Do the Dock Walk!
Seeking your first yacht job?
Visited all the agencies already?
Camp out at the local yachtie bar and wait for the phone to ring? Uhh no! You need to be more proactive than that. Chances are maybe 50/50 that your first job could come from dock walking or an agent.
What is dock walking, you ask?
Dock walking is exactly what it sounds like. Put on your comfortable walking shoes, wear your best smile, pack a stack of your most perfect CV, and get ready to explore the beautiful coastline on foot! Plan on walking each dock of every port, mustering your courage over and over again as you respectfully approach every shiny (and maybe not so shiny) vessel to inquire for the possibility of employment. Employment could come in the form of a permanent, seasonal, short term work or day work.
While this task may seem incredibly intimidating, bear in mind that most of the crew you will be speaking to in your day’s journey started their yacht career in exactly the same way.
Here are a few pointers to get you started.
Time of day
Typically, the best time to walk the docks is a short window between 7.30 and 8 AM. It’s the best time of day to catch the attention who are seeking working for that day. You could also try at the end of the working day between 4 and 5 PM as they may be looking for day workers for the following morning.
Where to dock walk
Do not limit yourself to walking the same port every morning. Places like Antibes get exhausted with crew and may have the same boats berthed for some time. In order to gain an advantage and reach as many vessels as possible, travel far and wide. Familiarize yourself with all the ports in the Mediterranean from Imperia, Italy to La Ciotat, France. And don’t skip the little ports! Small vessels often hire dock walkers as permanent or seasonal crew as they don’t always have the budget to hire through an agency.
Be smartly but simply dressed and presentable but do make sure to carry spare shorts and a t-shirt so that you are work-ready just in case you are asked to work that same day. Not all boats provide day workers with a uniform.
What to take
Besides a happy and positive attitude? Carry plenty of business cards and CVs ready to hand out. Also take a note pad and pen so you can keep a list of boats you have visited. Maybe a vessel will ask you to meet them at another port in one day’s time for a week of day work – you’ll want to make note of it so you don’t forget!
Yachts not to approach
Be mindful as to which vessels you are approaching. If they look like they are in guest mode, they most definitely will not appreciate your interruption. If you see flowers on the deck, furniture uncovered, guests drinking mimosas while the crew are in more formal work attire - steer clear! Leave that boat alone and approach it on another day.
Dock walking in the USA
Unless you are a US citizen or Greencard holder, it is illegal to go dock walking while in the US. You’re only options of finding work are through the crew agencies or word of mouth via networking.
Please do not travel to the US on the visa waiver programme looking for work; this is a holiday visa only and you cannot step onto a yacht with this documentation. You have to fly out of the country apply for the B1 visa and fly back in to join a vessel, and quite frankly, few to none will hire you without it if you are already on US ground.
It’s going to happen! But it’s nothing to take personally. A lot of it comes down to simply being at the right place at the right time. Just because someone says no, is not a reflection of you as a person but only that your services were not needed at that time. Don’t get discouraged; perseverance and positivity go a long way in your job hunt. If you were friendly, professional and polite, you could very well be remembered and get a call for an opportunity on another day!