What is winter season in yachting?
The Med season runs from April to October. The Winter season refers to the period between October/November and March/April. Yachts are either single season, which means they spend winter in the pretty ports of Europe, or dual season, which means they head off further afield for the Winter season.
One of the questions I am asked most often at this time of year is “When is the best time to start looking for a dual season yacht to join?”. The short answer is September/October. If you would like to know why this is, when the Winter season actually starts, and whether a B1 is really essential, as well as my top advice for green crew looking to break into the industry as this time of year, please read on!
When does the winter season start?
As a rule of thumb, most yachts end their Med season between early and late October. Some dual season yachts may cross the ocean earlier, for example in late September to attend the Fort Lauderdale Boats Show (or FLIBS) in October. Most dual season yachts crossing to other places tend to go in late October or November. Many of these may be heading for the Antigua Yacht Show in early December, or to other locations I will mention shortly.
Don’t panic — there is no need to leave a position a month before the Med season ends, as you won’t be missing out. In fact, you could potentially damage what was a great summer season and reference by walking away weeks before the end.
Do I need a B1 visa to find a job for the winter yachting season?
Whether or not you need a B1 (a visa for non-US workers allowing them to be in US waters) depends on your destination. Only those dual season yachts heading to US waters will require a B1 visa for the Winter season. There are also many dual season yachts that head straight to the Caribbean Islands, such as Antigua, which don’t require the visa.
No B1 is required for travel to the UAE, where yachts can be based out of Dubai and the other emirates. There are also many that cross to the Indian Ocean, for example the Maldives and Seychelles, or even further afield like Thailand and even Antarctica!
Not having a B1 is definitely not a dealbreaker for the Winter season.
When should I start to look for a job?
Recruitment for the two yachting seasons is very different. At the start of the Med season, many single season yachts are coming out of either shipyard or 'skeleton crew' periods and so there is more time to focus on recruitment before the season starts.
At the start of the Winter season however, the yacht itself will be busy up until late September/early October time. At this point, the crew onboard will start to give their notice and the Chief Stew will become aware of who is leaving and what positions they need to fill.
Beforehand they will have no idea who is planning to leave. Even if a Stew did hand in their notice in July for the end of the season, a Chief Stew would simply not have the time to look at replacements as they will be too busy with guests. It is also difficult to recruit in the middle of the Med season because the yachts are all out and have guests on.
The best time for crew to start looking for jobs is when positions become available. The best time for a yacht to start looking for crew is when candidates become available. For both, this is therefore late September to early October.
Tips for junior crew
It is possible for green candidates to be offered positions on single or dual season yachts at this time. However, with a surplus of experienced crew who have just finished their first season, it can be more difficult for junior crew to get a position for the winter season on a yacht that is travelling.
Single season yachts go down to skeleton crew and tend to retain the senior staff, so there aren’t as many positions opening as there would be for the start of the Med season. Dual season yachts will always prefer to take candidates who have some yachting experience, as it reduces the amount of training they have to do onboard. It is less of a gamble in other ways too, for example potential sea sickness during the longer crossing, or new staff deciding the industry isn’t for them.
It may be more productive for greener crew to look for positions on yachts that are staying in Europe. This gets you a solid winter season and a good reference, and you can do some networking. It is just one season and it is not forever — it is a great starting point for next year!
Europe is beautiful during the winter with many ports offering proximity to great day trips, such as skiing. You can explore Europe in your down time both by train and plane at this time of year as there are plenty of cheap flights, and of course you can visit the beautiful Christmas markets!
Friendly crew communities develop and socialise around the ports too. Another great option if you aren’t successful this season is to gain a land-based position in a relevant industry, such as in housekeeping or service. You could also take some interest courses such as floristry or cocktails. You will then return for the Med season with even more experience and money in your pocket to see you through until you land your first job.