January is a month during which many people, no matter in what industry they find themselves, reconsider career options and begin their next job hunt. For many, this will involve somewhat tedious tasks all while sitting in front of a computer at a desk. For those choosing to enter yachting, however, it’s time to get on a plane and head to Antibes, Fort Lauderdale or whichever location has, in all likelihood, been recommended by a friend. This is where crewmembers often find themselves in the crew-house scene and, at a time of year when crew houses are likely to become busier, TheCrewReport.com speaks to one crew-house owner and one superyacht captain about the benefits and disadvantages of crew houses.

Original image: Stef Bravin

“The very existence of crew houses is born of necessity; they provide relatively low-cost, short-term accommodation to many would-be crew in areas that would otherwise have no such facility,” explains Captain Mike French, captain of a large charter vessel currently in the South Pacific. “The industry needs a constant stream of new crew and in most cases they could not afford hotels and leases would make no sense given that the main goal of a crewmember staying in a crew house is to get a job and move on.”

For Captain Jason Downes, owner of Antibes-based crew house The Crew Grapevine hails, the set-up offers a sense of unity for uncertain crew dipping their toes in new waters. “We see an incredibly sense of family created as uncertain crew bond over shared concerns and recently displaced people coalesce in order to share, cope with and learn about the experience they are dealing with. Entry-level job hunting is getting more competitive and the network and support provided both from other crew and diligent crew-house owners can be crucial to self-esteem and, ultimately, job success.”

Captain Downes touches on an important point. Diligent crew-house owners will have many crew hailing their efforts, yet there are other crew houses that are less deserving of praise. “Crew houses can be a place for partying hard and drugs and alcohol have been known to be around – not helpful if you’re trying to study or prepare for a job interview or you have been dayworking for long hours. A number of crew house owners are known to be freakishly interested in everything that goes on inside their walls and seem to miraculously appear when a ‘friend’ of the opposite gender comes for a visit. Moreover, there can be ridiculous rules and very swift retribution for infringements,” explains Captain French.

"Much of the information shared around the yachting industry is by word of mouth and the crew-house scene often provides instant access to rumour and gossip."

Also presenting itself is the argument that the nature of being in such close proximity in this particular industry sows the seeds for gossip and industry rumour, adds Captain French. “Much of the information shared around the yachting industry is by word of mouth and the crew-house scene often provides instant access to rumour and gossip. In a few short days anyone staying at a crew house will have heard about the yacht, where all the crew got Rolexes, even the dayworkers – by the way, no dayworkers get Rolexes - after a three-day charter. But, amidst the nonsense, the crew house will often be the first time someone trying to get into yachting hears about visas, health insurance or how to write a resume.”

And this takes us to a completely different type of crew house – one where the owners actually take it upon themselves to help these entry-level crew. “Crew houses seem to come in two distinct species: those that promote job seeking, networking, guidance and a friendly simulation of on-board behavior expectations, and there are others that just provide a bed,” explains Captain Downes.

“The informal nature of crew houses means their standards and rules are quite inconsistent. Some are way better than others, so it pays to do some research first,” concludes Captain French.

As Captain French highlights, crew houses are certainly born out of necessity and there is very much a place for them in the industry. However, finding one at the professional end of the spectrum is crucial and, if achieved, can be a great first step into yachting.

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