Marine leisure is a broad term covering the thriving global leisure boating/watersports industry. Careers range from engineers and naval architects who design powerboats and yachts to watersports instructors.  

What opportunities are there?

Jobs are available on private yachts and through yacht chartering businesses. There are temporary and permanent work opportunities for crew members, including those described below. 

  • Skippers (or captains) are responsible for the navigation of the yacht and for everyone’s safety. They need to be familiar with every system. Skippers keep records, set budgets and plan itineraries. 

  • Engineers deal with engine mechanics and maintenance; they also ensure that the plumbing, hydraulics, refrigeration and electrics work properly, troubleshooting when necessary. 

  • Deckhands, or ‘deckies’ perform many tasks and are responsible for maintaining the exterior of the yacht – washing, waxing, polishing, buffing, painting etc. 

  • Stewards/stewardesses are responsible for the interior of the yacht – they clean, do laundry, vacuum and help prepare and serve meals… all in a confined space! 

  • Chefs must plan extensively to ensure that new and exciting menus are available for, what can be, long periods at sea. They also buy the food and prepare dishes. 

Working on a private yacht appeals to those who want to see the world! Jobs can be found through specialist agencies and websites or by simply asking crew at marinas. There are marinas all over the world – from St Tropez to Florida! They provide facilities for boats and yachts, including berthing and dry storage. Larger marinas may offer fuel, lifting equipment and winter storage, and specialist companies, a chandler’s shop and restaurant may be on site. 

Yachting and watersports - There are jobs for suitably qualified instructors all over the world at schools specialising in sailing, diving, surfing and many other watersports. Some people are employed, often on a seasonal basis; others work as volunteers. As an instructor, you’d need to get on well with people of all ages and backgrounds. In the UK, all commercial providers of hazardous sports to under 18s have to be licensed by the Health & Safety Executive. 

Brokerage - Brokers manage the purchase and sale of boats, acting on behalf of the seller and buyer. They negotiate prices, assess value, check on legal ownership and may organise insurance and finance. Brokers require a wide knowledge of boats. They also need negotiation and marketing skills. Some have general sales experience or work their way up from junior jobs.

What skills and personal qualities do you need?

Apart from competence in your particular area of expertise, you also need: 

  • to be safety-conscious 

  • to be responsible, reliable and able to keep calm in an emergency 

  • excellent teamworking/ leadership and communication skills 

  • organisational skills 

  • fitness and stamina. Ability in a foreign language is useful. 

What about entry, training and qualifications?

For some crew jobs, you don’t need any specific qualifications. For others, such as to be a chef or engineer, you usually need training. Yacht engineers may need a commercial engineer licence to work on large vessels. To skipper a yacht, you need to be an experienced sailor and hold an appropriate qualification. Suitably qualified, experienced and competent yacht engineers can apply for professional registration through the IMarEST.  
Staff with a wide range of skills are needed to work in marinas. Skilled craftspeople can work in companies providing shoreside facilities. Marina managers must be confident in handling all types of boats, qualified in operating VHF radios, and need a sound understanding of local weather and tides. Marina managers tend to work their way up and qualifications are available for those already in the role. 

To teach yachting or watersports, you need an instructor qualification in your chosen area. To find work, you may also need first aid and life-saving qualifications.  

What about future prospects?

There’s expected to be further growth in the marine leisure industry, so prospects for those with the right skills and qualities are good. Currently, there is a shortage of qualified RYA instructors and people to work on boats and yachts. However, competition for some jobs can still be fierce, especially in the more glamorous locations! In most career areas, with experience, and possibly further qualifications, promotion to supervisory or management-level positions may be possible.