Understanding the Yacht Crew Rankings

Published 11/08/2023

When it comes to the world of luxury yachts and superyachts, a well-organised and efficient crew is essential for the smooth operation and enjoyment of these magnificent vessels. Each crew member plays a vital role in ensuring that the yacht and its guests are well taken care of. To maintain order and clarify responsibilities, the yachting industry has established a hierarchical structure that outlines the ranks and positions within the crew.


Yachting Hierarchy

The yachting industry employs a range of professionals, each with their own set of skills and responsibilities. From the captain who commands the vessel to the deckhands who ensure its cleanliness, every crew member has a specific role to fulfil. Let’s take a closer look at the various ranks within the yachting hierarchy:

Yacht crew rankings chart


At the top of the hierarchy sits the captain, also known as the master. The captain is responsible for the overall operation of the yacht, including navigation, safety, and compliance with maritime regulations. Captains have extensive knowledge and experience in sailing, and their decisions hold the utmost authority on board. The captain oversees the entire crew, manages guest interactions, and ensures that the yacht operates smoothly.

First Officer

The first officer, also referred to as the chief officer, is second in command after the captain. They assist the captain in navigation, safety procedures, and crew management. The first officer is responsible for maintaining the yacht’s logbook, coordinating maintenance and repairs, and overseeing the deck crew. They often have excellent navigational skills and play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the vessel.

Second Officer

The second officer supports the first officer in various duties, such as navigation and safety. They are responsible for maintaining the yacht’s charts and nautical publications, as well as updating navigational equipment. The second officer also assists with the management of the deck crew and contributes to the overall smooth operation of the yacht.

Chief Engineer

The chief engineer holds a crucial role in maintaining and operating the yacht’s mechanical systems. They oversee the engineering department and ensure that the engines, generators, and other technical systems are functioning optimally. The chief engineer is responsible for maintenance, repairs, and the safety of the yacht’s machinery. Their expertise is essential for the smooth functioning of the vessel.


Deckhands are responsible for various tasks related to the maintenance and cleanliness of the yacht. They assist with docking, anchoring, and handling lines. Deckhands also maintain the yacht’s exterior, including washing, polishing, and painting surfaces. They play an important role in guest services, ensuring that the decks are tidy and providing assistance as needed.


Stewards and stewardesses, also known as interior crew or hospitality crew, focus on providing exceptional service to the guests inside the luxury yacht or superyacht. They are responsible for housekeeping duties, including cleaning cabins, making beds, and ensuring the yacht’s interior is pristine. Stewards and stewardesses also assist with table service, bartending, and event planning. Their attention to detail and excellent hospitality skills contribute to an unforgettable guest experience.


The chef onboard a yacht is responsible for creating exquisite meals and catering to guests’ dietary preferences. They design menus, source ingredients, and prepare delicious dishes that meet the highest culinary standards. The chef’s expertise is crucial in satisfying the gastronomic desires of the yacht’s guests and creating memorable dining experiences.

Chief Steward/Stewardess

The chief steward or stewardess oversees the interior department and coordinates the work of other interior crew members. They manage the service schedule, maintain inventories, and ensure that the guests’ needs are met. The chief steward or stewardess is responsible for maintaining high standards of cleanliness, organisation, and guest satisfaction within the interior department.


Last but certainly not least is the Cadet, often a junior member undergoing training to become a licensed officer. Imagine them as corporate interns, picking up skills under the tutelage of more seasoned team members. Cadets receive practical experience in a variety of capacities, gaining the know-how and abilities required to advance within the yachting industry. The Cadet, by assimilating knowledge from seasoned professionals and contributing to the operational performance of the yacht, essentially represents the future leaders of the yachting industry.
A cadetship is a great method to obtain experience and knowledge if you’re thinking about a career in the yachting industry. Our cadetship course is developed to give aspirants the tools they need to succeed in this fast-paced setting.


On board a UKSA yacht


What is an Epaulette?

In the yachting world, epaulettes play a significant role in identifying a crew member’s rank and authority. Epaulettes are decorative shoulder pieces worn on the uniform, displaying the individual’s rank through different stripes, badges, or other markings. These distinctive insignia serve as visual cues that allow both the crew and guests to quickly identify the roles and responsibilities of each crew member.


Crew & Captains Epaulettes Guide

The design of uniform epaulettes varies depending on the rank and position within the yacht’s crew.

Captain’s Epaulette

The captain’s epaulette typically features four gold stripes, symbolising their highest rank and authority on board. This distinguished marking indicates that the captain is responsible for the overall command and operation of the yacht.

Officer’s Epaulette

The epaulettes worn by officers often display three stripes, representing their position of authority and responsibility. The specific design and colour of the stripes may vary depending on the officer’s rank, such as the first officer or second officer.

Chief Engineer’s Epaulette

The chief engineer’s epaulette usually consists of two stripes, highlighting their expertise in the engineering department. These epaulettes indicate their responsibility for the proper functioning and maintenance of the yacht’s mechanical systems.

Deckhand’s Epaulette

Deckhands typically wear epaulettes without any stripes or with a single stripe, denoting their role as support staff within the deck department. Their primary responsibilities involve assisting with various tasks related to the maintenance and cleanliness of the yacht.

Steward/Stewardess’ Epaulette

The epaulettes worn by stewards and stewardesses can vary in design depending on the yacht’s specific uniform code. They often feature a single stripe or other distinctive markings that highlight their roles in providing exceptional service to guests.

Chef’s Epaulette

The chef’s epaulette usually showcases their culinary expertise through unique markings or badges. These epaulettes signify their responsibility for creating exquisite meals and ensuring a delightful dining experience for the yacht’s guests.

Chief Steward/Stewardess’ Epaulette

The chief steward or stewardess may wear epaulettes that highlight their leadership role within the interior department. These epaulettes often feature distinctive markings or additional stripes, distinguishing them from other stewards and stewardesses.

Understanding the yacht crew hierarchy and the significance of epaulettes is crucial for both crew members and those interested in the yachting industry. The clear structure and rank system contribute to the efficient operation of superyachts and luxury yachts, ensuring that each crew member knows their responsibilities and roles. Next time you step onboard a yacht, take a moment to appreciate the expertise and coordination among the crew members, making your experience memorable and enjoyable.