The Flying Chef | The art of Dockwalking | The Flying Chef
Updated: Dec 29, 2018
My first European experience was not your typical back-packer, flash-packer, or Contiki style adventure that's common with the multitudes these days. The first night was quite an eye opener, flying into Charles de Gaulle on the red-eye from Mexico with just a name and an address scribbled on a piece of paper obtained after a brief conversation on the Couch Surfing website merely 3 days prior.
Armed with the limited French vocabulary that was forced upon me in the first year of high school some 20 years earlier by a foul smelling French teacher with an alleged allergy to perfumed products (deodorant, soap, body wash, aftershave ect.), I managed to navigate my way into the heart of Paris and along the cobblestone streets echoing with piano accordions, past the delightful smelling French patisseries and cafes, finally arriving at a big black arched doorway of a white walled sandstone building with the corresponding address to that of which I'd been seeking.
Food is as much of a universal language as French is the language of love (according to incurable romantic Pepé Le Pew). Apparently I had arrived quite unexpectedly, two days early in fact, but once I identified myself as a chef who was willing to cook, plans were changed, phone calls made, extra guests arrived, bottles of corked French wine were popped, and great times were had by all. It was a very pleasant and memorable experience, surrounded by so many new faces, and I really wish I could have prolonged the experience, however I was flying to Sweden the following morning at 8:00am where I would be spending the next 8 days studying for the mandatory STCW95 certificate that's required to work on "the white boats", also known as super yachts.
"You look damn happy! Did you get a job just now!?!" Came the question from one my South African roomies as I flung open the door to our rented one bedroom apartment in the picturesque town Juan-les-Pins, located between Nice and Cannes in the south of France.
It had been just over 5 weeks since I'd Arrived in Paris and I was really loving my European adventures so far. After Sweden I had based myself in Switzerland for 2 weeks, completely in awe of the historical monuments and architecture that dated back centuries before Australia was even colonized. Swiss chocolate and cheese factories were crossed off the bucket list as well as a mind blowing panoramic glass top train ride from Zurich to Geneva through the breath taking Swiss Alps.
Stepping off the plane in Nice on a balmy evening in May 2010, it was time to get serious. The super yacht industry was what had drawn me to Europe in the first place and it had been almost a full two months and seven countries since my last Canadian pay cheque.
Needless to say my funds were getting dangerously low.
Dockwalking is the art of going from yacht to yacht, town to town, day after day, handing out resumes seeking employment and networking with anyone and everyone from the barman at a restaurant to every crew agency in the south of France, no matter how long it takes until you have found yourself a position on a yacht.
For someone with no offshore experience, the odds are stacked against you, no matter how impressive your CV may be, and I witnessed first hand hoards of people giving up after constant rejection and abandoning their dream of working in the yachting industry because it was too hard to get a job or because they should have been here last month.
For me, there was no plan B, I had come to Europe to be a chef on a super yacht, and I was willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
My day started every morning at 5:00am and often didn't end until around 11:00pm that night. I'd hit every port town between Marseille and Monaco while the sun was up, then network the "crew bars" in the evenings as it's all about "who you know" and "being in the right place at the right time."
I spent the first week staying in a crew house in Antibes (basically an over crowded hostel) which was costing 20 Euro per night, but then moved into a 1 bedroom apartment with two South African girls which reduced my rent to 70 Euro per week. I was surviving off 4 Euros per day which bought me two delicious freshly baked French baguettes, and on the 14th day straight of dockwalking, I had set myself a goal of handing out 15 resumes, the 13th resume for the day was a "Yes!" I had 70 Euros left to my name.
The white boat industry is a lavish multi trillion dollar industry that's a cesspool of extreme extravagance. Attracting Hollywood celebrities, billionaires and millionaires alike, elite sporting professionals, wealthy (and often corrupt) politicians, Russian and Italian Mafioso, international company executives, successful business owners, elite escort agencies and various other legitimate and "not so legitimate" groups and individuals who's sole purpose is to supply the insatiable demand for the high end top quality "products and services" as preferenced by the clients on board.
Working on a super yacht has a very sexy stigma attached to it, and rightfully so.
However it's not all Dom Perignon, foie gras and caviar, especially for for the crew.
You will have your share of sleepless nights, demanding celebrities and asshole clients that are never satisfied, no matter how much you and your ship's crew do for them, but for the best part of the season, the majority of the guests on board will be very humble and extremely lovely.
The Mediterranean is a must see destination, and what better way to see it than from a super yacht, better yet, getting paid to see it from a super yacht.
Imagine the stunning views of the Amalfi Coast, Positano and Capri from the sea, or Ibiza, the Greek Islands, Corsica and Sardinia. What about the Monte Carlo Grad Prix, the Cannes Film Festival or the extravagantly over priced stunning port of St. Tropez?
There's just something about waking up in your cabin and trying to remember which country you're in right now, or standing on the bow of your yacht under a moonless bright stary night listening to the gentle sound of your wake splashing by as the warm salty Mediterranean air caresses your face. The soothing sensation of sipping on quality aged spirits and fine wines, the unmistakable smell of Cuban cigars, the summery sounds of the European port town beach parties and the excitement of meeting someone in a crew bar and being asked "your yacht or mine?"
As the Mediterranean summer draws to a close, a large majority of yachts will then spend the best part of a fortnight sailing across the equator, finally arriving in the Caribbean where they will spend the next 6 -7 months being chartered around exotic tropical islands surrounded by coral reefs where spiced rum, palm trees, reggae music, warm water, white sandy beaches and salsa dancing is the way of life.
Back at the crew house as the weather got cooler, I consulted my backpack for warm clothes. Buried at the bottom under a few pairs of board shorts, t-shirts and singlets, I found a pair of jeans and my Canadian hoodie. Everything else had been posted back to Australia before I had left Whistler at the start of April and I wasn't about to waste money on buying more clothes. It was time to move on, but where to next?
There was a world map on the wall in the dinning room where I was enjoying a freshly baked French baguette, however this time I could afford to buy ingredients to put inside.
Without a second thought, I took a small piece of the gourmet delight that I was munching on, balled it up and flicked it at the map. Splat!
Hmmm I thought to myself, Thailand you say?
My mind shot back to that faithful night that I was thrown out of MGM Casino in Las Vegas some 7.5 years earlier where I remembered the two brothers telling me about a place called Phuket in Thailand where everything was amazing and you could have whatever you liked. That sounded pretty good to me.
3 days later I landed in Phuket Thailand, no local currency, no accommodation booked, travelling solo and no understanding of the language...
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