• Jenna Mac

My Start In Yachting

The first place I moved outside of Canada was Ireland. I couldn't wait to go somewhere new and exciting. I had grown up in Sault Ste. Marie, and had lived in Toronto and Calgary. I was completely ready for adventure having dreamed since childhood of living everywhere I could. At the time there was a program being offered in Canada that offered visa and employment support in various countries, and this felt like the comforting security blanket I needed to venture out on my own into foreign territory. I was admittedly scared to fly to a new country by myself, find a place to live and a place to work; so I wanted some kind of help when arriving.

I got my visa, sold my car, and I flew into Dublin. I met a few other girls upon arrival and everything happened very quickly. I arrived, met other travellers, and while we were out chugging pints of Bulmer’s cider and Guiness, someone told us that the best places to live would be Galway or Cork. The girls and I decided on Galway and we would travel there together by bus and find an apartment together. Everything was easy. We stayed in a hostel for a few days, I found two jobs within a day, I stayed on at a restaurant called The Spanish Arch. Everything was fun and exciting. I loved the Irish culture, though there was seriously A LOT of drinking involved. I think because it rains so much it becomes a comfort to sit in a pub with a bunch of like-minded people doing the same thing...drinking and talking about life.

I stayed working at The Spanish Arch for one year. I met some amazing people. After a few months the girls I had initially met and I had decided to get better places to live now that we knew the city. I ended up moving in with three Irish locals. Our house was about a 40 min bike ride from town, and it was beautiful. I had the whole top floor of a really nice traditional yet modern Irish house, fully furnished, for 350 Euros a month, which was obviously amazing. One of my house mates was a really cool chick that surfed with her boyfriend regularly. I looked up to her. I was in a great routine riding my bike to work every day, and I felt really good about myself. I had worked my way from being a server, to assistant manager. I loved my boss, a man named Francis who was reasonable, hard-working, and kind.

I worked with an Australian girl, one of the chefs. At some stage we had talked about travelling after our year visas were up. We had really wanted to go to Oktoberfest, so we flew to Munich from Dublin, saying goodbye to Ireland. We had a shit show of a time at Oktoberfest. We hadn't booked accommodation other than a tent at a campsite. It rained hard for three days, and one night we slept in the laundry room of a hostel. We met an Australian couple, and had a great time drinking beer and laughing. The four of us decided to rent a car and drive around Europe together. We left Germany and went to Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hugary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France, and in the end, made it to Spain. We went to Barcelona where Amanda, the Australian chef, had a friend she wanted to see. The first night out we met her friend. His nickname was "Doc". He was an Aussie engineer. We met him on the beach where we drank sangria. He told us he worked on a yacht, where he was paid extremely well, didn't need a visa, and got to travel the world. Holy fuck, this is the job for me. I was so excited at the thought of this because visas and different languages were the biggest barriers to working in foreign countries. Doc told us that we could walk around the marina, press the boat buzzer on the gangway, and hope that someone would give us a job.

I had no idea what I was doing when I started walking the dock. My resume didn't have my picture, and I knew nothing about the STCW course or ENG1 that were requirements of working on a yacht. On one particular day, I spoke to a woman who worked on a 100 footer with her husband. She pulled me onboard and tore apart my resume. She told me that even though I didn't have my STCW, I should list that I was planning to attend a course at a specific location and date. This helped immensely. Nowadays I'd recommend doing all the prerequisites beforehand because competition is fierce and if you have no experience, you better have the necessary training. Another recommendation I have is that if you have service experience from a restaurant or hotel, highlight this, especially if you have no yachting experience. I can't tell you how invaluable it is to have someone with previous service experience. It helps me see that the person hopefully has some experience with multi-tasking, drinks and wine service, and that they have a personality that can fit in with hospitality, which is unique and requires good banter skills. This is my prerequisite for hiring someone ;). If you can't banter, you're not gonna make it in my world.

After I fixed up my resume to look somewhat better, I went back to walking the docks. Finally, I got a bite. The chief steward of a beautiful 62m called me to ask me to come in for an interview later that day. I had nothing appropriate to wear so I ran to H&M and bought an outfit. I went into meet him on the yacht, bumbled thru my interview I'm sure, but got the job! I was ecstatic. He told me I could move onboard the following day and do the STCW in France which was a few hours drive. He let me know I could stay at his house while I did the course. This was all amazing to me because I had been staying at a hostel with my friend Amanda and the sheets felt like sandpaper and there were many cockroaches in the room. I felt like I had won the lottery, and in a way I did because that first job led me to so many opportunities I couldn't have imagined the doors it would open. However, this wasn't just by chance. I worked my ass off to get there and stay there.

The first yacht I worked on I stayed with for nearly two years. I LOVED the crew. We had so much fun and a lot of us are still friends now. I’ve met up with crew in Germany, Australia, Europe, the Bahamas. It was like a family and we all were just so happy to be there. I learned the value of hard work on that boat. When I joined we worked three months straight without a day off. I worked with an amazing Chief Steward who didn’t coddle me, but taught me exactly what I needed to know to keep progressing in the industry because that’s what I wanted. He was strict, like I am, and for me I liked that because yachting is hard work. There’s no way around that. There’s ZERO time for attitudes, complaining, questioning the hierarchy. You are there to learn and absorb what you can, and excel at your job and move up if that’s what you want. The people that don’t want to be there, are easy to spot and they don’t last. All of this being said, we laughed every day. We worked extremely hard and we also played hard. I loved every minute of it and was so thankful for my start.

Stay tuned for another post I'll write about my work ethic and career path.

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