One of the things that differentiates the superyacht industry from its maritime counterparts is the people in it. Whether that’s the owners, the guests, the yacht managers or the crew, there’s an element of something real about this industry, something I didn’t get when I worked in the merchant navy.
In fact, that’s why I left the merchant navy. It was getting too big, and there were just too many people to have proper, human relationships. I remember when I first joined yachting 10 years ago, I was told that, as a chief officer, I had weekends off. Obviously, this isn’t the case for all (or even many) superyachts, but there was an understanding that I would benefit from having my weekends available. In the commercial world, you would work for the duration of your contract without having any days off. So despite many complaints about the long hours for those working on charter yachts, especially busy ones, that time off is still closer than if one were to work on board a commercial ship.
What perhaps makes the superyacht on which I work most ‘human’ is that we have 15 different nationalities on board, something I’d recommend to any captain where appropriate to meeting an owners’ requirements. Of course, with a large crew of 36 (during the busy season), it’s easier to have a wider range of nationalities. Often you hear about exceptionally large yachts with very large crews being compared to a hotel or a business, without that level of crew interaction. But I don’t think that has to be the case. Of course, having 15 nationalities is, in many ways, more complicated, but it’s also better. We all have different experiences and it’s fun to learn from our differences, and work with them proactively and successfully. It’s obviously working for the crew, too; my chief officer has been here for 11 years, and my bosun for 10 years. I really think this mix of nationalities is the heart of the boat.
It’s also incredibly important to let those members of the crew experience the boat. By that I mean they need to be mentored so they can improve their careers. On a yacht of this size and tonnage, the Officer of the Watch (I have one chief officer and two second mates) is responsible for sailing the yacht during his watch. Experience is gained daily throughout these watches, although always under the captain’s supervision and with my assistance at all times. With time spent together, your officers’ confidence is gained, and it is good to give them opportunities to manoeuvre the yacht inside the port. They need to be given a chance to improve and believe in themselves.
It’s incredibly important to let those members of the crew experience the boat. By that I mean they need to be mentored so they can improve their careers.
Continuing this human experience off the boat is just as important. I’ve heard from colleagues that other management companies in the industry will be giving the captain orders without even having had a face-to-face conversation with them. With our management company, it’s more down to earth. We’ve known each other for a long time, and we’ll regularly meet for lunch or dinner to discuss what needs to be discussed. As with the crew, this relationship is like a family. Again, this comes with good and bad – we quarrel and have different opinions at times, but we’re in it together and, as a result, it works well.
Sadly, the masses of paperwork and regulations made the commercial sector less ‘human’, and yachting is heading that way. In the bridge, I have reams of paperwork, but it’s still better than in the commercial world and, we have to remember, it’s in the name of safety.
Perhaps it sounds strange talking about the idea that an industry full of humans could really benefit from being ‘more human’, but it’s important to remember that whatever our titles, whether that be captain, owner, manager or crew, we’re all people and we all benefit from that level of human interaction.
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