An Insight Into the World of Superyachting

With European summer in full swing and a brand new season of Below Deck: Mediterranean streaming now, Woman speaks to Courtney TeWhiu and Alice Baker from the New Zealand Superyacht Academy (NZSYA) about what it’s like to be a woman working on these wonderful watercraft.   


What is your background in the superyacht industry? 

“Together, we’ve got over 12 years of experience in the superyacht industry, and we have navigated the superyacht departments to find our true callings on board. Alice has experience across all departments; interior, deck, and the galley. Courtney, leveraging her hospitality background and event planning skills, knew the interior department was for her and is an experienced chief stewardess. Together we confidently cover all departments and are passionate about helping others find their place on board superyachts.” 


How old do you have to be to explore a career in superyachting? 

“We recommend that those interested in joining the industry should be at least 18 years old. It’s a big move to leave home and fly to the other side of the world to start working on superyachts, and it requires a certain amount of strength and confidence. If you’re not quite ready to make the jump overseas, you can also start your career here in New Zealand and be closer to home. Many people don’t know this, but the superyacht industry in New Zealand is growing and we will continue to see more big boats heading this way with more opportunities for kiwi crews to start their careers here. That said, we both started our superyacht careers after university and had been working for a couple of years before deciding it was time for a career change. So really, you can be any age, but you need to feel confident about what you are doing and where you want to go with it.”

What skills do you need? 

“There are many skills that people possess which transfer well into the superyacht industry. While roles in hospitality and customer service are a big bonus, there is also a crucial human element in yachting. It’s about your ability to work in a team towards a common goal; which is guest satisfaction & safety! At the end of the day, skills can be taught and are very beneficial but a can-do attitude and willingness to learn comes from the person.”


What courses or training is needed before starting in the industry?

“To work on superyachts, there are two legal certifications that you as a crew member need. These are required for any seafarer: the STCW10 certificate (Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping) and the ENG1 medical (ensures you are medically fit to work at sea). Anyone working at sea on a ship or vessel must have both of these. If you’re entering the industry with no prior experience, having additional credentials on your resume will definitely make you more appealing to captains and crew agents. Just make sure the qualifications you get are recognised in the superyacht industry.”


What’s it like being a woman in the industry? What are some challenges/positives?

“This is a really interesting topic for us, and we talk about it a lot! It’s fascinating to see how the industry has changed since we started. While there’s more diversity in roles now, the structure is still based on traditional ship rules like chain of command, hierarchy, and departments. This has often led to gender-specific roles, with females typically in the interior and males on the exterior. But, as the world’s views evolve, the superyacht industry is following suit. We love chatting with our students about their experiences and the challenges they face at their age! We are very much for gender diversity in all departments; this idea that girls are inside cleaning and boys are outside on jet skis, that’s on its way out!” 

What’s the most unexpected thing that you need to master?

“It’s probably a combination of the hard work expected and the fact that you live and work in the same place, hence the term ‘cabin fever’. Even though these vessels are huge, luxurious, and spacious, only around 30% is allocated to crew quarters, so you’re living and working in a confined space. Your office is literally floating on the water and you’re constantly around the people you live and work with. On top of that, some of your days can be 12+ hours long back-to-back. People often associate it with glitz and glamour but, it’s not all that, it’s hard work & not for the faint-hearted!”


There are many Kiwis in the Below Deck Franchise. Why do you think New Zealanders are drawn to the industry? And what makes Kiwis good hires?

“New Zealanders are naturally drawn to the superyacht industry because of our adventurous spirit and love for the ocean. Growing up surrounded by water, we have a strong connection to the sea and this makes the idea of working on a yacht really appealing. Then add the fact that you get to experience the world. Coming from a little island in the South Pacific, getting to travel the world is a big draw card too!”

“We have an awesome reputation in the industry and are known for our hardworking and sunny natures. We’re adaptable, fast learners, and have a positive attitude which makes us great crewmembers! So, the combination of our work ethic, easy going nature, and love for the ocean makes New Zealanders perfect for the superyacht industry.”


What makes a career in superyachting such an awesome thing for young people to get into?

“A career in superyachting offers young people a unique and exciting lifestyle. The opportunity to travel to stunning locations, form close friendships, and become part of a tight-knit community is incredibly appealing. Additionally, the financial rewards can be significant, and the work, although hard, is generally enjoyable and fulfilling. We don’t know anyone who has regretted entering the industry! It truly is as good as it sounds.”

A big selling point to working on superyachts is the incredible locations you get to visit, like we see on the Below Deck franchise. What’s your favourite location you’ve visited for work?

“There’s so many! It’s not uncommon for superyachts to visit 10+ countries per year! But you can’t go past a good Mediterranean season, there’s just something about it! Those little white towns in Greece, Mykonos is to die for! The Amalfi coast lines and not to mention the Lemon restaurant in Capri, stop it! Then you’ve got the crystal blue waters and white sand beaches of the Exumas, Bahamas which are pure postcard material!”

What are some of the lavish or quirky requests you’ve received from guests?

“We have been in Mykonos in Greece and were unable to get a berth for the night. The owner has decided he wants a street Kebab (Gyro in Greek), bearing in mind they have a five star chef on board, and he has ordered the helicopter to go ashore and to collect one for him. That’s Uber Eats on a whole new level! Another time, we were in Portofino, Italy and the owner had absolutely loved a dish he ate at the restaurant ashore that day. So, he instructed the two chefs to head ashore and to learn how to recreate the dish on the spot!”

Have you had any high profile guests (and can you give us a clue who they might be)?

“We’ve had politicians on board, MC Hammer and worked for Saudi Royalty. We’re still waiting for the moment where we get to meet Beyonce!”

Have you done any crossings? If so, what was the experience of being at sea for several weeks like?

“Between us we have nine Atlantic crossings under our belt. Being at sea for extended periods of time can be super fun and challenging! You’re on a watch rotation during long passages which will see you getting up at 2am in the morning for watch while experiencing the sun coming up over the Atlantic ocean. Pretty unreal! We have even taken a dip in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, that’s a pretty unreal feeling!”

Hayu is the home of Below Deck, with every season and spin-off available now. Stream episodes of  Below Deck Mediterranean’s brand new season every Tuesday first on Hayu, the same day as the USA.

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