How to leave a yacht on good terms

At some point during their career, every crew member will leave a yacht job. Whether it’s to take up a post on a new vessel, assume a role on dry land, or for other personal reasons, everybody goes through the process at least once.

When the time comes, most people will want to do what they can to ensure a cordial departure. This is, without doubt, the ideal scenario: it prevents awkwardness ahead of your final days on board and all your professional and personal relationships will remain intact.

Superyacht at anchor

Sadly, because you’re breaking bad news to human beings, this might not be possible. We all react differently to unanticipated news, and when you factor in the pressure that captains are under, you have to accept that there are no guarantees.

However, there are a number of things you can do to minimise the likelihood of tension and improve your chances of an amiable exit.

How best to resign from your crew job

So, you’ve decided you want to move on. The next step is the most daunting: telling the captain.

There are ways and means of going about this conversation. Whilst, understandably, your main concern is yourself, it’s worth bearing in mind that your captain will have a number of things on their mind when you speak to them. As well as themselves, they have a responsibility to all crew members and must ensure the safe and efficient running of the superyacht operation for the owner and their guests. That’s a large weight on their shoulders.

Typically, crew turnover is something of a sore spot for captains. Hiring and training crew only to see them depart is both frustrating and costly. There are also the added considerations of how it impacts the owner, who is unlikely to appreciate crew changes, and how it reflects on their managerial capabilities.

When you take all of this into account, you begin to see why your resignation needs to be handled delicately.

It’s also worth remembering that a good reference can be a game changer in your career, and being able to rely on one from your captain is ideal. They’re only likely to write a glowing review if you’ve handled the situation with integrity and professionalism, so it pays to think about how you’ll present yourself and what you hope to get out of it afterwards.

Handing over resignation letter across table

How to approach your resignation conversation

There are six things to consider going into your conversation with the captain:

1. Speak respectfully

Approach the chat respectfully and politely. Irrespective of your opinion of the captain as a person, take the moral high ground and respect their position.

Always give your notice in writing too, ideally at the end of the conversation.

2. Tell them at an appropriate time

This is a particularly useful tip. Find an opportune moment to break the news – ideally at a time when they have a chance to process everything. A Friday afternoon is a great option if you don’t have guests on board; if you’re on charter, ensure you avoid stressful periods.

It might not be possible, but consider whether you can wait until after the guests have departed. It should mean the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed.

3. Avoid leaving during a busy period

Don’t make your resignation more dramatic or impactful by leaving at an inconvenient time during the yacht’s programme. Not only would it anger the captain and your colleagues on board, but it would also reflect poorly on your professionalism. If you’re preparing to receive guests or are set to head on a crossing or a trip somewhere, avoid dropping your bombshell until after.

If you can, aim for the tail end of the season when things begin to wind down.

Friendly handshake over table


4. Be prepared to work your notice period

This is something you should really do, unless there’s a very specific and genuine reason why you can’t. Should this be the case, the situation needs to be dealt with sensitively.

Acknowledge that you know it’s unprofessional and explain the reason why you are asking for them to make an exception.

5. Allow them to be annoyed

Be understanding of the fact they might be annoyed (regardless of whether you’ve picked a convenient time to tell them). They have a lot to think about each time a crew member leaves and it can be a stressful situation.

There’s no need for you to get defensive or upset about this kind of reaction – in fact, you should view it as a compliment! Their disappointment demonstrates your importance to the yacht’s operation.

6. Thank them

Thank them for everything they’ve done for you. No matter what your reason is for leaving (even if it’s specifically because of the captain), they handed you an opportunity that’s likely to have changed your life. The job has brought you a good salary and an opportunity to learn/ grow. Show them you appreciate this.

Remember: manners cost nothing.

Yacht crew working on deck

How to handle your notice period

The hard part is now out of the way. The dreaded conversation has been had and you’re now (in most circumstances) working your notice period. Don’t undo your thoughtful work by allowing your personal or professional standards to drop now.

Until everything is official and you’ve stepped off the passerelle for the final time, consider the following tips designed to help you successfully navigate your notice period.

1. Don’t be petulant

It’s natural that your heart might not be in it after you’ve resigned, but it’s important not to leave jobs for your successor or visibly display a lack of enthusiasm. It’s wholly unprofessional and is a sure-fire way of disgruntling both the captain and your fellow crew. The opinion of these people matters – you don’t want your industry reputation to be tarnished as you never know when it might come back to bite you.

Roll your sleeves up and do everything you can until the last minute.

2. Don’t be a bad apple

Everybody is their own person and has both the capacity, and the right, to make decisions for themselves. Don’t try and influence the way they view their job or convince them to quit. You owe the captain and the yacht that much.

If others decide, of their own accord, that they wish to follow your lead, that’s a different story. You can’t be held responsible for that.

Read more tips and advice in Crew Corner, including the five things crew must do when leaving a yacht job. Alternatively, you can seek recruitment support from a specialist crew agent.

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