dock was packed with lots of sexy looking super yachts all getting ready for the Monaco Boat show. All of my approaches went really well, and I had good conversations with the crew. I was really impressed with Monaco, the place gave the impression of wealth and looked exclusive. I turned into a geeky tourist and took pictures of the boats and F1 track. I even stopped to take a photograph of the start finish line, which is ridiculous when you think I now have a picture of a busy road, with a start finish line painted on. By the end of the day I felt knackered as I’d covered a serious amount of dock miles. I was waiting for the train at Monte Carlo when I got a phone call from Pete, saying that he’d changed his mind and he needed me tomorrow morning at 8. It’s hard to put the feeling into words but a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was over the moon. As I’d arrived in Beaulieu Sur Mer I had a call from a captain in Antibes that needed a day worker that afternoon. I was pretty bummed to have to turn down the work but this news had more than made up for it.

I really enjoyed my first day on Suakin and loved the fact the work was active, outside and in the sun. I spent the day painting shackles on an anchor chain so they knew how much chain was still in the water when it was coming back in. Around 3pm Pete asked me if I could work tomorrow and before going home the first mate told me I would be needed next week too. I was very happy as a week’s work would pay for two weeks food and accommodation, meaning I can stay in Antibes, debt free while looking for a permanent position.

In the end I worked nine awesome days on Suakin and took part in numerous jobs, included painting the anchor chain, ballast and fresh water tanks, polishing, treating metal, hosing down, and helping to leave and enter berths. Working in the tanks was an experience that I’m not sure if I enjoyed or not. It’s bloody hot in there and there isn’t much room to move around but I enjoyed the challenge. All I can say is it’s a good job I’m flexible.

I had only worked there four days when an anchor fell on my foot, breaking my little toe. The anchor chain was nearly up but had a twist in it so I shouted up to get them to stop pulling the chain in. I walked round the front of the anchor to untwist the chain when it fell over landing on my foot. I’m not sure why it fell but the anchor had been standing all day so I think my message didn’t get through to stop the chain and the movement knocked it over. When you need to, you can move fast. My reflexes moved my foot from under the anchor before I felt pain but unfortunately my reflexes weren’t fast enough. At first I pulled the macho card, and told myself it had only grazed me and tried to walk it off. I carried on working and got the anchor fully up before looking at my foot. It had ballooned like it belonged to professor clump and was blue. Pete and his fiancée Sarah, took me to get it x-rayed. I was told that my little toe was broken but as long as I kept my weight off it, would be okay to work. Pete suggested we get a second opinion from a doctor. Throughout the whole appointment the doctor spoke to Sarah in French, whilst I sat on the bed. I didn’t understand a word but knew it wasn’t good news. He told Sarah my toe needed a pin, I needed crutches and should definitely not work. I was devastated and thought my dream was over. I couldn’t believe it as everything had been going so well and was now thinking I would have to spend winter in England thinking about what could have been.

Pete told me he would have a word with Ralph, the boats manager before we done anything rash. That evening he called to say Ralph would be round tomorrow morning at 9:30 to take me to the boats doctor for a third opinion. Ralph said the doctor we were seeing was his personal doctor that looks after all his family and was very good. The doctor took a look at the x-ray, told me to get rid of the crutches as they are dangerous, wrote a prescription for some tablets to reduce the swelling and bruising, strapped my toe up to the ankle and said I could go back to work tomorrow. I found the whole thing quite comical and was relieved that I could go back to work. My toe never caused me pain or affected my work, and by the end of the first day I could keep up with everyone’s walking pace.

My first trip on a super yacht was an hour’s motor from Beaulieu Sur Mer to Antibes, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Looking back at the coastline, the windy Riviera road and the red terracotta roof tops was an awesome sight. I’ve always enjoyed the sun reflecting off the water but the deep blue Mediterranean Sea and being on a super yacht made it even better. I regretted not bringing my camera but I told myself that I would have many more opportunities to take photographs of stunning coast lines and life at sea.

Suakin arrived in Antibes Friday afternoon and I was offered a month’s trial on the Monday. I was given the weekend off and as my foot wasn’t causing me any pain or to limp, I went dock walking in Cannes and Antibes. Whilst dock walking on Saturday I spoke to the first mate of a boat called Clifford II, which ironically, was berthed three boats down from Suakin in Antibes. The first mate, Josh told me that they were unsure what they were doing for the winter and they might be looking for a deckhand. He said they may be heading to the Caribbean or staying in Antibes for the winter and going to a shipyard for a couple of months. Either way they were hoping to find out within the week. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it but on my way home from work on Monday, Josh said that he was hoping to catch me and could I have a word with the captain? They told me the boat would be staying in Antibes for the winter, going to a shipyard for some major work and they needed a deckhand. The captain, Bob, talked about the career opportunities and the possibility of doing more certificates. Josh told me he had worked for the owners for four years and said they were really nice people to work for.

I imagined that if I was offered a job, I would be extremely excited and would struggle to control my emotions but I stayed very calm and took in all the details. That evening my mind raced and I didn’t know what to do. I was encouraged to hear that Josh had stuck around for four years and believed him when he said the owners are nice people to work for. Bob’s talk about starting a career on the boat also appealed to me but I had my heart set on travelling somewhere hot. The next day after work, Bob showed me round the boat. I was really impressed and fell in love with her. She looked impressive from the dock but as soon as I saw the interior, jacuzzi and deck furnishings, I thought, this boat is sexy. Everything was perfect apart from staying in Antibes for the winter. In the end I thought, what’s my rush, there will be plenty more Caribbean seasons and I can’t turn down a position with a future. The size of the boat and amount of crew is perfect, it’s modern, stylish and super sexy. I accepted Bob’s offer and started work the following Friday.  I am now looking forward to learning the boat and my job well during the shipyard period and should hit the ground running when the Mediterranean season starts again next March / April.

Ever since my accident I hate the word lucky. I worked bloody hard for this opportunity and believe you get out of life what you put in. Everything I did in Antibes was geared towards find a job. My days off from Suakin were spent dock walking for permanent positions, I asked lots of questions and knocked on many doors. Countless people have told me, finding a job in yachting is all about being in the right place at the right time. This saying is spot on and sums it up much better than being lucky.

48 comments:

  1. I am currently in Antibes and am trying to find some daywork. Your story just gave me a little bit of hope tonight as yesterday was very unfruitful.

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  2. I think now is a good time to be looking. A mate of mine arrived a couple of weeks ago, got on going day work in 6 days and hopefully has a trail for a permanent position. Just stick at it and stay positive, good luck man.

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  3. just read your blog... pretty awesome summary of a 'new to the industry' experience... keep blogging!

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  4. Hi
    Nice to hear that you got a job.. just googled first season.. which I just completed doing daywork and freelancing on chrters as a deckie and a Stew and a deck/stew... loved it but had to come home at the end of the season as I hadn't secured a full time position.. I am female and ideally want to work on deck as that is where my experience is... Also was advised by agents not to say that I would 'do anything' so I have stuck to deck or deck/stew positions but I am wondering as I continue to look from here.. should I just go for a stew position to 'get on a boat'? Delighted for you and love reading successful stories..I am not giving up just yet!!!

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  5. The agencies did nothing for me, they all said dock walking is the way to find your first job. If you prefer to work on deck go for a deck/stew position. If a boat likes you but only has a stew position I'm sure they would talk to you about it. If I was you, I would arrive in France, Spain or Italy at the begining of March or possibly earlier, tell the agencies you are looking for a deck/stew position and start dock walking. Good luck for next season.

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  6. Hello dear.You have written a great post. Going to share with my followers on twitter. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Thank you so much for such an informative and well written account!

    I'm looking to get into the industry and plan to head out to Antibes in mid April is that too late? I don't have any experience or certificates what can I do to increase chances of getting work? Is there any literature I should look into?

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. Thanks. I would say mid April is too late. If I were you, I would arrive mid March or maybe sooner. And definitely do you STCW before you leave :)

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  10. Awsome story... you give hope to all the ppl that wanna get into the industry!! you still working on the yatchs!?

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    1. Hi Alex, sorry for the late reply. I've just finished up on my boat, but I'm now looking for a new position.

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  11. Really inspiring post! My boyfriend and I are planning on heading out in mid March. He is a chef but happy to do deckhanding, and I am planning on stewardessing. We both have our STCW95 certificates but no other experience apart from that. In your opinion, what do you think our chances are of getting work together? This would be preferable, but obviously we are prepared to work seperately. Also is daywork possible for stews or is it mainly just deckhands? Sorry to bombard you with questions! Good luck with everything in the future!

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    1. It is possible to get work on the same boat, but for now I would just concentrate on getting a job. Once you both have experience, it will be easier to find work on the same boat. And yes, you will find day work for both deckie's and stew's. Your boyfriend may even get a temp chef position. No worries about the questions, i'm happy to help where I can :)

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  12. Thanks for that, how are you finding the job hunt now? With regards to moving boats, do you think that would be easier after completing a season? Maybe do one season on seperate boats and then change after that? Sorry I just can't seem to find answers to these questions anywhere!

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  13. No problems. The job front is looking promising, and I am hoping to get something sorted fairly soon. It will definitely be easier to find a boat together, when you have experience, but then you may be lucky and find one straight away. I wouldn't say a seasons experience, guarantees you a job together - It may take several seasons.

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  14. Hey Mr Ireland,

    Great blog ..I'm just looking for a little advice. I have no yachting/sailing experience but am determined to get into the industry. I heard doing the STCW95 is paramount and that Bluewater is a good company? I really don't know to be honest! I speak fluent Spanish and Hungarian, so don't know if they'd help at all.

    Anyway man, anything you could help me out with would be great, so I'm looking forward to your reply!

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  15. Thanks, Erik. A STCW95 is the minimum qualification you will need to work on a yacht. If you want to work on deck, I would advise doing a Power Boat Level II as well. I done my STCW in England, so I don't know what the training schools are like else where. I'd say Bluewater are a safe bet - I know people that have done courses with them, and they had no complaints.

    Good luck, man.

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  16. Thanks man,

    Appreciate the reply...how are you doing for work these days? Has it got any easier since the original date of the blog?

    Thanks again,
    Erik

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    1. No worries. I'm finding it much easier, this time around. The agencies are being really helpful, and I got 2 trials on my first dock walking outing - I just have to turn the day work into a permanent position.

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  17. Hey Mr. Ireland,

    I was planning to get into Antibes 2nd of April and I have booked my Safety Course in Australia before I go. I have not worked on the yachts before and I was hoping to get a position as a stew. Do you think it's worth going for the beginning of April?

    Lizzie

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    1. Hey Lizzie,

      Do you mean your STCW, when you say safety course? All the boats are looking to be crewed up by the beginning of April, so it is a good time to be around. You will also catch the boats that are travelling back to the Med, from places like the Caribbean. Antibes will be busy with job hunters, so try and book your accommodation before you leave.

      Good luck Lizzie.

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  18. Mr Ireland,
    Thank you for this post it has been very helpful, I am looking for work as a stewardess.
    I have uploaded my CV to all the agencies but no luck yet, looking to go out to Antibes at the end of march/april.
    I hope thats not to late.
    I have previosly been working on cruise ships but have no yachting experience.
    can u give me any information on accommodation in Antibes/ where to fly to? Any information would be a grate help as this is a whole new world to me.
    Callie.

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  19. Hi Matt, great blog. I found it by searching superyacht on google and ended up reading all your posts!! I was wondering how you got into superyachting as a career as I'm thing about it, is there any reason why you had 3 months inbetween doing your STCW and going out to Antibes? Many Thanks Pete

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  20. Hi Callie,

    Sorry for the delayed reply. The season starts in April, so you won't be late. When you arrive, Antibes will be very busy with people looking for work, so I would recommend booking your accommodation beforehand. I've stayed at The Glamorgan and The Grapevine, and would recommend them both. They are of the more expensive crew houses but are keep clean and offer all you need.

    The closest airport is Nice. You can catch a bus from Terminal 1 (zone 0, bus 250) to Antibes for 8.50 Euro, which takes about 30 minutes. From the bus stop in Antibes, it's a 5/10 minute walk to the crew houses.

    Hope this helps.

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  21. Hi Peter,

    I found out about the industry when working for a sailing tourism company in New Zealand. A few of the crew had worked on super yachts and from chatting with them, the industry sounded like something I would enjoy, so I gave it a go.

    I thought arriving in June (after completing my certificates), would be too late for the Med season and went to Antibes with the intention of joining a boat heading to the Caribbean. From what I read, I learn't the Caribbean season started in October/November and I wanted to be a little early.

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  22. Hey Mr Ireland
    I just done my yacht masters and all ready done the STCWs a while back
    I am heading out to Antibes mid May i know its a bit late but you found work June so i should be fine hey!
    I been working on small cruise ships 200 guest the yachts of seabourn for the past 2 years
    hope you can help me

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  23. Hi all, I'm Jenna. Currently studying at University but during the summer i'm hoping to work on Superyachts to earn some money. I've completed the STCW95. Could anyone offer me some advice, be much appreciated!!! Thanks.

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  24. Can I suggest you take a look at our Introduction to the Superyacht Industry distance learning course.

    http://www.mpigroup.co.uk/education-training/courses/short-courses/introduction-to-the-superyacht-industry/

    Please feel free to contact me on 01252 732220 or email me at lou.blackaby@mpigroup.co.uk if I can help further, Lou Blackaby

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  25. I work at a company Called MPI and We offer an Introduction to The Superyacht Industry distance learning course. It is supported by the PYA and Ocean Style.

    This course will set you in great stead to increase your chances to enter the Superyacht industry. If i can help you with any questions you may have, please do not hesitate to contact me lou.blackaby@mpigroup.co.uk or call me 01252 732220

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  26. Hi Mr. Ireland,

    To echo everyone else here, this is an inspiring post! I am preparing to leave for the Med in the first week of September. Do you have any advice for a newbie looking to catch a yacht doing the crossing back to the Caribbean in September/October from Antibes?

    Thanks,

    Andy

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  27. Thanks for sharing the info.

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  28. Hello Mr Ireland.
    Fantastic post, I not only like your writing style, but I loved how you finished off with saying
    "Countless people have told me, finding a job in yachting is all about being in the right place at the right time".
    Sounds like you place your self in the right spot at the right time!
    I have been asked so many times how to get a job on a super yacht, and I think you have mastered the art of dock-walking perfectly :)
    Cheers for sharing
    Kylie.
    www.stewardessbible.com

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  29. Nice post, Thanks for sharing this.

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  30. Hi there!
    I am in Mexico at the moment and would like to start working on Superyachts at the start of January. I have my STCW95, ENG 1 am a Dive Master with over 700 dives and loads and loads of hospitality experience in all areas, management, floor etc. (I was also the Chief Hostess on a large live-aboard Dive Boat for a year). I would like to know if you think Fort Lauderdale is a good start point for me. Will there be work even though it is part way through the season?
    Thanks, I really appreciate your advice!

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  31. Hey Mr Ireland,

    I can see it's been a while since your last comment on here but I found your blog post really helpful and informative so I was really interested in asking your opinion! I'm new to the yachting industry and have planned to undertake my STCW95 as part of an 'Interior crew course' offered by The company Flying Fish, Some people have suggested the course is costly considering there's no guarentee of a job afterwards, but i've researched the course in comparison to others and i really think it's worth the money. I plan to arrive in antibes around the last week in March in the hope of finding a Stewardess position for the med season, do you think completing this course and arriving in France around that time would give me a sufficient chance at finding work for the Med season? Hope to hear back from you soon, Thanks again, Beth.

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  32. Hey Beth,

    I would advise arriving in Antibes a week or two earlier. Make sure you pre book a Crew House as they tend to be be full at the end of March. If you're serious about getting into the industry then do all the qualification you can! It may seem like a big expense but you'll earn it back pretty quickly. If I had my time again, I would have done more qualifications.

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    Replies
    1. I really appreciate you replying, it's great to hear the opinion of someone with your experience! So overall you think there's plenty of jobs to be had for people who show they've put in the effort before/on arrival? Do you recommend any particular courses/qualifications at all? Also i'll definately take your advice on when to arrive, you've been very helpful, thanks again! Beth

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    2. Hi Beth,

      Each season there are plenty of jobs, but there is also plenty of competition. If you are serious about getting into the industry and work hard at it you can be successful. I can't recommend any courses, as I’m not sure myself. The yachting industry is a very friendly industry, and you will find lots of people that will help you out and point you in the right direction. Good luck.

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  33. Hi Mr Ireland,

    Just a quick question, what visa did you have when you entered France as im not wanting to buy a return flight. Also do you need some sort of working visa while working on the Yachts?

    Thanks mate
    Zane.

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  34. Hi Zane,

    I'm on a UK passport so I don't need a visa. Sorry I couldn't help further.

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  35. Hi Mr Ireland,

    How are you? compliments for your blog i really enjoyed reading it and also found it helpful as im starting looking for yacht job.

    In regards i'd like to ask you about the VHF and the powerboat certificates, have they been really helpful to u in finding a job? Do you suggest I undertake the courses?

    Thank you for your time
    Federico

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    Replies
    1. Hi Federico,

      It depends what position you are applying for. As a deckhand you will need those qualifications.

      Delete
  36. Hi Mr Ireland,

    Really love reading your blog, you give a real insight into the industry and you have given me so much information on how I should approach my first steps.

    I'm looking to head out to Antibes end of February, as regards to day working is it wise to bring along spare clothing or clean deck shoes in a bag?

    I have also read about tattoos are disliked, I have one on my foot but wearing anykind of footwear covers it. Do you usually wear deck shoes on board?

    Thanks
    Dan

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dan,

      Definitely bring a spare pair of clothes for day working. And yes, I wear deck shoes on board.

      Delete
  37. i do not have a certificate to work on boats, do i still have a chance to get a job on one of the boats?

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    Replies
    1. You need a minimum of a STWC to get a job on a boat.

      Delete
  38. Hi Mr Ireland

    Great blog! I am heading over to the Med at the end of March for my first yachting season. By the time I leave South Africa I will have the following qualifications:
    - Competent Crew
    - Day Skipper (theory and practical)
    - VHF Radio
    - Powerboat level 2
    - STCW

    In your opinion and from experience, do you believe this is sufficient for an entry level deckhand position?

    Thanks
    Rey Stander

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  39. Hi Ray,

    I think you will be fine. All you need now is the experience. Good luck.

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