Top Tips for South African Seafarers Working on Super Yachts

If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming a seafarer and travelling the world aboard a super yacht, or if you already have that dream position, here are some top tips from South African experts on how to get and keep your job, your sanity… and your newfound wealth!

Deck hands working on yachts in Portofino, Italy
Deckhands at work on yachts in Portofino, Italy – holiday destination for the rich and famous.

Lauren Norton, Director of Trilogy Luxury Training, spent 12 years in the luxury boating industry, of which nine were as a Chief Stew on boats from 60m to 100m. In that time she accumulated a lot of knowledge about the luxury sector, which she now imparts to fellow South Africans heading to the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. Lauren is the only internationally accredited GUEST trainer in South Africa, and also trains for the British Butler Institute of London. Here, she kindly shares some top tips with SAPeople readers:

5 Tips on Keeping Sane and Healthy During the Season

  • Exercise as often as you can, even if it’s only for 15 mins. Get those endorphins rushing. Find a routine you can do in your cabin or in a small space.
  • On your break go for a walk/run if you can, it’s a great way to explore and to get some alone time.
  • Keep in touch with home and things outside the boat, it helps to keep you grounded.
  • Find someone onboard who makes you smile each day and spend time with them.
  • Have fun!!! Stop and smell the roses every now and then, choose a positive attitude each and every day!
  • Don’t get involved in politics or let other people’s issues drag you down. Be a friend, not a therapist.

5 Things That Tell You, You Work On A Yacht

  • You could sleep through a bomb going off in your cabin
  • You think that a finish time of 7 pm with guests is really early and feel like you have won the lottery when it happens
  • You sleep in your uniform on top of your duvet during your break so you can get an extra 5 minutes
  • One of the highlights of your day is being able to sit down to eat your lunch
SAPeople File Photo, taken in Cannes, France 2019. Working as a stew on a yacht can be glamorous, exhausting and very rewarding. And fun!

5 Stew Cleaning Tips:

  • Putting a cup of vinegar into the crew washing will ensure it always smells fresh.
  • Use a pencil eraser to remove any scuff marks and dirt from suede and nubuck leather
  • Mix 1 cup of fabric softener to 1 litre of water to create your own wrinkle releaser (Downy)
  • Use a paste of bi-carb and water to remove brown stains from the sink or any other surface for that matter.
  • Use a drop of dishwashing liquid in HOT water to clean windows and mirrors. The dishwashing liquid will make it sparkle and the hot, hot water will dry quicker and cleaner.

5 Beauty tips for Stews:

  • Mix coffee grounds with a bit of shower gel and use as a body scrub in the shower. It’s great for exfoliating and it gives you a coffee kick.
  • Use dry shampoo to help stretch out your hair washing days, giving you more time on your breaks
  • Find a make-up routine that takes 5 minutes and can easily be touched up to go from day to night.
  • Treat yourself to mini facials every now and then on your breaks, buy some nice products, it will lift your skin and your spirits.
  • Drink lots of water, it’s the biggest contributing factor to great-looking skin.

 

Things Every New (And Sometimes Seasoned) Crew Member Should Do And Know: 

  • Ask questions if you are not sure
  • Smile and greet everyone in the crew, make the effort to get to know others, don’t wait for them to come to you.
  • Learn about everything onboard, open cupboards and draws, familiarize yourself with all the equipment and products as soon as possible.
  • Listen to how things are done on board, do them that way and once you have established and proved yourself then make suggestions.
  • Stay away from the drama, don’t get involved in other people’s problems, make decisions for yourself
  • Don’t clock watch, work until the job is done.
  • Leave your phone in your cabin if you get a lot of messages or just can’t stay off social media
  • Don’t constantly compare how you did things on your previous boat. A new boat, new routine and new ideas
  • If you have a hangover keep it to yourself, flopping about complaining how hungover you are is not on, if you can’t handle it, don’t drink on a school night.
  • Let’s have fun, we are all here to do a job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of a laugh and a chat.

Tax Tips & Essential Info for South African Seafarers

Lauren says: “This is something I often need to help people untangle on a daily basis and help them feel confident that they understand their situation and they are on the right track. Speaking from personal experience this is something you do not want to let slide under the carpet.”


  • Do not ignore your tax situation
  • As of 1 March 2020, the amended exemption on foreign employment income, will come into effect, limiting the exemption to R1 million.
  • SARS knows most South African seafarers aren’t paying tax elsewhere, and are not resident anywhere else, therefore giving SA taxing right on their foreign income.
  • There are various categories that a seafarer may fall into, each with their own unique situation. Even where seafarers work alongside their colleague, one could be exempt from tax in SA, while the other is taxable.
  • Something as simple as the mere position held by the seafarer, or the title on the vessel can affect your tax situation. Thus, seafarers need to understand the law and how it applies to their individual circumstances to be able to protect their foreign earned income.
  • Get your employment contract professionally reviewed to make sure it meets the minimum requirements to have a successful claim for exemption. (You can make contact with Seafarers Global who will provide such assistance.)

Golden Rules for Seafarers to Ensure Claiming Exemption is Easier
– by Donne Trump, consultant from Seafarers Global

There are three categories in which a seafarer could fall into and possibly claim exemption. (Find out more here.)

The rules below, compiled kindly by Donne, are the “starting block for being successful in protecting foreign earned income”.

A South African seafarer should make sure:

  • they are registered for tax with SARS;
  • taxes are always kept up to date and compliant;
  • a full copy of one’s passport, employment contract and vessel register are kept on hand for tax return submissions; and
  • declaration of worldwide income is done correctly, and not only South African sourced income is declared.

Make sure you get advice from the right professionals – like Seafarers Global, so that you don’t live with uncertainty or receive the wrong advice. Once you understand your personal situation, it is easily dealt with and provides you with options to take positive steps forward, says Donne.

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Send us your questions

Our next article will deal with another hot topic surrounding expat tax 2020 and how it will affect seafarers and yacht crew. Please send through any questions you may have about working on boats, how expat tax will affect you and other financial considerations to admin@sapeople.com. These will be addressed in a Seafarers FAQ article to be published at the end of September.

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