Captain Mattia Dzaja is the captain of 50m sloop Ohana, which launched from Fitzroy Yachts in 2012. Having worked for Ohana’s owner for many years on his previous yacht, he then spent the final year of the build living in New Zealand, working alongside the yard team on the final stages of this custom project. Like her predecessor, the new Ohana was designed with charter in mind, and Dzaja shared some insight on running a successful charter yacht, and maintaining a happy and busy crew, with

On chartering

A good average of charter weeks is eight weeks in the summer, plus two or three weeks in the winter in the Caribbean. That’s a good average on top of the owner’s time on board as well. We are happy to have short gaps between charters; all we need is 36 hours between guests. At the end of the day it’s a floating hotel, but fast and it can sail! With the summer season being so short we have to squeeze in as much as we can and so I usually aim for eight weeks. If it’s a low season, and most yachts are in the marina because no one is chartering, we will sometimes drop our price in the winter. It’s better to use the yacht, because running the yacht has a cost. If I leave the yacht in the marina for a week it costs money, but if I charter at a reduced rate I am still making money so it’s better than nothing. The owner doesn’t have the possibility to spend a lot of time on board, so why not charter? It’s good for the crew as well to not get bored in the marina.

On running a successful charter yacht

Charter is not a business to gain money, just a business to reduce the expenses and help the owner to keep the yacht going. We run the yacht as a service. Everything always comes back to the same meaning of Ohana [family in Hawaaian]. I would like it to be that all of my crew who decide to stay on board do so because they love their job, because they are comfortable on board, because there is a good ambience and of course because it’s well paid. It’s important to have a happy crew who love their work.

On the importance of good service

A charter is a holiday for people coming here and it’s a very expensive holiday so I just feel we always need to deliver completely. It’s the same as when you go to a restaurant and if a dish comes out that is not what you were expecting it’s not fair. At a restaurant I am paying real money, so I expect top quality from them, especially if I am paying a lot. If you go to McDonalds it doesn’t matter because you are paying for what you get, but on a yacht charter you are paying such a large amount of money that the service has to be of the best quality.

On chartering with families

We often charter with families. One summer we had two kids who played tennis, and my engineer played tennis too and so we planned that on the charter of two weeks that we would stop every other day close to a tennis court so they could go play tennis. Of course the parents did not always want to go with them because they liked to relax, but my engineer was happy to so he would take the three kids in a taxi, play tennis at the club, play for two hours and come back again. Similarly, last year we had some kids on board and they wanted to learn to sail and so Matteo (first mate) and I taught them. They were happy, the parents were happy and actually it gives us the chance to switch off our minds for a few hours and enjoy doing something else. But you have to find the right crewmember that wants to do that kind of hands on charter work. If they see it as a job, it unfortunately doesn’t work. It’s a good challenge.

On good design that combines form and function

One reason we went for a quite simple yacht inside is so that we can be ready to sail in ten minutes. If the owner or guests says ‘lets go sailing’ we don’t have to spend 45 minutes fastening lamps and expensive sculptures and 200 chairs. How can you expect the crew to enjoy sailing if before and after sailing they have to work for an hour to prepare the yacht? This will inevitably mean that they will dread sailing and it becomes difficult. With Ohana it’s very easy to just go. If you approach it like that, the crew really enjoy sailing and it’s enjoyable for them and that impacts on the guest experience too.

On working as crew

It is a job but it should be done by people who love their job, and lucky for me I get paid to do a job I love to do. The owner – going back to the meaning of Ohana – has always welcomed my family on board. It means a lot, but he knows what is important, and it helps keep crew.

Images: Gio Copello.

A full article on sailing yacht Ohana, with insight from Captain Dzaja, appeared in issue 141 of The Superyacht Report. To subscribe to The Superyacht Report please click here.

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