#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Captain Ken Bracewell. Photo: Matt Parker

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Captain Ken Bracewell. Photo: Matt Parker

#humansofyachting

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

The captain of superyacht Berilda on finding a job that never feels like work.

By Dominique Afacan | 12 March 2019

“I’m from Ontario in Canada and my father is in the dinner-cruise business on the Great Lakes. I think he bought his first boat when I was about seven years old so I grew up around them and also learned a lot about customer service and hospitality from a young age. I’m 47 now and I’ve got a lot of years of being a captain behind me, more so than most of my contemporaries, as not many people get their first drive until they are 30. I got mine at 23.

I was pursuing a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering with the intention of designing superyachts when I started running a private charter boat for someone on a casual basis. It led to other similar jobs and eventually I got asked to go out to Italy and supervise a new build for one of my clients. I ended up dropping out of university and heading to Viareggio to do the job. I didn’t know much about the superyacht industry until that year but I realised it was a good career and quickly progressed through the ranks, running larger and larger boats.

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Ken and his father, circa 1980

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Ken and his father, circa 1980

Some of the people I worked for along the way have become really good friends and still are to this day. I’ve been on board Berilda since September and even though that’s a relatively short time for me, I already know that the owners are just lovely people. Currently, we are in the Caribbean and we’ll spend this coming summer in New England. When the owner retires in a year or so, we have plans to go down and do the South Pacific.

The last two yachts I worked on both belonged to retired owners, which is great as they tend to want to spend a lot of time on the boat. It opens up a lot more opportunities, as you’re not going from airport to airport; you can really go out and get lost until the provisions run out. The owners of one of my previous boats, Rena, are prime examples of that. We’d spend months at a time sailing. They became great friends, as we’d have dinner together every night. Even now, if we find ourselves in the same area, we’ll still meet up.

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Berilda

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Berilda

I’ve been to some really great places over the course of my career, but I do have my favourites. Tonga is one of them – it has three sort of separate areas. The northern group of islands is where all the bareboat charters are – but then there’s the middle section, which is very remote. There, you’ll find little villages and some of the best whale watching I’ve seen anywhere in my life. We could be sitting at anchor and at any given moment I could just look up and scan the horizon for 30 seconds and see a whale breaching.

Scotland is another favourite of mine. I took a 45m boat through the Caledonian Canal there. I love the pure, vast beauty of the place, with those sloping grass hills and mountains in the background. There’s a lot of culture, too. We toured around and I was even able to bottle some Scotch right out of the cask for my father, which was a nice gift to give him.

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Ken in front of the hull of Evviva. Photo: Jonny Gedye

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

Ken in front of the hull of Evviva. Photo: Jonny Gedye

I also adore the Exumas in the Bahamas. I’ve been sailing all around the world but every time I come back there, I just kind of look at them and say, ‘wow, this is right in the backyard of Florida.’ I’ve also been lucky enough to have private dive guides in some pretty spectacular locations. It’s hard to compare anywhere with Indonesia and French Polynesia.

One of the most important things about being a yacht captain is figuring out what everybody needs from the experience – that goes for both the owner and the crew. Then you find a way to blend those two things.

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

The crew of Evviva celebrating Christmas together. Photo: Jonny Gedye

#humansofyachting – Ken Bracewell

The crew of Evviva celebrating Christmas together. Photo: Jonny Gedye

I’ve witnessed a lot of family trips on superyachts and I think they are a great thing, particularly when the kids are in the teens. You have them captive for a week, but you’re also giving them fun things to do, so they’ve got stimulation, whether it’s jet skis, beach picnics, fishing – the list goes on. Everybody wins. The kids win because they’ve got a fantastic vacation and the parents win because they get to spend super quality time with their kids.

I still have a few places on my bucket list. I really would love to get into some high latitude cruising, so I’d like to make it to Antarctica and the Northwest Passage. But overall, I am pretty happy where I am. If you have a job that you love, you never need to go to work.”

Get a taste of the superyachting good life at the Monaco Yacht Show from 25 to 28 September 2019. Get your tickets here.

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