Whether or not you need a crew for a yacht depends on several factors.
In this article, we will help you figure out exactly what you need.
Here’s When You Need a Yacht Crew:
With the appropriate boat licenses, you can typically operate a boat up to 75 feet without a crew. However, most yachts need crew for docking, launching, caring for guests, and watching for danger or other boats. Without a crew, an autopilot feature may be crucial to help with keeping you on course.
A crew can help because someone must always be on watch to look for nearby vessels or other dangerous situations, as well as docking
Here’s everything you need to know about when you will need a yacht crew:
What Exactly do you Need a Yacht Crew for?
Yacht crews do a lot of things to help maintain the boat and keep it running smoothly.
Some of these duties include:
- Launching and docking the boat
- Accounting or managing the operating expenses
- Cooking, bartending, or other types of services for guests
- Engineering and/or regular maintenance for onboard appliances and ship mechanics
- Piloting and driving the boat
- Cleaning the interior and general housekeeping duties
- Supervising guests and other crew members on board
Depending on your boat and your experience, you might not need all of those duties to be done. For example, superyachts might need a cook, while sportfishing yachts might not (even if they have a grill).
Some boaters prefer to do the piloting and engineering independently, while others want to lounge around and enjoy the weather.
Make sure you analyze your reasoning for having a boat before you hire people you might not need to employ.
Do you consider boating to be a social activity? Or do you prefer to boat alone, where you can enjoy the peace that can only be found on the water?
If you’re in the latter group, you may have pondered over one or more of these questions before:
- Can I pilot this boat on my own?
- Do I need a crew?
- Why do I need a crew?
What is the Biggest Boat I can get Without Having to Hire a Professional Crew?
It really does depend on your experience with a recreational boat and how comfortable you are on your boat.
For avid and experienced boaters, anywhere from a 30’ to a 74’ sportfishing boat is a decent size that they can handle independently.
There are many things to consider when figuring out what boat to buy, especially if you plan on operating the watercraft on your own.
Remember that you’ll probably need help (even if it’s just your family and/or friends) who can help you cast off the lines and tie up when you need to dock.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll need an autopilot if you plan on using a powerboat on your own. Here’s everything you need to know about which yachts have autopilots.
Yes, many people can handle these tasks on their own, but they also have the help of electronic charting and steering, pod drives, and bow thrusters, which can help hold the boat’s position while you casually tie off.
Which Licenses Do I Need to Operate a Yacht Without a Crew?
There are several different licenses you need to know about when we are talking yachts.
Especially if you are bringing guests (if they are paying for the trip).
Does Every Motor Yacht Need to Have a Crew?
When it comes to boating, there are many different types of people drawn to this recreational activity.
Some want to race, others fish, while others want to cruise around the harbor while catching some rays. In addition to that, some want to spend that time with friends and family, while some want to enjoy some peace while out on the water.
There is nothing wrong with being a “do-it-yourself” type of boater, whether you’re into sailing yachts or motor yachts. However, there are plenty of reasons why boating with a crew can come in handy.
Safety & Emergency Help:
Having a crew is safer.
It is always safer to go out on the water with other people. In emergencies, when something unexpected happens, or even if you need a hand with something, it is safer to have other passengers and crew members there for you to count on.
When you are out on the water with a limited crew or yourself, you have to be extra careful since there isn’t anyone there who can rescue you or help you get out of a tough situation.
Wearing a life jacket regularly all by yourself can get cumbersome, after all.
Because of that, short-handed boatmen often use the “Lifesling,” which is a horseshoe-shaped collar secured to a victim to help get them back on board.
Some offshore sailors tow a long line behind the vessel for a crewmember to grab if they fall overboard.
Guests & Cleanup Help:
If your yacht is commercial or hosts guests, operating it is like owning a small hotel.
Crews are a must when you have guests onboard, as you will not be able to pilot the yacht, dock, launch, clean, cook, serve, and entertain guests.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t have to!
Guest experiences are made better when you have all hands on deck to help keep things running smoothly and safely. Taking on that burden alone is not necessary.
Family Yacht or Single Captain:
Some families like to own their own yacht and don’t care about crews or getting help out on the water.
Families of four or five could potentially crew the yacht themselves!
Therefore, if your ship is for personal and private use and you don’t want to hire a crew, make sure you bring enough people with you to help you take care of the ship’s requirements.
If you are a single sailor, however, and you captain, dock, launch, and maintain the ship yourself, make sure that you have open radio communications if you ever need help and have to call the coast guard.
What Do I Need to Own and Sail a Yacht?
If you choose to set sail on your own, it is important to have the right disaster and spare equipment on board in case of emergency.
A common checklist of everything you need to do, from trailering to getting underway to cleaning the boat, can be handy in emergencies.
After all, it can be difficult to think of what to do when your adrenaline is through the roof.
Let’s go over some basic emergency equipment for your boat as well as some handy spare parts you should keep close at hand:
- PFD’s, horn, fire extinguisher, and other appropriate safety equipment
- Floatation devices and emergency raft
- VHF radio, a cell phone, or a satellite phone
- A pair of binoculars
- Maps and charts
- Two to four fenders
- Some extra dock and anchor lines
- An extra plug for your hull drain
- An extra set of keys
- A spare bearing set and tire for your trailer
- Some engine oil (just in case)
- A basic tool kit (look and make sure that the tools match the hardware on your boat)
- A couple of flashlights
- Duct tape (which will always come in handy)
- Brush for your boat
- A trailer coupler lock
- Your boat cover
- Some sunscreen and a hat (and other skin protection)
- Spare alternator belt
- Gear lube
- Spark plugs
- An extra set of bearing and hubs
- Extra prop and hardware
- Another water pump kit
- Spare flags for emergencies
What Training do Crewmembers need to Operate a Big Yacht?
If you decide to get a crew, each member of your crew must have different qualifications, based on their role on the boat.
For professional crew members, two of the bigger training certificates are:
- STCW Basic Safety Training – This should be required of your entire crew to work on a charter yacht or a commercial yacht. It is not required for private boats, but it is highly desirable and wouldn’t hurt to have on hand.
- ENG1 Seafarer Medical Certificate – This is a medical examination required to prove whether or not you are fit for working on the water. An MCA-approved doctor must issue this.
Each Crewmember Must Have the Following (by job description):
- Yacht deckhands (while they are entry-level positions) must have the STCW Basic Safety Training and ENG1. Also, it looks best when they also have the:
- MCA Efficient Deckhand training (EDH)
- Deck/Yacht training
- VHF radio training
- RYA Radar training and the RYA competent crew training
- MCA Proficiency in designated security duties (PDSD)
- RYA Powerboat (at least level 2) and the RYA Tender Operator
- General GRP and carpentry repairs
- Yacht Stewards and Stewardesses (the people who look after the interior of your yacht) are required to have the STCW Basic Safety Training qualification as well as the:
- An interior crew-training course or courses, such as the PYA GUEST Program
- STCW Proficiency (Medical First Aid) and the STCW Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats
- VHF Radio Short Range Certificate (GMDSS/DSC)
- RYA Powerboat (at least level 2)
- PWC Personal Watercraft Proficiency
- MCA Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD) and the MCA Human Element, Leadership and Management (HELM) at Operational Level
- Yacht Engineers manage the boat’s inner workings and make sure that everything is running and mechanically sound. They would need to have at least an MCA STCW III/1 Officer of the Watch Certification. It would also be great if they had the:
- Deck / Yacht Rating
- AEC Approved Engine Course
- MEOL Marine Engine Operator License
- Y4 Yacht 4
- Marine Diesel Training and Experience
- Auxiliary Equipment & Basic Ship Construction
- MCA Sea Survival for Yachtsman
- Advanced Fire Fighting
- STCW Proficiency in Medical First Aid
- Chief Engineer Statutory & Operational Requirement
- Applied Marine Engineering
Having a crew aboard your vessel will help you ensure that you have a fun, leisurely cruise or voyage.
An experienced crew can help ease your tensions and worries. A crew can help alleviate the chaos and energy that might come with frantically doing things on your own.
There are many yachts out on the water, which is operated “short-handed.”
This means that it is being operated on less than the usual number of crew members that would typically be used.
In the past, it was common practice that 70-foot boats had dedicated captains and crew members (at least one). These days, 80-foot boats are being crewed by husband-wife teams.
If you choose to go this route, make sure to:
- Choose the right yacht for you (the right size and type)
- Outfit the yacht for extra amenities, balanced with simplicity (don’t make things overcomplicated)
- Prep yourselves by talking through scenarios beforehand, planning, and taking your time.
- Consider anchoring via remote controller for the power windlass.
- Have the appropriate emergency gear on board.
Being a short-handed boater can seem intimidating, but it can be a wonderful adventure as well.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.