Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Charter

When I hear people talk about my job, I always hear ‘He cleans boats’, or ‘Matt has a really good job, that allows him to travel Europe, and gets paid lots of money’. This is all true, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t attracted to the industry because of the perks of the job, but it comes at a price. I’m writing this blog to give everyone a better idea of what goes on.

The term ‘On Charter’ refers to when guests are onboard the boat. It can be the owner, or guests they have paid to charter the boat. We are all here for one thing, the guests. It is our job to make their holiday as exciting or relaxing as they wish.

On Fathom, the deck crew’s working day is 15/16 hours, with a 3 hour break. Each evening we get 8 hours sleep, with an hour to get ready.  The deck crew is made up of three guys; the First Mate, the Bosun, and the Deckhand. Between us the day is split into three shifts; early, middle, and late.  The times for each shift vary from charter to charter, and really depend on whether the guests are early risers, late risers or everyone’s favourite, the split group (some guests go to bed late, and get up late, and some guests go to bed early, and get up early).  The shifts work out something like this; early, between 6, and 7am until 9, 10pm. middle, will be between 7:30 and 8:30am until 11pm, 12am, and late shift starts 9 hours after you go to bed, which at worst case scenario is 6am.

I will now run you through what we do. It is up to the early, and middle shift guys to set the boat up for the day. When all goes to plan this is what is done. The doors are unlocked, and lights turned off. The seating covers are wiped of all due, and put away. The stainless steel rails are buffed with a damp chamois, soaked in vinegar, and all flat surfaces are wiped clean of due, and or dust. The seating cushions are flumped, and positioned, and any additional stainless like sunbed, and chair frames, or tables legs are wiped. The decks are now set up, and ready for the day. At some point, whether it is while one guy is still setting up, or when both have finished, we need to go and get pastries, and morning papers for breakfast. The tender will also need to be wiped, or cleaned, and all the toys (jet ski’s, and inflatable toys) are launch off the aft of the boat. 

By the time the person on the late shift gets up, the boat will already be set up, the toys will have been launched, and the guests would have read the papers, and eaten the pastries. If the guests are active, this is a tough shift because, as soon as you get up, you hit the floor running. By now the guests are wide awake, and wanting to do things - swimming, riding jet skis, wake boarding, or getting pulled behind the tender on inflatable toys. It is also the deck crews job to take the guests to shore in the tender, for lunch, or dinner, shopping trips, or just a walk around.  At the end of the day, we rinse the toys, and put them away. If the boat has moved, we will rinse the hull free of salt, and if the wind has been blowing, also rinse the superstructure, and windows. This shift can be very easy, or very hard, depending on the weather, and what time the guests go to bed. If it’s windy, and the boat has moved, chances are the majority of the boat will need to be rinsed. If there is no wind, chances are you wont have much rinsing to do. Most of the rinsing work cannot be done in front of guests, so you have to wait until they have gone to bed. I find it quite hard to be sitting around till 3am, waiting for the guests to go to bed, then having to get up, and motivated to rinse the boat for two or three hours. On the other hand, if the guests are in full party mode, you won’t be able to do anything, and have a relaxing evening, well apart from the unsociable hours!

So in a nutshell, that is a day in the life of a deck crew. I love my job, and the lifestyle it allows me to lead. We work hard, but it is totally worth it. Our season started fairly slow and relaxed, then picked up speed, and soon became very full on. The season was 109 days, of which 65 were on charter, 31 were 8am till 5pm work days, and 13 were days off.  I’m now ready for a holiday, and looking forward to working Monday to Friday with weekends off. After being a backpacker for so long, I didn’t think I’d be saying those words so soon!


  1. Hi Matt,

    Great blogs and really informative, a great read. I have 'known' about the industry for a short while now due to a friend working in the industry shore side.

    I am again seriously looking into getting started and your blog has given a real insight. Would you be able to tell me exactly when the season in Antibes ends? I believe this is when they go to the Caribbean? When would I have to be there by at the latest?

    Also I have found a company offering the relevant certificates through Flying Fish Online, which offers the STCW95 as well as RYA Shortwave Radio and Powerboat Level 2, which I was hoping may give me an edge on other new deckhands; they also offer a recruitment day in the Antibes meeting captains and agencies. The course however is about 2k all in, do you think it is worth paying out for the extra certificates and recruitment day or will the STCW 95 suffice and the rest I can do whilst aboard a yacht.

    I really appreciate any advice and any time that you give me. Thank you and I look forward to your next instalments.

  2. Hi Lawrence,

    If your looking to get into the industry as a career, then doing more certificates now is a great idea. If I had my time again, I would do a zero to hero course, as you will learn everything you need to know. Once you get a job, you will recoup the money spent on certificates in no time.

    The Med season finishes around September - some boats finish earlier, and others a little later. When I came to Antibes, I was planning on getting on a boat going to the Caribbean, but was surprised that not many did the crossing. The boats that do cross will leave late October / November. If you want to be a deckhand, you will definitely need to do your Power Boat Level II, otherwise you can't drive the tender! I haven't used my VHF license, but you will need it anyway if you decide to go on a do a Yachtmaster, so getting it done early doesn't hurt. I hope this helps. Good luck mate.

  3. Very interesting read, thanks!