The four stages of being a yachtie in the Med

It was one of those conversations that had me in fits of laughter as Liverpudlian Ian — a self-professed, early STAGE THREE — gave me his frank ranking of yachties from one to four.

Basically, it’s an easy-to-navigate system that breaks down our yachtie lifetime into four stages from green dock walker (STAGE ONE) to veteran crew member (STAGE FOUR). It took Ian and his side-kicks Jamie and Beth a full winter and many beers to jot it all down.

Finally, when I heard it, I set to task and stress-tested their theory on a few mates in the yachting game. I was only met with the same joy and agreement I’d had when I first heard it. From captains and chefs to newbies and drunken dropouts — we all agreed.

And together we embellished Ian’s original theory to come up with the “Four Stages of Being a Yachtie.”

Feel free to add.

STAGE ONE: THE UNEMPLOYED DOCK WALKER

You know sweet eff all about yachts or the industry but you’re ready to give it horns
Your CV says things like “team player” and “willing to learn” and “non-smoker”
And you’ll do desperate stuff like attach a list of mock interview questions and answers to yourself (true story) or have your mom hand in a letter of motivation on why you  work on a super yacht (witnessed last week in Monaco) or write-up a list of your “personal inventory” of EPIRBS and SARTS etc. on your CV (Australian dock-walker you know who you are)
You print your own business cards
You dock walk with the guy/girl you’re hooking up with
You think your waitressing experience at Hooters counts as “hospitality experience”
Your CV photo is cringe and generally staged with the Antibes Fort in the background
Your French is appalling but you try speak it anyway
You drink rosé for the first time in your life
And you live off a staple diet of baguettes and Croque Monsieur from the train station
You go six months or more without driving a car (or being in one)
You have one massive night at the Blue Lady and can’t afford to eat for a week
So you don’t go back to the Blue Lady until you reach STAGE TWO…
… Or until you get your first bout of this elusive thing they call “day work”
It’s very likely you’re South African (we tend to stay at STAGE ONE the longest)
You start off at the Crew House and you end up at the Biot Caravan Park
You start every email with “Dear So-And-So”
You meet your first captain when you’re out on the piss and you see “potential job” written in the stars…
…So you inevitably ask him too many questions about boats, he gets annoyed and tells you to “eff off”
But you can’t be blamed because you only ever speak about boats, dock walking and prospective jobs with your new yachtie pals and you think it’s cool to talk about boats, dock walking and prospective jobs with anyone and everyone else
You go skinny dipping at least once at the Antibes “toilet bowl” (twice if you suffer real bad doses of STAGE ONE)
You think it’s so brave of you to have “left a normal life” so you tell all of your friends back home how brave you are
And hallelujah! You get a job and enter STAGE TWO (or don’t get a job and go home with your tail in between your legs)

Stewardess required
STAGE ONE: Dock walking

STAGE TWO: THE JUNIOR

First job under your belt and you think you know everything
You take every dock walker’s CV and spend a good part of your day giving them seasoned advice on how to get work and what worked for you in “your first season”
You buy a Mac
You rent an apartment in “Old Town” Antibes and invite your friends for dinner
You post photographs of palm trees and sunsets with strap lines like “My desk job” or “Another shit day at the office” (when meanwhile you’re stuck ironing in the laundry room and haven’t seen daylight for days)
You meet people and ask, “how big is your boat?” or “what size are you on?”
And then you ask the boat name as if you know every boat in the Med and respond with, “Ah, ya, I don’t know it”
And you say things like, “we pick up next week” and “we drop off on Monday”
You learn what “PYA” and “MCA” actually stand for
You have a picture taken with a Magnum of Rosé at Moorea
You swear you will never, ever, ever take a desk job again
You comment in Dock Walk forums
You’ve experienced your first ten week charter meltdown…
…Because you still take rude guests personally
You get the stewie bum from sneaking away too much candy and sugary coffee while cleaning the crew mess and clearing away dessert…
…But that’s okay because you probably landed a broken heart after bonking a crew mate who was just not that into you
You blow your first €1,000 tip on something totally unnecessary…
… And your second €1,000 tip…
…And your third €1,000 tip
Finally, you take what’s left and go travelling with it
And when you get back from travelling, you enter STAGE THREE or take a bow and make a graceful exit from the industry

STAGE TWO
STAGE TWO: The work hard, play hard phase

STAGE THREE: THE CHIEF SOMETHING-OR-OTHER

You realise you actually know nothing about yachting (or not nearly as much as you should)
So you spend all your money on courses and up-skilling over the winter
STAGE ONErs and STAGE TWOers irritate you because they’re “just not taking the industry seriously”
You’re too embarrassed to dock walk
In fact, dock walkers just annoy you…
… So you ignore them when they walk passed (but still look through their CVs when you’re looking for new crew)
You catch a cab (not a bus) from the airport or from a night out
You’ve missed nearly every wedding, funeral and birthday party back home
Your friends back home are all a) engaged b) up-the-duff or c) married and you’re d) none-of-the-above
But you’re ready for a serious relationship (or you’re currently in one)…
… And chances are, your partner’s not from the same country as you
You realise you’ve saved no money in all this time yachting so you draw up a financial plan and start sitting on your pennies
You start developing opinions on different nationalities
You can actually make an informed choice from a wine list
You never ask “how big is your boat?”
…because you really don’t care
Your hangover ratio drops from one a day to one a week
You realise Antibes is as seedy as it is charming
You can’t speak French and you’ve given up trying to learn it…
… So you learn another language like Italian or Spanish
You ask as many questions in an interview as they ask you
You start a life bucket list of things you want to do in your lifetime
You own your first real toy abroad (golf clubs, bicycle, a kite surf or a car)
You go through phases of being unhealthily healthy (yoga classes, wheatgrass shakes, jogging to the lighthouse and eating plans)
And you add to that some cultural activities like theatre, picnics on the rocks, stand-up paddling in Golfe Juan and weekends away to the gorge
…And then you fall off the rails and slip back into STAGE TWO for some time

STAGE THREE: The fitness phase
STAGE THREE: The health and fitness phase

STAGE FOUR: THE CAPTAIN

The “golden hand-cuffs” have you locked into the industry for life
You live in a place far out of town (well, as far away from the Hop Store as you can get)
In fact, you probably own the place far out of town…
…and it probably has only land (and no sea) views
You no longer know anyone at the Blue Lady
No one sees you. Ever.
You’re on rotation
You realise you need to speak French to live in France so you learn it
For the first time in your career, you have money…
…and living expenses…
…because now you have a wife and kids…
…for others: an ex-wide and kids
Your wife (or ex-wife) works for a crew agency or land-based yacht support company
You own the same things that your boss owns: expensive cars, big name brand watches and toys
You go on expensive holidays
And you ‘”fly the family out” to meet you
You don’t say “I’m a captain”. You say “I run a boat”.

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