Posted by: yachtcrewsing | October 22, 2011

What is the Difference Between a Superyacht Captain and God?

‘What is the difference between a superyacht captain and God?’
‘God doesn’t think he’s a superyacht captain.’

Thus goes the common joke in the yachting industry, one that (like most stereotypes) is not universally applicable but does bear elements of truth. I find that the vast majority of yacht captains can be placed in two categories: they are either supremely confident and bordering on the edge of cocky or they have happily relinquished themselves to the aforementioned category of supreme being. Very few superyacht captains can list ‘humble’ as a resumĂ© personality trait.

Yesterday I had drinks with three superyacht captains who, although lovely individuals, hilariously exemplify characteristics of these stereotypes. This meeting was occasioned by the fact that my old captain, a man I respect and owe a great deal to, was back in Newport for a few days from the central yachting port of Palma, Spain. The night began like the start of a mildly amusing joke (‘three captains and a blonde walk into a bar’), with the remainder of the night providing repeated punchlines.

The best descriptor of the general mood was that I was basically sitting in on the meeting of a British private school boys club, the men being older, taller, slightly wider and more wrinkled replicas of their former selves. This fraternity-esque nature of yacht captaincy is a sad manifestation of the strongly gender-role defined nature of the industry; I have only ever heard of one female superyacht captain.

It seems that this distinct commonality between most captains is not due to coincidence but rather to necessity. As a crew member and a yacht owner, a captain needs to be a person whom you trust explicitly. Our collective confidence in the captain needs to be a direct reflection of their own confidence in themselves; any divide between these parallel views would constitute a lack of respect or trust, both of which are fundamental to the successful functioning of a ship or yacht.

It is necessary on a yacht to maintain a distinctly hierarchical structure, more so than most other jobs. When at sea or in port, we need a singular person to go to for anything from emergencies to route plans to general how-to questions. Captains are meant to exist as authority figures not merely for matters of sailing, but also in areas of engineering and interior maintenance. When I lived on an old-style tall ship, the captain existed as a somewhat mystical figure who was only to be disturbed with matters of importance (and as the one to initiate an exhausting two hour process of setting all sails). In yachting, the captain has a much more humanized role- he or she is available at any point. They are simultaneously pseudo-parental figures, friends and authorities.

Yes, captains may be cocky, but we the crew need them; and, if they have the skill set to back up this supreme self-confidence, then by existing as their crew demonstrate our wholehearted willingness to instill our full trust and confidence in their abilities.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: