Walking the dock: getting a job on a superyacht
What is walking on the pier?
Dock walking is the process of walking along a dock, getting on a yacht, speaking with the crew on board with the goal of trying to secure any of the following; day job, permanent or leave them with one of your CV’s.
For me, this turned out to be one of the most stressful processes in finding a job on a superyacht …
Monday morning at 06:30, I wake up early in anticipation of the morning ahead. I live in a crew house with many other ‘aspiring’ super yacht crews, all eagerly trying to secure a job on a super yacht, all competing for the same job on a limited number of yachts. I wake up early, I want to be the first in the shower (before people start queuing for the shower) and shave for my first day walking the docks of Antibes. Presentation is important in this industry and my clothes are ironed and put on the night before. I shower, shave and eat breakfast, I have a poor appetite and my nerves fill my stomach with a certain restlessness. I pack my bag with essentials, sunscreen and water, before leaving the crew house armed with a selection of CVs and references recently printed in a neat plastic folder. I want to be the first out of the crew house and onto the dock in case I can catch any crew early on deck.
It is a beautifully cool morning, the salty smell of the sea lingers in the calm air that surrounds the small cobbled streets of Antibes. The sun is about to rise, the sky is clear with white airplane trails marking the blue backdrop, there is a coolness in the air that indicates that fall is approaching. Leaving the cobbled streets behind, I am greeted by a wide selection of moored yachts, all dominated by a beautiful golden fort overlooking the port of Antibes, the rising sun accentuating the fort’s golden color. As I walk along the side of the dock, a trash-seeking sea trickles into a hedge, dragging some leftover pizza from a torn garbage bag. The water is calm and the town is empty, it is 07:30 and the port is calm.
On my way to International Pier, the main pier that is home to some of the largest superyachts in the world, passing more modest yachts, which by home standards are still impressive size yachts. My anxiety increases as I approach the entrance to the main dock, my heart races, and my fears of rejection grow closer and closer. I pass the security barrier through an open gate looking like a schoolboy about to embark on his first day of school, with my backpack on, clean and ironed clothes, and carrying my resume folder; I certainly look like a newbie. As I enter the International Pier, I am greeted by a large yacht with the large letters spelling ‘DILBAR’ written on the side in gleaming silver, the reflection of the water ripples shining off the hull of the yacht and the front of the yacht stretching out towards it. inside. distance; my heart races even more and I almost try to convince myself that it is not a good day to walk on the pier and I will try tomorrow as it will be easier then … I know I must continue.
Sitting on the dock it’s 0735, no one is near the security guard bar and he seems totally disinterested in my intentions here this morning. I sit next to a flowerbed that overlooks the vast expanse of yachts in front of me, all moored aft (the back of the yacht facing the dock), I struggle to understand the change in worlds that I am experiencing in just two days. . Two days ago I was working in an office watching the rain fall outside on a busy road … now I am sitting, unemployed, admiring these amazing yachts, with the blue sea and the sky all around against the backdrop of that old golden fort .
Little by little more dock walkers appear, some look like very experienced dock walkers, walking with some confidence and heir of knowledge, some with whom I speak politely and briefly, some people focus exclusively on the yachts and pass without even an acknowledgment .
It’s 07:45 and I decide to walk to the opposite end of the pier and begin my walk along the pier from the other end forward, hoping to catch the teams before the other walkers on the pier bother them. The bigger yachts are at the beginning, I anticipate that they will attract most of the attention from the docks, so I opt first for the smaller yachts (still over 60 meters in length!). As I walk to the end of the dock, the yachts begin to come to life, the deck crew appearing through the side doors of the yacht, walking up the sides of the yacht towards the stern (back). I watch the crews leave, a moment I have been anticipating for a long time, and my anxiety rises to another level. My heart is now beating at a level where I can feel the pounding and pulse of the blood around my body, a feeling I haven’t had since I got up to deliver the best man speech the month before. My mouth dries and I feel the sweat accumulating under my armpits, I approach the first yacht, the crew member looks at me, I think I have caught his attention, I smile, before he looks down and goes to the second deck to hoisting the flag on the back of the yacht, I’m sure he noticed me, but my polite English demeanor prevents me from disturbing him and I convince myself that they must be fully crewed and therefore I should look elsewhere. As I walked away, I realized that I had missed the first hurdle in my search for a job on a yacht.
With my disappointment increasing but my heart rate slowing down a bit, I continue down the dock, determined not to succumb to fear on the next yacht, I promise this will be the only yacht I don’t get close to, a new beginning …
The third yacht along, someone is also putting the flag on the back of the yacht, I get closer, again the heart rate increases, but with determination and determination I call the guy, “Are you looking for a crew?” The guy looks down, smiles and reports that they have all staff. Although it is a rejection I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, I have overcome my fear of asking for a job on one of these yachts and I feel a little more equipped to start my journey to find work on a superyacht.
That morning I managed to speak to the crew of five different yachts that morning. Walking back to the crew house I feel more confident than this morning’s hike and glad I managed to give some CVs. I have completed my first dock hike in the mornings, the start of many more dockside hikes is now ahead.
My pier walking skills improved with practice, it took about a week for me to feel confident doing this and for the feelings of anxiety to subside. The process improved over time, I became more adept at asking if they needed daily work or new crew, I also managed to leave more CVs and references with yachts, even if they weren’t looking for crew at the time. I always tried to have a polite conversation with the crews before I left, hoping to develop some form of polite communication, which I hoped would help me stand out from the crowd. I was surprised to find crews surprisingly helpful and welcoming to me as a dock walker. The reality is that most of the crews on board will have endured at some point the process of walking the dock and will understand that it is a necessary part of finding work on a yacht, empathizing with you, and helping you where they can.
My walk along the quay took me to many quays, Antibes, Cannes, Monaco, Nice, St Tropez, among a couple of others. However, the best I found were Antibes and Monaco. I spent many hours walking miles of docks, handing out many resumes, and speaking politely to many crew members. It got discouraging at times, as my hard work seemed to have no clues. I always tried to keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward, although it was difficult at times and I knew that time was moving fast, approaching the end of another season; the yachts would soon leave the Mediterranean for the Caribbean.
However, the hard work, perseverance, and patience finally paid off. I worked during the day on a couple of yachts that built my experience into my CV, which made me much more employable.
Without realizing it, my days of walking along the dock were coming to an end when I approached a yacht shortly after docking one afternoon. The normal routine of applying for work continued with courteous courtesies, I gave the crew member my CV, he asked me about my qualifications and he seemed disappointed that I did not have my yacht captain title, he continues to inform me that the captain only employs crew from deck to have this rating. I left disappointed because the yacht had an interesting itinerary and the crew seemed very friendly on board. The next morning, walking along the dock, I passed the same yacht that I had given my CV to the previous afternoon, the crew member called me and offered me a day’s work. This went from a day of work to a week of work, which led to a trial period, which led to a permanent job and all this from that fateful day of speaking and handing that one CV to that person.
It’s such an incredible feeling, getting a job on a super yacht, completely independent of the hours of walking around the dock. Working on that yacht while moving all my belongings on board, while going from dock walker to full-time crew member was a day that filled me with great pride. Coming from an office job about two months earlier and now getting on board to start a new life working on one of the best charter superyachts in the world was a delightful time in my life.
Looking back, walking the pier was the most stressful part of the job search process. But it got noticeably easier with time and practice, you just have to get over that fear of asking that first yacht.
As human beings, I feel that we need to feel more comfortable accepting fear and uncertainty, because it is often the things that make us feel uncomfortable, fearful, or nervous that can lead to some of the most exciting changes and opportunities in your life. ..
… you never know, that decision you make, that conversation or person you meet could change the course of your life or career and lead your life to a new and exciting adventure.