The superyacht industry craves crew longevity, but there tends to be an expectation that crew should change boats every couple of years in order to optimise their experience and vary their knowledge. In contrast to this notion, Captain Ben Chaplin has worked on board 38.6m motoryacht Katrion since he started in the industry as a deckhand 11 years ago. In a preview to issue 70, TCR catches up with him to discuss the pros and cons to this fairly unique career path for the industry.

Katrion in Norway. Credit: Christian Demaillet

“It mainly comes down to the owner and friendly atmosphere on board between the crew and the guests,” explains Captain Ben Chaplin when asked about his decision to stay on Katrion for the length of his superyacht career so far. “I am the fourth permanent captain, so that demonstrates the longevity on board in itself. The previous captains always encouraged me to complete my courses, to knuckle down and keep motivated in order to progress up the ladder.”

Combine this cultivating atmosphere with Katrion’s unique and diverse cruising habits, which in the past have included the Baltic Sea, Scotland and the Great Lakes, and Captain Chaplin’s loyalty to the boat seems reasonable. “The owner likes to go off the beaten track, which is refreshing for all the crew,” says Captain Chaplin. “Especially for me, one of the reasons that I am still on board is because I love the adventure that comes with traveling and exploring new places.”

With this kind of longevity fairly unheard of in the world of superyacht crew, it is interesting to learn about some of the reasons behind his career choices along the way. “As mate, before I stepped up to being captain, I did have a few thoughts about whether or not I should move on to get a bit more experience on bigger boats, charter boats and maybe even sailing boats,” he admits. “But then a few people stated that if I stayed my loyalty would be rewarded.”

"I believe that there could have been advantages for me to move on, but on the other hand I was lucky to be offered the opportunity to become captain after about seven years in the industry.”

Other than some day work, and one Atlantic crossing on a 75m motoryacht as chief mate in order to accrue sea time, Captain Chaplin has not had experience working on other boats. Reflecting on this, he does recognise some of the drawbacks that come with working solely on one yacht. “Maybe I have missed out somewhat on the variety of experience I could have gained. Every boat is different, so I had the potential to interact with larger crew and different owners and/or charter guests with different demands. There are also different types of equipment and tenders to work with,” he acknowledges. “Working under the direction of different captains is also important because everybody has their own management style. I have learnt from all the various captains I have worked with on Katrion, but it is still on the same boat.”

For Captain Chaplin, however, it does seem that the pros far outweigh the cons, especially when it comes to performing in his role as captain. “It helps because when new crew come on board I can help train them properly to the needs of the boat,” he explains. “Because I have come to know the owner and guests so well, I’ve learned their habits, likes and dislikes. It keeps the operation running smoothly. The owner only comes on board about 10 weeks per year and if there is crew turnover it could become disjointed. One of the benefits of having me around still is that I help make the transitions between crew and the different [guests] fairly seamless.”

Having now had three-and-a-half years in the role of captain and looking back on his experience, Captain Chaplin does not regret his decision to stay on Katrion. “I believe that there could have been advantages for me to move on, but on the other hand I was lucky to be offered the opportunity to become captain after about seven years in the industry,” he explains. “It is a different experience. I could have gone on to be mate on another boat but as captain I have total responsibility and more interaction with the owner as well as with the higher-level personnel in our management company.”

Read the full interview with Captain Ben Chaplin in issue 70 of The Crew Report - click here to download.

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