Interview questions – and answers
28 August 2016
Part of the job search routine in yachting is registering and checking in with the various crew
agents, of which there is no shortage. Every year a few disappear and new ones appear. One that
has been around for an odd twenty years is Crew Unlimited http://www.crewunlimited.com/
Recently they have updated their web page and now have a section where you can write answers
to several stated questions that are relevant to the position sought. They were, and maybe still
do, promote uploading video interviews. I'm not from 'Generation M' and prefer to write.
I haven't posted any blog entries or even finished the photo migration, so please see the
following for a bit of work specific creative writing.
Captains - How much freedom do you feel an Owner should allow his Captain in terms of
It is the Owner’s responsibility to express his desires and it is the Captain’s responsibility to
deliver to these expectations. I feel that selecting, hiring and firing of crew is the responsibility
of the Captain and that an Owner, if interested, should have ‘veto rights’ on this but not
micromanage the issue.
Captains - What do you do when you disagree with the Owner?
Disagreements are natural when opinions meet. What happens, before, during and after these
meetings is where leadership and clear communication is needed. The Owner is right and my
job as the Captain is to ensure that the Owner makes right decisions - be it through sound
counsel, providing alternate options or removing issues prior.
Captains - How much down time do you feel a yacht needs each year, to ensure a safe and
There is no correct answer to this question - safe and happy are difficult to define and every
yacht has a different program. For the last nineteen years I’ve had an agreement with my wife
that I can cruise for six months, then I need to bring her out - I’ve hit this limit twice. I’m not
interested in working on a ‘dual season’ yacht and I’m looking for a yacht with a home base. So,
six months with guest is a maximum and it’s a rare situation where this is continuous, time on
board. The other six months are not just ‘down time’ but needed for maintenance, upgrades,
professional development and accrued crew leave.
Captains - How much time is the maximum time that should pass between emergency
procedure drills on board?
It’s not the frequency of the drills, but the practicality that matters’ - doing the same fire drill
every month only looks good on paper. In an emergency, prompt, effective action is essential.
During the off season there is time to carry out more complicated training and different
departments have different training needs. I like to do something with the safety kit every Friday
afternoon, addressing practical issues and cross training while supporting a safety culture
through training rather than regulating. During the season monthly refresher drills that involve
interested guests will satisfy most statutory requirements.
Captains - How do you handle conflicts between crew members?
Again, conflicts are like disagreements and leadership and communication are essential, but here
it is not the owner who needs to be ‘right’ but me, the captain. As the leader I need to clearly
express the standards, rules and expectations that are to be followed on board, and to practice
what I preach. By employing professionals, all should have an opinion as to what is expected
and how to accomplish the goal. Department heads need to take responsibility for their
department, and I can’t solve all problems. This doesn’t always work; often we are doing
something for the first time and hopefully continuing to learn. An environment that is open to
new ideas is important, but when the crew come to me with a problem they can’t solve, I need
to. I prefer solutions that are simple and take a longer term view.
Captains - What do you feel is the most important quality for a successful Captain to
Leadership, followed closely by keeping my mouth shut until I know what I’m talking about.
Bridge and Deck Officers - How would you handle a scenario where two crew members
are becoming a couple, on a boat where couples are not allowed?
I would advise the parties to talk to the captain. It’s better that they talk first, then to have the
captain raise the subject with them.
Bridge and Deck Officers - What can you do to ensure that your Deckhands are kept busy
and challenged by their job?
Everyone who considers yachting as a profession will want to advance and learn while taking
pride in their work. Some of the best lessons are learned from doing something new and an
environment that lets you make a mistake but has a team ready to support you is a good way of
developing teamwork, loyalty and pride in one’s accomplishments. When the crew work as a
team I don’t have to keep individuals busy, the team will.
Bridge and Deck Officers - Outline your knowledge level in accordance with the ISPS
For the last nine seasons, I’ve worked on a private 80m motor yacht and we have carried a six to
eight man security detail, but we are not commercial so no need for ISPS compliance. Due to
our size and use of commercial ports we do file the relevant paperwork with Port and State
authorities and maintain around the clock watches on the passerelle and CCTV.
Bridge and Deck Officers - Outline your knowledge level of the ISM code, MARPOL, and
ISM is a safety management program; MARPOL and SOPEP are regulations regarding the
prevention of pollution and the ship side equipment and support structure to respond to a
For over eight years I have worked on yachts that are over 500gt, so compliant with MARPOL
and SOPEP regulations and we also have an ISM program in operation. During this time I’ve
been responsible for the on board training, including SOPEP and ISM. As an example, a few
years ago, while taking bunkers, a fuel truck ruptured a pressurized hose and the training
Bridge and Deck Officers - Where do you see yourself 2 years from now?
As Captain of a private 30-40m yacht that has low crew turnover and a good reputation.
Bridge and Deck Officers - How much responsibility should the Mate take on, to provide
for a smooth Captain - Mate relationship?
If the Captain was to leave on short notice, the Mate should be able to take his place without
disrupting the operation or the need to bring in a senior captain - promote from within. The Mate
should be a second captain, but only lacking in experience and this is gained by sharing the
wisdom behind decisions and allowing the Mate to learn and grow to his potential.