When it comes to maritime training, there are basically two divisions of marine licenses; commercial "Merchant Marine" licenses apply to all ocean going vessels (cargo ships, cruise liners, ferries and commercially registered charter yachts) and "Recreational" certificates which come from the various "Yachting Associations" worldwide and apply primarily to private sailing and motor yachts, generally under 100 feet in length. Commercial licenses can qualify for Endorsements or Equivalent licenses from other IMO countries (see below). England, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and the USA all have their own recreational yachting associations (RYA, CYA, ASA, etc) although most of their "Yacht Master" license training and examinations are similar. These are recreational licenses and do not apply to charter yachts, nor vessels over 70 feet.
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
The IMO is the United Nations' specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships. They created the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) in 1978 and were revised and amended in 1995 (STCW-95) . These countries "Basic Safety Training" courses are recognized as meeting the standard set out by the IMO. This emergency training consists of marine medical training, marine fire fighting, sea survival and personal safety & social responsibilities. This is highly recommended for ALL crew on board including Stewardesses, Chefs, and all Deck Crew and is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in working on a yacht. The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) in 2006 was devised by the ILO (International Labour Organization) also a branch of the United Nations, and has set out various regulations for safe working conditions at sea.
MCA Maritime and Coastguard Agency UK
The Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) of the British commonwealth has created their own class of Commercial Yacht licenses exclusively for yachts over 200 tons. They will also accept applications for a MCA Certificate of Equivalency (CoE) from other country's licenses over 500 tons by submitting an application to their agency. Canada and the United States do not allow foreigners to work on their flagships, therefore it is highly recommended for Americans and Canadians to first obtain the license from their country, before applying for an equivalency to the MCA. There are training courses which offer Yachtmaster and Master of Yachts licenses up to 200 tons, however it should be noted these licenses are also limited to 70 feet in length. If you plan on advancing your career into the Superyacht and Megayacht categories, you should consider obtaining commercial licenses.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) of the United Kingdom issues licenses by oral exam for Class 4 commercial ticket holders for operating UK registered vessels. Also available are Certificates of Equivalent Competency (CEC) issued to holders of valid STCW certificates from other recognized nations, also by way of oral examination. If you hold a USCG license or a Canadian license over 500 International Tonnage, you qualify for a MCA Class 4 Certificate of Competence, although you may be required to sit certain modules if your country's training does not cover those required by the MCA.
RYA Royal Yachting Association UK
The RYA is the United Kingdom's recreational yachting licenses for vessels up to 70 feet or 200 tons. Day Skipper Sail / Motor Cruising is an elementary course in basic seamanship, navigation and meteorology suitable for beginners and people with little experience in yachts.
Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Offshore Cruising: A more advanced course in navigation and meteorology, suitable for students who have already completed the elementary course or who have a background of cruising or offshore racing. The course is definitely not for beginners. Yachtmaster Ocean Sail/Motor Cruising course covers astral-navigation and worldwide meteorology, Knowledge of terrestrial navigation and meteorology to the standard of Yachtmaster Offshore is assumed.
United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard licenses are issued as a combination of the grade, route, propulsion and tonnage. Any combinations can be made byGrades: Master, Chief Mate, Second Mate, Third Mate, or Mate; Routes: Inland, Great Lakes, Near Coastal or Oceans; Propulsion: Steam, Motor, Sail or Auxiliary Sail; and Vessel tonnage: 100T, 150T, 200T, 500T, 1600T or Unlimited. United States Immigration laws do not allow foreigners to work on yachts registered in the USA, therefore it is highly recommended for Americans to first obtain the license from the USCG, and then to apply for Certificate of Equivalency to the MCA. Canadian Merchant MarineCanadian Law does not allow foreigners to work on their Canadian flag vessel, however few they are, therefore it is highly recommended for Canadians to first obtain the license from Canada, and then to apply for a Certificate of Equivalency from the MCA. Watchkeeper Mate: Qualifies the holder to carry out duties as a 3rd Mate on a Foreign Going vessel, which usually requires an addition of the OSI-Astro-Navigation, or as a 2nd Mate on a Home Trade Vessel. Command Endorsement qualifies the holder to act as a Master of a vessel not exceeding 350 tons gross tonnage (within the Home Trade limits), or of a tug of any size. Ocean Navigator II: Qualifies the holder to act in the capacity of a 2nd Mate on a Foreign Going vessel or a 1st Mate on a Home Trade vessel. Ocean Navigator I: Qualifies the holder to act in the capacity of a 1st Mate on a Foreign Going vessel or a Master on a Home Trade vessel. Finally, the Master Mariner certification qualifies the holder to act in the capacity of Master on a Foreign Going vessel or a Home Trade vessel. Tonnage limitations also apply.
Canadian Yachting Association
Recreational licenses are primarily for gaining experience and knowledge, and not to fulfill professional Maritime requirements by Transport Canada or Insurance companies. Basic Cruising course covers the skills required to cruise safely in local waters as either skipper or crew of a sailing cruiser of 20-30 feet in moderate wind and sea conditions by day.
Intermediate Cruisingcovers the skills required to cruise safely a keelboat of 25-35 feet in familiar waters. It is recommended as the minimum qualification for bareboat chartering. The recommended time for teaching and examining the standard is five days or two weekends. Advanced Cruising covers the skills needed to skipper or crew a sailing cruiser of 25-40 feet during the day and night in coastal waters in any weather. Coastal Navigation covers the theory required to navigate safely in coastal or inland waters. This theory is applied in the Advanced standard. Celestial Navigation covers the theory required to navigate safely on offshore passages. This theory is applied in the Offshore standard. Yachtmaster Offshore is the highest level of the CYA Learn to Cruise Program. It covers the skills required to skipper or crew on offshore passages exceeding 500 miles in length and venturing more than 100 nautical miles from land.
The largest difference in a chef position on a yacht is the extensive planning required and the ability to work at sea. Yacht chefs must do their own provisioning and preparation work for all of the courses including desert and often clean their own galley as well. (Remember cleanliness is next to godliness!) On some smaller yachts the cook may also share stewardess responsibilities, while on larger yachts the chef may have a sous chef or the services of one of the stews for prep work, serving, clearing and cleaning. Also, unlike a hotel or restaurant, a yacht's menu should be practically unlimited with limited resources. Inventiveness is the key! An ability to produce exotic meals from ordinary ingredients and to present new and exciting dishes, avoiding repetition. The chef should also be aware of many different tastes to accommodate allergies, vegetarian, gluten free owners and guests. One never knows who may be dining with the owners, your guest may be an influential politician or a world famous actor / entertainer. At the same time your hardest critics could be the crew themselves, who must partake at your table every day. It cannot be said enough: present new and exciting dishes and avoid repetition.
Currently Offered in Europe, Florida, and Australia, these Privately trained courses summarize the skills required by stewardesses including: Professional Etiquette and Social Skills, French, Russian and Buffet Table Service, Interior and Exterior Detailing, Butler Services, Valet Services, Bartending, Provisioning and Inventory, Basic First Aid, Safety Equipment, Emergency Procedures, International Customs and Protocol. Of course many shore based training facilities offer similar silver service training for those interested in interior services aboard yachts. Most Hotel and Resorts also offer their "in house education" for their staff, and this type of instruction and experience is also valuable on board a yacht.