5 important rules to professionally jump ship!

Yacht crew are adventurous, brave people per definition. Otherwise they would never think of packing their bags to go and work in a foreign country on a ship that sails the high seas, manned by people they don’t know and have various nationalities. Therefore security, certainty, predictability don’t have the highest ranking on their list of needs.

At the same time, most crew contracts -even long term- aren’t very different from a freelance contract. Rarely are pension schemes or unemployment benefits offered, and when they are -as I have witnessed- they are rarely of interest for yacht crew. So apart from their month to month pay, there is very little tying them down or stopping them from leaving. With very basic to non-existing severance packages, there is also very little to stop employers and owners from letting crew go.

The only leverage that seems to be used in both directions is reputation. Some yachts / owners have managed to build a bad reputation. Many crew have done the same for themselves unfortunately. And as I will repeat further in this article: There are some crew out there who are truly excellent on the job, but really blunder when it comes to making a graceful exit to a new job!

No matter how you have been set aside and laid off in the past, you should always set the example first.


Here are 5 tips to end (and start) a contract in professional style. 


  1. Contract: Rule number 1! Read your contract and respect the stipulated notice period. If you have any outstanding holidays, understand that some employers may prefer to keep you on the job for the entire notice period in addition to paying out your holiday pro rata. 

Have an open conversation about this with your employer in order to minimise impracticalities and to leave in good standing.


  1. Your Options: If you are tempted to leave because of a more attractive job offer you should consider a few issues before running away from ‘the devil you know’ to new owners and a new yacht with new quirks. What makes the offer more attractive? 

– Is it the pay? If so, would it be possible to renegotiate your current pay based on the new offer? At Invisible Crew we act as mediators between the crew and owners. We discuss with the crew member whether -and why- their request for a salary increase is justified before taking it to the client with well-founded argumentation.

– Is it the holiday package? Perhaps your current program allows for more time off. As managers we seek solutions to offer crew time off at the periods when their presence is least required. In the past we have organised quality shore based maintenance teams to allow a captain / engineer to spend more time with his family. Stew / decks who provide excellent service during guest trips can be replaced by a freelance delivery crew member during longer passages.

– Is it the size of the yacht? Bigger boats, bigger problems! More crew, more personalities to deal with! Unless you are unhappy with the yacht you are on and feel your personal development, career growth and lifestyle improvement is non-existent, you should think twice before taking on more work on a larger vessel. Have you actually talked with your employer about bigger yachts. unbeknownst to you, the owner may be eye-balling the brokerage market already or perhaps you might have an exiting new-build project ahead of you!

– Is it the itinerary? Plans are made to be changed, especially in these days where travel has become increasingly complicated. A cruising plan is never set in stone. It is never a solid deciding factor.


  1. Long term commitment: Send the right signal to your new employer and explain why you may not be available with immediate effect. 

Not always, but most of the time, jobs that require you to start as soon as possible are fishy… You should clearly understand why you are so urgently required. What made the last crew member run away? It could well be that the last crew member was one of those who would never consider any of the pointers in this article. There are plenty of crew out there who perform well on the job but turn out to be incredibly selfish, inconsiderate and unprofessional when it comes to terminating the contract. (sorry ou sense some frustration here! ) However, you need to know and deserve to know what the deal is. You display professionalism and loyalty from the get-go when you explain to a new employer that you can’t leave your current employer in the lurch. If this is a problem for your new boss, an interim solution should be created. If that is a deal breaker,… well… then you are the interim solution! Even if you are signing a long term contract, that recruiter wants to hire you to solve a short-term solution first and foremost. If we can get a high quality crew member for the long term, perhaps on the basis that we have to wait 3 or 4 weeks before they can start, then that is 3-4 weeks well invested.


  1. Handover: Do what you can to prepare a quality handover to the next crew member taking your place.

Your employer has always paid and treated you correctly and in turn you have always done your job to the best of your ability. There is no reason to stop that now. It is part of your job to provide a thorough handover. Should the new crew member not be on board before the end of your notice period then, at least propose, to travel back to the yacht at a later date. Nobody will expect you to do this for free. Again, your new employer should be impressed when you ask them, as early as possible, for the time to accommodate a handover on your previous yacht.


  1. Heads up: You know your employer and perhaps you can imagine how they are going to react. Nobody likes this kind of surprises.

Some of our clients react very emotianally to resignations because the entire yachting experience is an emotional experience for them with -hopefully- happiness being the dominating emotion. If that emotion is challenged, people can take it badly. Other clients are pracgmatic about it. In any case, it’s all about expectations. Most of our clients find a 2 year employment term acceptable. Anything shorter that comes without warning is always disappointing. There are many situations where crew know they are about to move on well before they are due to hand in their notice. Even with the most emotional owners you have the possibility to make them aware of your ‘potential’ intentions. But be aware; the reaction of many onwers will be that they become more critical of your work because they assume you are losing interest as you are on your way out. You might have to compensate for that and take your service to an even higher level then you did before.

As managers we encourage the crew to inform us of their intentions long before their official resignation so we can prepare as early as possible for a seamless crew change. This is all in our client’s benefit and for the sake of professionalism!