The superyacht captain on crossing oceans and creating memories.
“When I look back on my work history, I realise that actually everything I did in my past led up to superyachting. I was educated as an engineer, I worked on computers, I went into BP as a deck cadet and I did interior design. All of those facets of my career led me into yachting and stood me in good stead.Travelling is also in my blood, which helps. My father was in the Air Force, so we moved to a new location every two or three years as I was growing up.
My time as a deck cadet was my first experience of the maritime industry; I got to see the Amazon and the Congo and sailed to Japan; it really was the most unusual experience for someone in a tanker fleet! Eventually, I came back and set up a company specialising in computer-aided design. It was from there that I was introduced to yachting because we had our own boat that we used for corporate entertainment. When I got a bit burnt out from computing, the chairman suggested I take a year out and run the yacht for them.
It was on my first crossing to the Caribbean that I really experienced superyachts. My most formative experience was seeing a lovely old Feadship called Aurora in Antigua – the captain invited me on board to have a look round and I was just blown away by it. The finish, the engineering, the number of crew – it was all mindblowing. I hadn’t really thought of it as a long term career at that point, but this got me hooked. I decided maybe this was for me.
My first motoryacht was Echo and I couldn’t have wanted for a better introduction. Here was an owner who really opened my eyes to the possibilities of yachting. He was a tough businessman, but it was incredible to see how his experiences on board and in the water changed his persona. The smile on his face when he used to come out of the water was incredible to see. On one occasion, he and his family jumped in the water with a pod of dolphins and swam with them – when he came back he said it was the most life affirming moment that he’d ever experienced. The time spent on yachts actually changes people. That exposure to nature that you bring to people like him makes them understand and want to invest in sustainability.
Yachting offers people a real sense of freedom. From finding those beautiful coves in the Ionian where you can be the only boat in the bay and you can hear your family’s voices echoing off the surrounding mountains, to sitting in the fjords in Chile and watching the glaciers carve. That’s what yachting is all about – beyond Monaco and St Tropez. You can see the weight of the world dropping off the owners’ shoulders as they step on board.
For children, too, yachting is incredible. They come onto the bridge, they talk to you about your job and they want to steer the boat. These are all great – and educational – things. Plus, they see and mix with people that they may not otherwise mix with – especially when you consider that the crew are from all walks of life.
I have so many memorable moments. One was cruising in the Chilean fjords. The remoteness and the wilderness and the scenery was breathtaking – the Andes in the background and the sound of glaciers carving and the waves that would come off them was incredible. Another was visiting Stromboli, sitting on the boat in the middle of the night watching the volcano erupt and the lava coming down the mountain. Crossing oceans too is special, when the ocean is like crude oil – so flat but with undulating swells – and there is phosphorescence from the wake. Those are the things that stay in your memory bank; when you look up on a starry night in that situation without any background light at all, you realise how small we are. It feels like you’re the only people in the world.”