The captain is the top of any yacht's hierarchal system. He/she is responsible for the safe navigation and operation of the vessel. The captain assumes responsibility for the vessel and the crew and it is, therefore, a high-pressure job. They have normally acquired vast experience and qualifications to reach the rank of captain and should be treated with the utmost respect. As a deckhand on a larger vessel, you will have very little contact with the captain.
Also referred to as the Chief Officer, the First Officer is second-in-command. The first officer has a large portfolio of duties and responsibilities and it is a position that requires the necessary experience and qualifications. In addition to navigational responsibilities he/she usually assumes the role of managing the crew and all safety on board. The first officer usually has the final say on any matters in the deck department and will play a hands-off role in overseeing deck operations. He/she will be the middle man between the Captain and the Second Officer (or Bosun on smaller yachts)
Second Officer / Third Officer
Larger superyachts will employ a 2nd and even a 3rdofficer. Their role is to:
Oversee the bosun & the deck team, as well as ensure the vessel is meeting all of the safety requirements on a weekly and monthly basis. In addition to this, officers will ensure safe and efficient navigational planning and execution as well as stand watch during passages. These duties vary depending on the size, structure and schedule of the vessel. It is generally the step away from physical work to a more managerial role, with a fair amount of desk work.
The Bosun is responsible for the exterior maintenance of the vessel. He/she supervises the deckhands and reports to the officer above him/her. The Bosun may assume the role of main tender driver and therefore needs exceptional boat handling skills. The Bosun usually has strong painting, varnishing and repair skills which can be used during maintenance periods, allowing him/her to supervise lower ranked crew members. As a deckhand, you will take direct supervision and will work closely with your bosun. It is important to follow their lead and take their advice as it is the person you will most likely learn from and gain experience from in your early years.
This may be a position on larger yachts; a lead deckhand is basically an experienced deckhand who is not yet qualified or had the opportunity to move up to the Bosun role. The lead deckhand acts as an intermediary between the bosun and the deckhands and will take the Bosun role during periods when the Bosun is absent. it is a very hands-on role and he/she is likely to assume some additional responsibilities such as anchoring and tender driving in important situations.
This too is a very hands-on, physically demanding, entry-level position. Experience is preferred but not required and any transferrable skills and qualifications will help separate you from the rest. A strong work ethic and positive attitude are characteristics that will stand you in good stead. As a deckhand, you are at the bottom of the pecking order and must be able to take direction well, respect authority and get your hands dirty.
Most of your work orders will come from the Bosun and Lead Deckhand, however, you will be asked favours and given instructions from the crew in more senior positions across all departments. It is essential to be enthusiastic and hard-working. Remember, your time will come and the only way to receive more responsibility and move up is to succeed and impress in the role you are currently employed.
A junior deckhand is generally a deckhand with no prior yachting experience or someone with less than a years experience. Responsibility is limited and doing what you are told is a must. Work hard, listen and take every opportunity possible to learn from those above you.