Deckhand positions are one of the highly sought employment opportunities in the yachting industry, even in South Africa. The rich, the luxury, and the hefty salary, combined with opportunities of seeing the world and enjoying the sea attract many. But only a few of them are aware of the actual challenges a deckhand faces. So, what are these challenges a deckhand may face? Let’s find out with this article.

Getting Qualifications for a Deckhand Position in South Africa

Before we dive into the actual challenges, let’s have a quick look at the qualifications a deckhand needs.

An aspiring deckhand must fulfil these two conditions to meet the minimum requirements to be a deckhand.

  • An STCW (Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping) certification.
  • An RYA Powerboat Level 2 License.

The STCW certification is well-known to anyone working in the marine industry. It is the standard certificate and all sea-going workers must have it. In South Africa, you can easily get an STCW certificate via any reputed and SAMSA-accredited marine institution, such as Sail and Power SA.

The second one is RYA’s Powerboat Level 2 (not Level 1). Deckhands are sometimes required to operate superyacht toys and tenders to entertain or transport guests and other commodities. You can get the RYA License easily in South Africa as well.

Once you have these two qualifications in South Africa, you are basically allowed to apply for a deckhand job. However, as the competition is high, it is better to have an edge. Your previous experience on other boats, or even your experience in the hospitality industry would prove valuable. And remember, as a deckhand, you have to appear professional and presentable, and know certain formalities and etiquette.

Challenges a Deckhand may face on their Job

Harsh Weather Conditions

During the season, it is not uncommon for your yacht to travel to other destinations. During these times, deckhands often have to work in open deck areas. You will have to work regardless of weather conditions, even in the harshest conditions if required. These harsh conditions may include high tides, strong winds, heavy rains or storms, or extreme temperatures. Such conditions will test your patience, physical strength and endurance, and most importantly, your mental fortitude.

Long Working Hours

We have covered this in our previous article. But yes, long working hours are one of the common challenges a deckhand has to face, that unfortunately has no remedy. Deckhand work is heavily demanding, especially if there are critical tasks. There are numerous records of deckhands working 16 hours non-stop as well on their busiest days.

Physically Demanding Tasks

A deckhand’s primary job description includes maintenance and basic repair work as well. Deckhands are often required to perform physically demanding tasks such as lifting heavy equipment, handling lines, mooring ropes, or manual labour associated with maintenance and repairs.

Sea Sickness

This is rarely the case but there are a few deckhands who may discover sea sickness while they are working on a yacht. While it is not that big of a deal, relatively, it is indeed an embarrassing one and may hinder you from your duties. Regardless, you may alleviate or remedy this problem with medications.

Mental Health Issues

The Deckhand job is sincerely demanding. And as you can guess, you would be away from your family and friends for a long time. Though it may feel adventurous and exciting in the beginning, you may feel homesickness and isolation as time passes. Apart from that, the mental stress from this frequently demanding may add up more to this negativity and fatigue. Understanding the work conditions before you take the job and methods of coping will help you push through this.

Language Barriers

A deckhand working on a multi-million dollar superyacht means they will obviously encounter people from other countries as well. Usually, these are wealthy people and they expect certain etiquette or formalities. This is especially tricky as there will be cultural differences or language barriers. Having an improvisational personality certainly comes in handy, as you will be able to deal with the situation in a flexible manner. This is a learned skill and the earlier you learn it, the better.

Cultural Difference

Apart from the cultural differences mentioned above, you may experience it amongst your fellow crewmates as well. This may present a challenge related to communications, teamwork, or understanding varying work practices. Being accommodating and open towards different cultures is how one should deal with this issue.

Limited Personal Space

As a deckhand, you are constantly required to be on your feet and be ready in case there are demands. You are going on a superyacht to work after all. This may cause fatigue and a lack of efficiency on your part in the long term. In this scenario, communication and expressing your problems is the ideal way of dealing with these issues.

Final Thoughts

A deckhand’s job is extremely challenging, yet there are people who would consider this very rewarding or fulfilling. If you wish to avoid facing such issues, we have nothing but one mantra: Do not consider taking a deckhand job just for money. You have to have a certain burning passion to actually storm through these challenges. Deckhands… they are just made different!

Think you have what it takes to be a deckhand in South Africa? Then Sail and Power SA can help you with obtaining the necessary qualifications. Contact us today for more information!