To some, sailing is a dream career. For those who love the open ocean and all of the challenges and rewards that it offers, nothing could be better than being paid to be a valuable crew member aboard a beautiful yacht.
There are diverse sailing career opportunities available on leisure, commercial and superyachts, with over 4,400 companies offering paid roles in the UK. The industry is growing, and the demand for decent crew members is on the rise. There has never been a better time to start a sailing career.
What Sailing Career Options Are Available?
The Marine industry is vast, with jobs varying from deck hands to engineering, and everything in between. Some paths are more specialized than others, but general sailing careers can be broken down into:
- Crewing – Crew members are the heart of any sailing expedition. Crewing experience (unpaid) can be gained on sailing holidays, but for paid work a good way in is to look for part-time crewing opportunities for boat owners. Your local yachting club might advertise these opportunities. Professional crew work is available on yachts of all sizes and purposes. A charterer pays the captain and crew to make the journey, and you will be expected to provide a high level of service throughout. Roles include cooks, engineers and deck hands. You will be paid, and have the chance to travel to many different countries, but be aware that the work can be intensive! Some roles may not require experience on the water. For example, chefs can qualify based on their cooking experience. However, qualification and experience on the water always helps.
- Skippering – To be the captain of a ship is perhaps the height of sailing careers. The captain is responsible for keeping the crew and passengers happy, and ultimately for making short or long passages across open waters. This is an elite position which demands a high level of training and qualification, and also pays high salaries. Skippers usually need the RYA Yachtmaster qualification in order to prove themselves worthy.
- Instructor – Teaching is a completely different sailing career path. In this case, you will instruct others on how to sail, perhaps at recreational centres, schools, or at professional training centres. To be a successful instructor, you will need to have the skills to be able to confidently teach other people, and the more professional or formal the instructing, the more sailing qualifications you will need.
- Related Jobs – There are lots of jobs relating to the marine industry that do not actually involve sailing. These jobs include naval architecture, which involved designing the machinery, boat brokers, who are the cars salespersons of the boat world, marina managers, and more. You could also consider other types of boat, such as working as crew on cruise ship liners.
How To Start A Sailing Career
There are many routes into your sailing career. Marine apprenticeships are widely available which will train you directly for sailing roles. These can last for anything from 1-5 years, and you may also be paid for your training, as you will spend some of the time working on a boat. There are also related college courses and university degrees available, such as in marine engineering, as well as training and mentorship programs.
However, it is totally feasible to start your sailing career with no formal education. The RYA courses are considered the gold standard in the UK. The RYA are the UK’s national governing body providing safety guidance and training in the yachting industry. They are widely recognized by national authorities and commercial enterprises.
There are many RYA courses available, and the number and level of course that you will need to take depends on the role that you want to play, and ultimately how far you want to advance your sailing career.
The RYA Competent Crew Practical Course is a five-day intensive training program which will show you how to become an active member of the crew, showing you how to steer the yacht, set the sails, operate winches, prepare the boat to enter and leave the harbour, and understand all of the ropework and knots. Completion of this course will give you the qualification and certification that you need to start your career.
The RYA Day Skipper Practical Course is also a five-day training event, but in this case you will learn how to become the skipper of a boat, handling and manoeuvring the yacht, navigating and piloting, route planning, and man overboard procedures. Further courses include the Yachtmaster Ocean Course.
Courses Dojo list a number of sailing courses for those who are looking to start their sailing career. These courses are a direct step into the world of professional sailing.