So often, owners deplore crew as their biggest frustration in yachting, but what happens when one of the yacht’s crewmembers also happens to be its owner? In a preview of issue 70 of The Crew Report, Lulu Trask speaks to those few lucky enough to be in this unique position and asks them (and their captains) how the dual role affects and impacts operations and relationships on board.

Captain Kayne Satchell and his wife and chief stewardess Paula (far left and far right), with the Ducharmes on board Black Gold. Credit: the Ducharmes

Upon his retirement, John Spenlinhauer III took up the position of captain on his 27.5m motoryacht Tivoli; at the same time his captain was unfortunately required to step down due to illness. “I said to the brokers that we could hire a new captain that none of us know or I have my licence and could do it myself,” he says.

Although now having stepped down as the yacht’s captain because of other commitments, during his time at the helm, Spenlinhauer III ran deliveries to the South Pacific and took the yacht from New England to Antigua, from Antigua through the Panama Canal and from there to the South Pacific. “Being the captain and owner of a superyacht is actually a lot of fun. I think most of [the guests] enjoy the fact that I am not just any ordinary captain. I have done many other things in my life, have a lot in common with some of them [and] they can relate to me. I go up into the captain’s cabin, which has a full double bed and its own en suite, and just relax. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

"I need to swallow my pride a little sometimes, or not have such an ego about it and take over that mate position as we leave the dock."

Without an additional captain on board Tivoli, there is no possibility of a tug-of-war of knowledge and responsibility – something that has the potential to affect the relationship between a captain and owner when the latter holds his or her own captain’s licence. This was a concern for Captain Kayne Satchell when he joined the Ducharmes’ 34m motoryacht Black Gold three-and-a-half years ago. “It was a difficult transition for me at the start, to give [the owner] that responsibility. This is a bigger boat [than those he’s driven in the past] with different systems on board, so that does make a little bit of an issue sometimes, but I shut my mouth and keep going,” explains Captain Satchell. “I need to swallow my pride a little sometimes, or not have such an ego about it and take over that mate position as we leave the dock. That’s one of the things I’ve learned, to just take it. However, we manage it really well and it ends up being an extremely good relationship.”

Captain Gerard Huide, M/Y Sherakhan. Credit: Jan Verkerk

The potential difficulties of an owner choosing to take on the responsibilities of a captain are significantly lessened, however, when the owner has a strong background in the industry itself. This is the case on board 70m motoryacht Sherakhan, whose owner, Jan Verkerk, has been supported on board by Captain Gerard Huige for the past two years. “I know that the situation of an owner who acts like a captain does not sound very attractive to most of us captains, and I was also quite sceptical about this, but you have to know Jan Verkerk to understand this situation, explains Captain Huige. “I met Jan for the first time about eight years ago and started working for him in 2012. We always had a good connection and since I’ve begun working for him that didn’t change.”

Find the full article with extended comments these and more crew in issue 70, the Monaco Yacht Show issue, of The Crew Report click here to download.