Q&A with Seafarer Sailing Holidays
At a time when the Med season for UK holiday makers would normally be in full swing, UKSA Director of Training and Operations, Chris Frisby speaks to Joe Snowdon and John Connolly from Seafarer Sailing Holidays about the impact COVID pandemic has had on their operations, their plans for the rest of the season and what they look out for when recruiting their staff.
As you come to the end of the first week of your 2020 season in your 25 year, what are your reflections on the past few months?
It has been an interesting time, like any other travel company our plans for 2020 have had to change somewhat and we have had to adapt to different working practices very quickly. Normally we would look to have staff training and start a number of our operations in late April but this year that was not to be.
One thing we decided quite early on was the need to stay engaged with our guests during this tricky time and we have put on a full program of activities during this period. This has included live Q&As on Facebook & Instagram, Virtual Regatta, Virtual Nights via Zoom and Youtube Videos. This has been really nice and is something we will probably continue with even after the current situation is over.
As your operations resume, how have you adapted your products and services to enable you to get your customers and staff back on the water?
We’ve always believed that sailing trips are about as safe as holidays get at this time so we’ve been looking to open our bases as soon as we are allowed by British and Local Government advice. When it became apparent that July was looking like a likely date we started to do some very extensive Covid Risk Assessments to work out how we could minimize the risks on all parts of all our products. We have also been closely monitoring Greek & Croatian government guidelines on yachts and hotels so we make sure we stick to these standards.
On the Beach Club side, we are hoping to open Nikiana Beach Club, our main Dinghy Sailing Centre, on the 5th July to guests from all over Europe and we will be ramping up our operation as July progresses. The safety measures we have put in place for teaching sailing and windsurfing will both keep everyone safe and allow our guests to still have loads of water-based fun on holiday.
On the yachting side, some of our bases for bareboat charter are already open and we hope to open our flotillas and training centres as soon as possible. Again we have very extensive safety measures in place including cleaning of yachts and use of equipment but these measures won’t affect how guests enjoy their holiday.
We have also realised that some people will not want to travel abroad this season and so we have launched a UK South Coast Flotilla for 3 Weeks in August and September. The easier route will go from Southampton to Weymouth and a harder route will go to the channel islands. We have numerous yachts available along with cabins on the lead yacht. Both of these are a great way of milebuilding in a tidal area. More information can be found here: https://seafarersailing.co.uk/flotillas/uk/
What skills and qualifications do you look for in your staff? What can candidates do to make themselves stand out?
At Seafarer we believe our staff are one of the most important elements of our holidays & courses and we take a lot of time to find the right people. We also tend to find quite a few of our staff stay with us and enjoy the freedom and responsibility of working for a small company with such a comprehensive range of sailing products.
On the Beach Club side as an RYA Sailing, Windsurfing and Powerboat Training Centre we are looking for RYA Dinghy & Windsurf Instructors with a real passion for the sport. The sort of people we employ will still be keen to get out sailing in the evening and be able to socialise with guests in an interesting and concise manner. Extra endorsements and qualifications are also really important to us as well as we teach the full RYA Training Scheme. The ones we are really looking for are Advanced Instructors for our fleet of Performance Boats, Multihull Endorsement and Powerboat Instructor. As an RYA Training Centre we also have a number of Senior Instructor Positions again for those with a passion for sailing and a great manner with our guests.
With regards to our flotilla crew, the key quality we look for is a desire to learn and gain experience – the Yachtmaster Offshore ticket proves one has the skill set, but flotilla is an ideal way to obtain concentrated experience “in the field”. Great skippers are sought after for what they are capable of, and that is a sum of their experience. Looking after a fleet of up to 12 yachts, with crews on board of mixed abilities, gives a keen sailor the chance to rapidly broaden their skill set and train, manage and guide a wide variety of clients from all walks of life – skills that are essential to being a great yacht skipper. When interviewing prospective crew, a natural desire for problem solving, working independently and a positive attitude will put candidates in a good position. For mate positions, a Day Skipper qualification is ideal, although a desire to learn and great customer facing skills are equally as important.
For our crewed charter yachts we look for those with more experience at sea, ideally 5000 miles for the skipper, half that for a first mate. Many of our crews progress within our company from flotilla crew, and indeed we pride ourselves in being able to offer crew a variety of roles within our company.
Finally for our RYA Training Centres in Greece, Croatia and the UK we are looking for RYA Cruising Instructors and Yachtmaster Instructors to deliver all levels of the RYA Yachtmaster Scheme. We’re looking for instructors who are knowledgeable and professional and can deliver the RYA Scheme to a high standard. They also need to understand about the holiday aspects of our courses and be sensitive to the needs of our guests.
What is your advice to those hoping to secure their first position as a Flotilla Skipper, Mate, Engineer or watersports instructor this season?
Those wishing to work this season need to understand that it’s not quite business as normal and due to the uncertainty of the situation flexibility will be required. We are entering slightly uncharted territory and those who are able to adapt will have the advantage. We’re hoping that as the season progresses more and more people will want to get on the water.
On a more practical note it’s worth sending in applications to any companies you are interested in applying for and don’t feel bad if they don’t get back to you as normal. Smaller companies won’t have a dedicated HR team and the person who looks after employment will probably be very busy and may not have time to reply to everyone. Even for larger companies staff will have been furloughed and may not be able to get back to you in the same way.
For those companies that you are interested in working for, follow their social media and newsletters to know exactly what they are doing and when they are hoping to open certain products. Liking and commenting on social media posts in a positive way is also a good way to stand up above the crowd (hint, hint). Mainly though we are preparing for a very strange season and it may not be possible to get your ideal role, but another might be just as rewarding and set you up well for the future.
About Seafarer Cruising & Sailing Holidays
Seafarer Cruising & Sailing Holidays have been taking people sailing holidays for over 25 years but are still a small company who can offer personal service. Our current portfolio includes 11 flotillas in 5 different countries, 2 Beach Clubs, 3 Cabin Charter bases and 3 RYA Cruising Schools along with worldwide bareboat opportunities.