Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what paradise looks like to you. Are the beaches laced in white sand and crystal clear waters? Is there a myriad of tropical marine life under the surface? And do the sunsets set the night sky on fire?
Now ask yourself if you can ever imagine this being your office. I didn’t think so either…
In October 2015 I landed (my) dream job as a deckhand and hostess for a catamaran company touring the Whitsunday Islands in North Queensland, Australia. It has to be said that this has been one of my proudest travelling conquests to date; it seemed surreal at times and I wondered how on earth I landed a job that gave me such a surreal lifestyle.
Following what was the most incredible two years, I have decided to share my wisdom and how you too could go about getting a job in the Whitsunday Islands. With a little luck and enthusiastic work ethic you could find yourself waking up to the sound of humpback whales every morning (yes that did happen).
Let’s start from the beginning.
Trips around the Whitsunday Islands come in all shapes and sizes; catering for every single travellers desire, it really is a minefield knowing which one to pick. Fortunately for me, after nearly two years of working on the catamaran I landed my very first job on, I realised that it was still the boat I would choose above the rest. Lucky me.
Yes, luck does play a small part in this journey as I believe not all deckhands are lucky enough to jump onboard a boat that really suits them. Therefore, my first piece of advice is: DO YOUR RESEARCH. What type of trip could you handle hosting for six days a week; non-stop party, quiet couples retreats or something in the middle? Think about when you’ve done back-to-back trips, have had barely any sleep, are intensely dehydrated and haven’t showered for five days …. that tests even the toughest traveller.
Here is a quick lowdown of how the trips run in the Whitsunday Islands:
- Boat trips are split into day trips, 1 night 2 day trips, 2 night 2 day trips, and the occasional 3 night 3 day trips.
- There is also a half day Whitehaven Beach boat trip.
- The most common trip is a 2 day, 2 night trip, leaving at lunchtime on the first day and returning at lunchtime on the 3rd. This was the trip that my boat Powerplay ran.
- The boats are split into maxi sailing yachts for a real sailing experience, single hull sailing boats, sailing catamarans, power catamarans, old-school tall ships, ridged inflatable power boats, large catamaran ferries and more.
Responsibilities as a deckhand/host:
- Health & Safety/Food safety reports
- Trip meals/cooking
- General boat cleanliness and maintenance
- Trip Photography
- Trip Presentations (i.e. marine life talks, snorkel brief etc.)
- Entertaining guests
- Snorkel watch/snorkel assistance
- Tour guiding (i.e. guided walk to Hill Inlet lookout and Whitehaven beach)
- Deck work – anchoring, picking up moorings, fenders, lines etc.
Relevant qualifications for a deckhand/host:
- Shipboard Safety – if you do not have this already, most boats will require you to complete your Shipboard Safety course not long after your employment
- O2 – always needed
- First Aid – always needed
- CPR – always needed
- Powerboat licence QLD – necessary for some boats working as a deckhand, however useful to have otherwise
- STCW 95’ – not a necessity however an STCW 95’ includes an advanced version of Shipboard Safety, First Aid and CPR
- Coxswains – not normally necessary for a deckhand or host position
- RSA – not necessary unless your boat has a licensed bar
- Food Safety – some boats deem necessary
Do I need experience?
Each company may differ when it comes to experience. Although I have had experience of boats since I was young, there have been other colleagues in my company with minimal. It depends what your job title is; as the only hostess and deckhand on my boat I was responsible for all of the deck work like anchoring, picking up moorings, ropes and fenders etc, as well as being a tour guide, cook and photographer. If you are being employed as a deckhand alone, they will often require experience on boats previously.
What qualities will they look for?
The most essential skill they will look for when employing a new deckhand or host is people skills. At the end of the day you are working in the tourism industry and a bad personality good be the difference between recommending a trip or not. Another major quality they will seek is a good work ethic and resilience; it’s a tough job with long hours and at times you will be working through exhaustion.
Where do I start?
Don’t attempt to set up a job before you are in Airlie Beach, it will get you no-where. Face-to-face interaction with boat companies will get you seen and heard. You will be required to do one or two ‘volley’ (volunteer) trips before they even consider giving you a job, so be prepared to work for free at the beginning. You will be shadowing their current host/deckhand so make sure you absorb as much information as you possibly can.
Setting aside the logistics of it all, have a look at the video I made after my first year of working in the Whitsunday islands. Enough inspiration?
Having given you a brief overview on what to expect whilst working in the Whitsunday islands, I am happy to answer any in depth questions you might have if you are seriously considering getting that dream job. Drop me a line! Or for some more information about the Whitsunday islands as a holiday/travel destination, have a read through my other blog post – Whisked off to the Whitsundays.