Careers advice

RYA

Up to date advice and links for finding a career at sea

If you’re looking for a job at sea then there are plenty to choose from. From skippers on commercial yachts and delivery crew; to sailing instructors and watersports managers. Whatever you choose the RYA has some top tips on qualifications, training and the types of jobs available.

Crewing on commercial yachts

Yachts up to 24m in length

In most cases no formal qualifications are required. However, many skippers will prefer to take crew who have undergone training to at least Day Skipper level.

If you look for work through a crew placement agency, they will often recommend that you hold a Day Skipper certificate, preferably supported by training such as the Diesel Engine and Radar courses.

Superyachts

You may need an MCA Yacht Rating Certificate as a certain number of crew on board are required to be qualified. For this you should hold the RYA's Day Skipper or Watch Leader and Competent Crew certificates. You will also need additional STCW training in sea survival, fire fighting and prevention, first-aid, personal safety and social responsibilities.

Full details of Yacht Rating training can be found in the Guidance & Regulations section of the MCAs website.

Full details of the RYA’s training and certificates can be found on rya.org.uk/coursestraining

Skippering on commercial yachts

Charter yachts and superyachts are often based in the Mediterranean, Caribbean or Florida. Staff can be well paid, particularly the skippers, but owners demand exacting standards of service and competence.

Superyachts often employ a Master, mate, engineer, bosun, hostess, chef and deck crew. Jobs are often advertised in Yachting Monthly, Yachting World, Motor Boats Monthly and Boat International magazines. There are also many crew placement agencies finding staff at all levels of the industry.

Skippering commercial yachts

The qualifications required are determined by the area in which the yacht is operating. With a Yachtmaster Coastal Certificate of Competence you can skipper yachts up to 24m, operating up to 20 miles from a safe haven, while the Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence enables you to skipper yachts up to 200gt, 150 miles from a safe haven.

With the Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence you can work worldwide.

Whichever area you are working in, you must hold the commercial endorsement, so a one-day sea survival course and medical fitness certificate are necessary.

Skippering yachts (over 24m and up to 200GT)

Any skipper of a British flagged private or commercial yacht of this size, operating in UK and many non-UK ports, must hold an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore or Ocean Certificate of Competence with a commercial endorsement.

Additionally, to enable your qualifications to be valid worldwide and on non-British yachts, you can take three short MCA courses on fire fighting, first aid and social responsibilities to obtain an STCW endorsement on your RYA certificate of competence.

Skippering superyachts (200gt to 3,000gt)

There are a range of MCA qualifications up to MCA Master of Yachts 3000gt. Full details of Master of Yachts training can be found in the Guidance and Regulations section of the MCAs website, and a summary of manning requirements is shown in MSN 1802

Full details of the RYA’s training and certificates can be found on rya.org.uk/coursestraining

Delivery skippers and crew

Delivery skippers usually operate on a freelance basis, but there are some delivery companies large enough to employ additional staff. The qualifications required by the skipper will vary depending on the distance involved.

Many delivery skippers operate on a freelance basis but there are also delivery companies that co-ordinate deliveries and use a pool of regular skippers and crew. The arrangements concerning payment for deliveries to either skipper or crew will vary greatly from one company or delivery to the next so it is always best to ensure you are clear on what has been agreed prior to committing to anything.

The delivery of a private yacht by a paid or unpaid delivery skipper and crew is not of itself commercial use of the yacht. However, if there are paying passengers on board then the voyage is indeed classified as commercial in which case the vessel, skipper and crew will need to comply with any relevant commercial codes of practice and manning requirements relevant to the flag state under which the vessel is registered.

In the case of commercial passages under the UK codes of practice the vessel will need to be coded and the skipper will also require a commercial endorsement on their Certificate of Competence. If the yacht is already coded and the only people on board are the delivery skipper and crew then it is likely that the voyage will still be treated as commercial.

The qualifications required to skipper a delivery will depend on where the delivery will take place and also the nature of the passage. However, the skipper will owe a duty of care to the owner of the yacht and, as such, even for non-commercial passages as a minimum it is recommended that the skipper holds the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence and should also have a significant amount of experience on vessels of a similar style and size to that being delivered. For longer passages and Trans ocean deliveries it is strongly recommended that the skipper holds the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence. The higher your qualification and greater your experience the more appealing you will be to a potential delivery company.

Delivery skippers and companies will often require crew. This is a great way to get some extra miles and experience under your belt. These are occasionally paid positions but more often than not crew can only expect to be reimbursed for their travel costs rather than receiving payment for the delivery. Do be aware that whilst experience gained on a passage is invaluable – it is no substitute for some quality training.

The RYA provides a range of courses across many subjects that will assist in preparing you well for a role as a delivery crew member. Having undertaken some training a few delivery passages as crew will see you grow in confidence in your boating abilities. You can find opportunities for delivery skippers and crew on the RYA Forums as well as on various websites.

Full details of the RYA’s training and certificates can be found on rya.org.uk/coursestraining

Flotilla yachts

Flotilla companies operate fleets of yachts, most commonly in the Mediterranean, on a seasonal basis. They employ skippers, mates, hostesses and engineers.

Flotilla staff are expected to ensure that clients have a safe and enjoyable sailing holiday. Posts are usually advertised in the yachting press, in particular Yachting Monthly, Yachting World, Motor Boats Monthly and Boat International.

The skipper's role is that of a group courier, making sure that the flotilla moves smoothly from port to port. You will be responsible for aspects of the flotilla including safety, preparation, maintenance and the laying up of the boat at the end of the season. The usual requirement for skippers on flotilla holidays is a commercially endorsed RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence.

Tuition is often offered on flotilla holidays, so skippers may also need to hold the RYA Keelboat Instructor or RYA Yachtmaster Instructor qualification.

Bareboat Skippers

The duties of a bareboat skipper involve the preparation of yachts for charter and their delivery to their relevant bases. The usual minimum requirement for bareboat skippers is a commercially endorsed RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence.

Mates

The role of a mate is to deputise for the skipper in all aspects of the holiday. You are also responsible for the administrative and social areas of the clients' holiday. Mates should hold a commercially endorsed RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence, RYA Yachtmaster Instructor or RYA Keelboat Instructor qualification.

Engineers

The role of the engineer is to familiarise clients with their boats and solve any immediate mechanical problems during the cruise, so you will need a knowledge of marine diesel engines.

The RYA runs a Diesel Engine course which teaches the basics of how an engine works, how to keep them healthy and how to get them started again should a mechanical breakdown occur.

Hostess

The hostess manages the social programme of the flotilla, including parties and barbecues and looks after the clients' welfare. In addition, he or she provides liaison with the company's administration staff to deal with any travel or domestic problems.

Full details of the RYA’s training and certificates can be found on rya.org.uk/coursestraining

Sailing training vessels

The UK has one of the largest sail training fleets in the world, represented nationally by ASTO - The Association of Sea Training Organisations.

Sail training vessels take a variety of trainees to sea, including the young, disabled and disadvantaged. The aims are personal development and adventure. The vessels range from 30' yachts to 180' square riggers.

Manning of these vessels is usually a mix of full time, temporary and volunteer staff. Typical staffing would be a skipper, mate and bosun, although this does vary widely around the fleet, with some vessels carrying cooks and engineers.

Qualifications

Paid posts exist for holders of Coastal Skipper and above. Coastal Skippers usually sail as a mate, with skippers being required to hold a Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence or above. On larger vessels, 20m to 24m, mates may be required to hold a Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence.

Vessels over 24m usually require STCW 95 OOW (Yachts), Chief Mate (Yachts) or Master (Yachts), depending on the position in which you sail onboard.

Career Path

Short term, seasonal and full time posts exist within this industry.

Due to the vulnerable nature of some of the trainees taken to sea, many organisations give preference to applicants with prior sail training experience when applying for senior positions. Training and funding is available for sail training staff who wish to develop and progress their qualifications all the way to Master (Yachts).

More information about jobs and sail training in general can be found on the ASTO website.

Full details of the RYA’s training and certificates can be found on rya.org.uk/coursestraining

Watersports management

There are many opportunities available for those interested in managerial positions in the watersports industry.

These include working in commercial training centres, local authority centres, charitable trusts, voluntary groups, holiday companies or sailing clubs with full time staff.

All these groups will have slightly different requirements for their management staff, ranging from RYA coaching and instructing qualifications (eg. Senior Instructor, Yachtmaster Instructor or Powerboat Instructor) to a degree, youth work or teaching qualification. Others may also require specific job related experience.

The role of watersports manager will involve many different skills ranging from instructing, coaching, programme planning, course organisation, recruitment, staffing, finance, budgeting, purchasing, maintenance, customer relations, bookings, sales, advertising, marketing, dealing with complaints and so on. In larger organisations you may have colleagues to assist you, but in smaller ones you will need to be a jack of all trades.

It is often the variety of work which people find most enjoyable and, if you can manage the differing tasks, you will find the role very rewarding indeed.

For further information on university leisure management degrees or other courses, contact UCAS or your nearest institute of higher education for advice.

Watersports management jobs are usually advertised in the major yachting magazines. Vacancies at local authority centres are often advertised through the TES.

If you go to the 'Teaching' section on the left, you will find details on how to qualify in the various areas of instruction that the RYA offers.

Full details of the RYA’s training and certificates can be found on rya.org.uk/coursestraining

Work boats and other commercial craft

Commercially endorsed RYA certificates are widely accepted within the MCA's codes of practice for small vessels in commercial use, and by local harbour authority bye laws.

RYA certificates are a nationally accepted standard and are used by charter angling boats, small passenger launches, thrill ride operators, harbour patrol launches, construction site safety boats and corporate charter vessels. In many areas they are accepted as equivalent to local boatmans licences.

Generally, there is an RYA qualification suitable for most workboats of up to 24 metres in length and carrying up to 12 passengers.

Full details of the RYA’s training and certificates can be found on rya.org.uk/coursestraining