A busy charter yacht can be a demanding environment to work in, as crew have a short period to gage and impress their guests. This means a certain type of crew is needed to operate it successfully. We spoke to Captain Ferdi Heymann of 45m motoryacht Latitude, a yacht with a full charter programme, about the specific challenges that come with working on such a yacht, and how this means a certain skillset is needed from crew, one that differs to that needed on a private yacht.

"The yacht needs a lot of energy," begun Captain Heymann, "Not just from the aspect of maintaining it, because it’s a big boat for only nine crew, but also for the amount of charters we have – guests feed off our energy." And this was particularly true for the crew on board Latitude this season. "We came into the med season late this year,” he continued. “So we had to hit the ground running which needed very experienced crew. We didn’t have time to train anyone so all the crew had to come in and do their job straightaway and that’s always tough on some people."

Motoryacht Latitude. Credit: Peter Seyfferth

A charter yacht with such a busy schedule can take on a totally different working environment to other yachts, which in turn throws up different challenges for the crew. “On charter you have to be quick and energetic all the time and maintain it throughout the week because you have got a very short period to impress the guests,” says Captain Heymann. “It’s slightly different to private where you learn to know the owner over a longer period of time and you can fine-tune his exact programme. In the end you can deliver for a private owner at a higher level of service, much higher than you would expect on a charter. An owner can sit down and things happen around him without anyone speaking. That is the kind of service that you will end up giving with a private owner, which is exceptional but there is no way that you can ever do that without knowing someone.”
But this does not mean that working on a charter yacht requires less expertise, Captain Heymann reveals. “While on the private side the service level can be higher,” he explains. “You find that it is normally a much more relaxed environment to work in; the crew don’t have to be so spontaneous the whole time because they know the history of the owner and everything is planned. With charter nothing is planned until it starts happening. So charter is a challenge and if you want to be successful; it’s that attention to detail that you need and making things happen quickly and efficiently all the time, so that the guests are constantly impressed.”

"In the end you can deliver for a private owner at a higher level of service, much higher than you would expect on a charter."

 “It suits me because it’s different and it changes from day to day; we get to meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life,” Captain Heymann continues. “The guests are here for a short time but it’s interesting and it’s good for the crew to have that challenge; to try and find out what makes the guests happy. Because sometimes it is difficult; there’s no clues. Little things can alter a guest’s experience, for example, maybe we are putting the towels on the seating area and they wanted to sit there but they feel uncomfortable because then they have to move the towels. Stuff like that happens so it can come down to the tiny details.”

Working on a busy charter yacht can be a manic and high-pressure role, as crew have to maintain a high level of interest and energy on board for the period of a week, ten days or sometimes more. As such, charter yachts can demand a specific attitude and skillset from its crew. “You have got to have intuition and experience on board,” says Captain Heymann, “Because the crew need to be thinking of things before they happen and planning ahead for any eventuality.”