Essential tips for launching Your Sailing Career: certifications, networking, and more

Lea is one of our returning returning students, and we are always happy to have her back! She took RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Theory, Yachtmaster Prep Week, RYA Powerboat Level 2 and finally, RYA Yachtmaster Ocean courses, and now is a skipper on a private sailboat!

This is for everyone who would like to work in the sailing industry.

I’m Lea, 23 years old, and my dream didn’t start with thoughts of money. I wanted to travel to the Caribbean and South America by boat—that was the goal. COVID reorganized my plans without asking, but in the best possible way. After having to stay in Europe, I learned a lot about sailing and working in the industry by crewing on different boats. I traded help on board for cheap accommodation. When I finally managed to cross to the Caribbean a year later than planned, my savings were depleted. That’s when I started thinking about working with what I’d learned. I met everyone from Second Star Sailing and really enjoyed getting my license with them.

Here is my first piece of advice for everyone looking for work: Get your certificates right. A medical certificate (ENG 1 or similar) and the STCW basic safety training should be minimum requirements for any serious job. After that, the right license will open doors. The RYA Yachtmaster Offshore and Ocean are some of the most recognized certifications around the world. Some countries for example, French territories have different rules, however.

Having a license does not mean you have to be the captain. Taking jobs as knowledgeable crew is a great way to gain confidence and make contacts. But for any position, applications can take some time.

For me, dock walking did the trick, and I started my first jobs with charter companies in the Caribbean, which is a great area for young skippers since the conditions are nice and stable. Later, I did some deliveries and, by lucky coincidence, found a position on a private yacht. Crewing websites and social media are useful tools, but nothing beats meeting people in real life.

Finally, I’d like to give some advice for girls: Don’t be shy! Show how competent you are, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if needed. Most sailors are pretty friendly 😉. I also discovered that the embarrassment was on my employer’s side when I explained why girls need access to a toilet at night. And finally, don’t be shy to decline a job if it doesn’t sit with you quite right.

Best wishes to everyone and see you out there!