Lesson Two: Yacht Variations


Definitions of types of vessels:

There is no industry-wide standard for the difference between motor yacht, super yacht and mega yacht.  However, it has been generally accepted by naval architects and industry executives that super yachts range from 36 meters (120 feet) up to 60 meters (200 feet) and mega yachts are over 60 meters (200 feet).  Yachts over 90 meters are sometimes referred to as giga yachts. 

The legal definition states a yacht as being a recreational boat or ship but there is no globally accepted definition for when a boat becomes a yacht or when a yacht becomes a ship. However, a yacht can be carried on a ship but a ship cannot be carried on a yacht.

The only legal distinction is between yachts above and below 24 meters as anything above 24 meters is viewed as a yacht and therefore should have a permanent crew on board.  Under 24 meters a boat can operate under the MCA Code of Practice for small vessels.

To be more specific and to further clarify the term yacht, “motor yachts” as those vessels that are driven by one or more engine, and those driven by sails as “sailing yachts”.  Sailing yachts will also have engines for ease of manoeuvering in crowded marinas and anchorages where there is insufficient room to sail safely.  These are commonly called auxiliary engines.  Therefore, the word “yacht” describes a recreational craft/vessel, either driven by engines or sails, or both, with covered accommodation and facilities which allow the individual to spend a night on board.

This also refers to the very large Motor and Sail vessels that can be seen in such exotic locations as the Caribbean and Mediterranean.  Some of the larger Mega yachts are really small ships and many operate for commer­cial purposes.  This means that they carry passengers for hire or reward.

Every boat, yacht or vessel must have a coding which determines the area it can operate in and the maximum number of people you are allowed to carry, all of which is determined by its size and the stability of the vessel. Most yachts will be limited to carrying 12 or less passengers.


All yachts are required to be registered, and as such, the country they are registered in is known as the “Flag State” of the vessel.  An owner may choose to register his boat wherever he wants but is strongly influenced by tax and proposed usage.  There are distinct advantages to choosing one flag state over another.  Registration is compulsory and once chosen, the yacht is subject to the laws, rules and regulations of that country.  A yacht can be registered anywhere, regardless of where it was built or where it is berthed and the majority of the world’s yachts are registered to the Cayman Islands and the Marshall Islands.

Cayman Island Flag
Marshall Island Flag


The advantages of registering in these countries are that there are no taxes.  Specifically there is no income tax, capital gains tax, withholding tax, gift tax, inheritance tax, corporation tax or value added/sales tax.  As such, and as a crew member working on a Cayman or Marshall Island registered yacht, you are not required to pay any personal income tax so your salary is therefore totally tax free.  This is one of the biggest benefits to working on a super yacht.  Other tax-free flag states are British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Isle of Man, Bermuda, Gibraltar and Anguilla who all come under the “Red Ensign”.


It is compulsory for all boat, yachts and ships to fly the flag of their country of registration.  This flag will be raised at 8am and taken down at sunset or the latest 8pm whilst the vessel is in port.  When at sea this flag is flown 24/7.  When approaching a country not of the vessels registration it is normal to raise a courtesy flag bearing that country’s flag.

See handout – Flags

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Yachts are generally registered under two categories as either private or commercial.

A private yacht is for the specific use of an owner, his family and friends.  It is not for rent or “charter” to outside parties.  Private yachts tend to travel substantially less than “commercial” yachts (not always the case), and tend to offer higher salaries as tipping is not a feature of private yacht ownership.  Due to the less frequent travel arrangements of private yachts, it is always easier to get additional time off and is therefore conducive to having a family life.

The travel itinerary of the yacht will depend on the owner’s requirements and will be clearly explained during your interview.  The Captain will discuss the likes and dislikes of the owner and his family.  He will outline meal times, types and style of foods and expectations for the owner’s guests.  An owner and his family may be aboard for several months during the summer or indeed several months during the winter if the boat is based in the Caribbean or South Pacific.  If the boat stays in the Mediterranean during the winter, there may be long periods with no guests aboard, however there is always work to be done on a yacht.

A commercial yacht is a yacht that is available for “charter” (or hire). They may be chartered for either short or extended periods of time.  Due to the incredible expense of owning and running a Superyacht, owners often offset the costs by chartering their boat to corporations or private individuals for their own personal use.


Charters are sold by brokers or “agents” who handle the sale of the charter on behalf of the owner or yacht management company.  They are usually charged out by the week so it is not uncommon to have new guests on board every week during a busy season.  This can lead to a lot of different tastes, meal and service styles and requirements from the guests.  For the duration of the charter, the “charterer” assumes the role of the owner, incurring all the costs associated such as fuel, dockage, food and beverages etc.

The agent will handle the charter agreement, the itinerary and the legal and financial affairs.  Information on the charter group is gathered by the booking agent in advance along with the APA (Advanced Provisioning Allowance).  The information is gathered on preference sheets, which will then be forwarded to the Captain who will pass them on to the Chef and Chief Stewardess for provisioning purposes.

In some instances, a yacht may be chartered for a specific function such as Cannes Film Festival or Monaco Grand Prix and may never leave the dock.  Often this is for corporate entertainment purposes so there may be requests for a large variety of aperitifs, dishes, styles and cocktails.  There may also be large parties on board where outside catering may be used, along with security personnel, rented equipment and large supplies of flowers.  You will be required to work alongside outside catering staff and must co-operate with whomever is in charge of the event as well as look after the welfare of the yacht and its contents.  It is also worth remembering that in the majority of cases you will be dealing with the top 1% of the wealthiest and most famous people in the world who are used to a high level or quality and personal service.

Most charter yachts tend to travel a lot with the summer season being spent in the Mediterranean and the winters in the Caribbean.  Increasingly, the cruising grounds of Alaska, the South Pacific, Australia, Maldives and the Seychelles are becoming more popular destinations for the super yachts.  Shipping companies such as Dock Express can transport yachts on board ships, which saves a lot of wear and tear on the individual yacht and its crew.  This service is available almost anywhere in the world.  For instance, a yacht can be loaded in Los Angeles and transported to Sydney, Australia in perfect condition without the necessity for a long ocean passage, saving time, fuel and maintenance costs.  For a busy charter vessel this is also a good time for crew to take vacation time.