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Yacht crew positions

The bigger the yacht, the more jobs need doing. Consequently, more crew members are needed with different skill sets. On smaller yachts, the crew is expected to multi-task. On the big daddies, there is more specialization. On the really big ones, you might find a beauty therapist or masseur doing just that and little else.


The number and range of roles on a superyacht will be commensurate with its size. We are talking of yachts between 35 and 100 metres LOA.

Yacht job roles, responsibilities and crew salaries

Captain my captain

You will always need a captain. The captain is there to ensure the safe manning and operation of the vessel, and care of guests and crew. On a superyacht, he has a wider range of duties than on commercial shipping.

  • Safe navigation and operation of the yacht
  • Budget management and accounting
  • Decision-making and crew management
  • Managing the upkeep of the yacht
  • Taking control of yacht repairs and refit projects
  • Assuming the role of ‘host’ and entertaining when necessary

Moneywise a captain will not receive under  €6,000 on a smaller boat p to  €20,000 per month on a big’un.

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Alright, mate?

Most superyachts have a first officer or chief mate, who can assume command of the yacht should anything happen to the captain. On larger yachts, you will find a second officer. On the bigger means more rule, job roles vary according to how the department in structured. The first officer is next in command down from the captain and overseas all the deck crew, including the second officer, bosuns and deckhands. This involves:

  • Ensuring the safety of the yacht and individuals on board
  • Managing all deck operations and management
  • Supervision, preparation and maintenance  of water toys
  • The management of administrative and safety procedures onboard
  • Bridge watches and the navigational planning of the yacht

A second officer may hold navigational responsibilities, keeping charts and publications up to date. The job may also involve monitoring radio equipment and bridge watches, and he or she may be appointed as the designated safety or medical officer.

A first officer or chief mate receives a salary of between €4,000 and €8,900 per month, size and responsibility related. A second officer may only start on a salary of €2,500 per month.

One bugbear in the industry is that access to the captain’s job for women is often limited to First Officer, despite experience and qualifications. Not exactly a glass ceiling – more a glass hull. Old habits die hard and the industry is changing in this respect.

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The bosun is the leading hand or senior deckhand and is likely to be an experienced deckhand, working his/her way up the career ladder. The bosun is responsible for the exterior maintenance of the yacht and oversees the deckhands. The bosun is responsible for:

  • Organising deck operations, including storage, the use and maintenance of tenders, toys and equipment, deck maintenance and supplies
  • Bridge watches and implementing security
  • Supervising the passerelle, and the safety of guests as they embark and disembark
  • Ensuring the highest level  guest service with an eye for the minutiae of the superyacht experience,

Salary wise a bosun may pull  a salary of between €3,000 and €4,500 per month.

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All hands on deck

A deckhand is an entry-level position. You will work with the other deckhands to maintain the exterior of the yacht, keeping it in pristine condition as if it had just come out of the boatyard, a never-ending task. Deckhand responsibilities include:

  • Cleaning, painting and varnishing
  • Polishing and finishing
  • Carpentry
  • Line handling
  • Driving and supervising guests using tenders and toys
  • Guest service and cleaning

As an entry-level position with few additional qualifications, a deckhand may expect a salary of between €2000 and €2,500 per month.

Big Chief Engineer

A first or chief engineer is in charge of the engineering department aboard. Reporting directly to the captain, you are responsible for the yacht’s safe operation and efficient performance. The chief engineer manages the vessel’s engineers, electrical technical officers (ETO’s) and electricians. These can be summarized as follows:

  • Day-to-day management of mechanical and electrical operations
  • Team management and supervision
  • Coordinating operations with shore-side engineers and suppliers
  • Troubleshooting and repair of all systems and equipment
  • Sourcing and purchasing of parts
  • The docking, undocking and anchoring of the yacht

First or chief officers can generally expect an average salary of between €4,700 and €12,900 per month. A second engineer may expect a salary starting at around €2,500 per month.
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Purser – holding the purse strings

A purser is a senior crew member with specific areas of competence, ranging from crew recruitment and financial matters to interior management and provisioning. Pursers are generally employed on larger yachts, On smaller yachts the role can merge with the role of the chief stewardess. The purser is often the chief of finances and keeping the accounts and financial affairs of the yacht in order, reporting to the captain and liaising with the yacht’s management company.

Responsibilities of a purser include:

  • The management of all financial matters on board including basic accounting skills and charter expenses
  • Human resources, salaries and crew certificates
  • Management of the yacht’s interior
  • Provisioning the vessel with food, beverages, cleaning products, uniforms and branding.
  • Liaising with heads of departments in financial matters, purchasing of ship’s stores, provisioning and logistics
  • Recording supplier contracts and arranging deliveries to the superyacht
  • Planning events and arranging owner and guest trips, as well as managing pre-arrival tasks such as transport options and venue checks
  • General administration

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Chief Stewardess – stewardesses in the plural

A chief steward/ess is likely to have progressed to this role through learned experience aboard a superyacht. They are in charge of the operation of the yacht interior and its staff, reporting directly to the captain. Attention-to-detail and outstanding yet discreet guest service are vital to this role.

The main responsibilities of a chief steward/ess include:

  • Food service – including silver service
  • Drink service and bar tending
  • The oversight of accommodation cleaning and preparation
  • Cabin preparation
  • Flower arranging
  • Obtaining local currency
  • Arranging trips, transport and events for the owner and guests
  • General yacht operations

As a chief steward/ess, you could expect to earn a salary of between €3,500 and €7,000 per month, while more junior stewardesses could take home anything from €1,400 to €4,000 per month, depending on the scope of their responsibilities on board.

Cooking up a storm

The food is one of the many things a guest will always remember about his/her time aboard a superyacht. As expected, the chef plays an incredibly important role onboard, sourcing, purchasing, transporting, preparing and presenting food on the table.

Depending on the size of the yacht, a chef may work alone or may manage a sous chef and/or crew cook or galley hand, while at all times keeping the galley in pristine condition. He/she must be able to prepare a wide range of dishes, from the basic to the exotic, sometimes with scarce supplies. The main responsibilities of a yacht chef include:

  • Devising interesting and delicious menus, meeting the demands of dietary requirements and the event in hand
  • Sourcing and purchasing food items and ingredients
  • Arranging the transportation of food stuffs to the yacht
  • The preparation, cooking and presentation of meals for guests (and sometimes crew)
  • Cleaning and maintaining the galley

Inside superyacht galley on motor yacht caryali

The expected salary of a yacht chef can range from €4,500 to upwards of €9,000 per month, depending on the size of yacht , the experience of the individual and amount of supporting galley staff working aboard. A second/sous chef of a mid-size yacht (60m) might expect a median salary of around €3,650 per month.

Crew contracts

Typically, yacht crew contracts will be offered on a seasonal basis (three to six months), a temporary basis (changeable periods), or a permanent basis of one year or more. Day work is also available – great for those seeking daily payment and on-board experience.

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) sets out the interests of yacht crew welfare, providing minimum requirements for crew accommodation, welfare and employment. It demands that all crewmembers working aboard commercial charter yachts should be hired on the basis of a Seafarers Employment Agreement (SEA).

A crew contract should set out, in more detail, the name and contact details of the yacht’s owning company or agency, plus a description of the vessel. It should also include details of:

  • Salary – How much you will be paid, and how
  • Probationary period
  • Annual leave or time off
  • Summary of dismissal
  • Repatriation
  • Venue of jurisdiction
  • Drug policy – always zero tolerance at sea
  • Special issues – confidentiality, tips and kickbacks
  • Personal hygiene expectations
  • Official MCA-approved contracts and agreements

If you are sacked, you have rights. The MLC sees to that. An unhappy employer cannot just dump you with a lousy reference. There are procedures and checks and balances.

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