“I had to leave yachts due to obligatory military service in Turkey, but, this was the right time for me to settle down in Turkey. I was married and I was looking for a new challenge at the same time,” starts Can Akaltan, who recently assumed the position of general manager at Cesme Marina in Turkey. “The marina industry is a whole different challenge, no matter how much you learn, there’s still a lot of things where you can go further, investigate further and learn more,” he says, following his sharp rise through the management ranks at Cesme.
For Aeneas Hollins, director of yachting at Christophe Harbour, his journey was a little different. Hollins qualified as a captain in 2000 and moved ashore to Christophe Harbour as Buddy Darby, the owner of the yacht S/Y Andromeda La Dea, began developing the marina in St Kitts. “I actually begged the boss, I was his captain for five years before he acquiesced and let me come ashore,” reveals Hollins, “My transition was relatively easy as I moved to shore to work for Buddy, who was the owner of the boat, who recognised the potential to have yacht crew run his marina”.
A huge benefit of being an ex-captain is the innate knowledge of what yachts need and want from a marina, ensuring clear communication and smooth interaction between all parties. “I think the main advantage of having worked on yachts is empathy. You know exactly what a captain thinks coming in, so you feed him the right information with the right language. You know exactly how the owner feels - he’s looking for security, privacy and boutique places. The crew wants to go and socialise, they want to reach provisions easily and quickly” says Akaltan.
Hollins agrees, “When [yachts] come in, we speak their language. It’s simple because we get each other and we can be complete much quicker than if you don’t recognise their systems and procedures aboard and their particular guest requirements, which we cotton on to extremely quickly.”
Is the sheer volume of vessel management difficult at times? “[On a yacht] you work for one owner or one charter guest, whereas in a marina you try to satisfy a large number of boats,” Akaltan acknowledges, “However, the principle is still the same: to give the best service available and to go beyond expectation.”
It’s not just a high level of service that captains can ensure transmits across the water, but also key skills learnt from their time aboard, “It’s pretty easy for us to write a list of transferable skills and non-transferable skills. For example, driving the boat isn’t very transferable, but being cool under pressure is extremely transferable,” Hollins argues.
Akaltan sees his new role as general manager as the perfect combination, “I think for a captain, a marina is the closest place that you can work shoreside, because you’re still close to yachts. You still sail and you get out, but you come home at night, that’s the difference.”
For Hollins, he has been so deeply involved in the development of Christophe Harbour that his expertise is intrinsically woven into the marina, “We’ve built the marina from scratch and I’ve been here since day one. As a marina manager, as a representative of the company and certainly as a large yacht expert, it’s really valued, so I sit on a lot of committees and do a lot of workshops and forums with the local government to enhance the bigger product. And that’s part of the joy of being a marina manager.”
So, would he head back into the open water? “I do occasionally get romantic about the idea of going on a delivery trip, or to a remote place somewhere,” Hollins admits, “But I’m still ensconced and committed to this now, it is unlikely that I would go back.”