How many hours does a deckhand work?

The realities of deckhand working hours vary hugely, depending on the owner, yacht size, Captain and crew – oh and whether it’s chartered or privately owned!

We talked to a few deckhands and here are a few real answers:

KS“off charter, I work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and some Fridays I might get a half day. On charter I have been known to work up to 15 hours a day. So it can vary massively.”

PB “could be 8 or 18, basically as long as it takes to get the job done. It’s the same whether there are guests onboard or charter.”

CS“we could work up to 16-18 hours on average, but there should be down-time or a break built-in too if possible. Legally we’re obliged to have 77 hours rest in any one 7-day period, but the daily time schedule doesn’t always allow it. My advice to newbies? Work smarter not harder, take your breaks when your schedule sensibly allows it.” 

SA – “I work 7 days a week, some days 16-hour days, some days 3. But I don’t have much of a life outside work. If I ever make plans on a day I think “we’re not taking guests out” I always end up having to cancel.”

For the rights and wellbeing of men and women working at sea, the Maritime Labour Convention (2006) sets out limits on working and rest hours:

The maximum hours spent working shall not exceed:

14 hours in any 24-hour period


72 hours in any seven-day period

The minimum hours spent resting shall not be less than

10 hours in any 24-hour period


77 hours in any seven-day period

Typical Day for a Deckhand

Workload demands vary according to whether you’re looking after guests or preparing for them to arrive. Typically, a busy period might look like between 12 and 18 hours a day, and if guests are on-board that means 7 days a week.  

But it very much varies from yacht to yacht.

We spoke to Katie, who worked as deck stew on a small 28m private yacht – not on charter – with the boss onboard, mainly doing day trips so her experience is specifically relevant for her time onboard and will be very different from those on a larger yacht with larger crew and on charter, with busy changeovers.

Photo & Interview Creds: Katie Sewell

A typical day would start around 7am:

“I would set the table for breakfast, help the Stewardess and Captain prepare and serve, then whilst the guests were eating, help out on deck. Could be preparing the water and electricity to be put onboard ready for the day’s outing. 

Once the guests finish breakfast, I would help clear the table, load the dishwasher, then either get the tender in and prepare it ready to follow the yacht to our chosen spot for the day or help the first mate prepare the boat for leaving EG: engine checks, removing spring lines and unnecessary fenders, taking in the passerelle and checking we were clear of other boats.

Once we were out of the bay, I would take up the fenders and put them and the lines neatly away.

On arrival at our spot for the day, I would assist the first mate with the anchor procedures and put the anchor ball up. If I was in the tender, I’d wait until the yacht was secure then come alongside and secure the tender.

Then it’s my job to prepare the swim platform ready for guests, carrying sea bobs, putting mats down, connecting the shower and putting the basket with snorkelling equipment out.

I was then on standby to help with things like setting the table for lunch, helping the stewardess with turning down the cabins, going ashore to collect lunch (in the tender or via jet ski!)

If the boss and his family were relaxing and didn’t have guests on board, sometimes I was allowed to swim with their children and even take them to the beach and look after them.

When it’s time to leave I would do the same, but in reverse.

Back in port, I’d secure the yacht, including power and water and then start a small wash down, careful to make sure I was well away from the guests.

If the guests went ashore for dinner, I would help the first mate cleaning the boat, on standby to lock up the boat and take up the passerelle, when the guests were back onboard.

Packing up, turning lights off, helping with the buggy for the baby and putting electric scooters away before going to bed, finishing any time between 9pm and midnight.”

Katie’s top tips before accepting a deckhand job:

  • Ask as many questions as you can, so you can work out whether it’s the right yacht for you?
  • Make sure it is a legit job and you are speaking to the boat directly or a crew agent?
  • Make sure all of your certificates are not about to expire and get travel documents sorted as early as possible.

Working in the yachting industry is hugely rewarding and exciting, but does require a strong work ethic, stamina and a “can do” attitude.

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