The Journey To Become A Captain With Neal Roche

Captain Neal Roche is one of those rare people you find in life. His commercial background brought him into yachting and on to his first command, the prestigious 162m M/Y Dubai. Always looking to improve and never afraid to get his hands dirty, Bec and Dom have both had the pleasure of working with this inspiring Captain. He has completed his Masters Unlimited, has a degree in Nautical Science with distinction, a degree and Masters in Marine Surveying, and is a qualified member of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. There’s just no stopping him!

With his Irish charm and good nature, he is certainly a role model to keep your eye on. Neal has kindly offered some sage advice for those wanting to become a Captain, allowing us some personal insight along the way!

What inherent skills / attitude does it take to become a Captain?

There’s nothing inherent that is needed to become a Captain. Everything can be learned, but this of course takes time and patience. A new Captain will often think that they should know everything because of the position they find themselves in, but just like any person finding themselves in a new position or job, they will need time to learn the ropes. They should be prepared to be honest enough to say if they don’t know something or ask for information/advice. It is important to be respectful, both of those you work for, and those that work for you. Your crew will look up to you for guidance and to set the tone on board, it’s important to be respectful of them because of this.

What advice would you give someone starting their first drive when they become a Captain?

Allow yourself the chance to learn the job, understand that it will take time, and do not be afraid to ask for help or advice. Learn to prioritise your tasks to avoid becoming overloaded, there is a lot going on and you won’t always get to it all! Understand that delegating tasks is not seen as shirking the workload, it is giving the jobs to more appropriate people rather than trying to do it all yourself. People want to have tasks given to them, it gives them purpose in their role, and the chance to show their Captain that they can do a good job.

When you become a Captain, your crew are your biggest asset. This is the most important one. You should work even harder for them than they do for you. It’s important that from time to time you are happy to help do the menial jobs such as handling stores, to show that you are not above them. Whatever issue they may come to you with must be treated with importance, because they will not have mentioned it to you if it was not of importance to them.

Get to know them and about them, and speak to them on a one to one basis regularly. To be a Captain is a privileged position, but it is only so because of the hard work and support of your crew. If your crew are happy and feel that they are listened to and respected, they will have no issue to go the extra mile when needed, particularly on Guest cruises, which will be the difference between a good and a great result for your Guests.

Describe the best part of your job

Firstly, working with a diverse bunch of really great people, and seeing a crew knit together, knowing that you had a part in that is extremely rewarding. Hand in hand with that is seeing a happy Owner or Guest knowing that your team made them happy. Of course, a big perk is being out at sea in a beautiful yacht, it never gets old! And finally being able to bring about visible change and improvement in your working environment. I am extremely grateful to have the job that I do!

What misconceptions are there about being a Captain?

When you become a Captain, people assume you have limitless authority and this is definitely not the case. Like any CEO role, despite the position, we are constrained by budget, management, Owner requests, weather, scheduling etc.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Again I have to mention a few! My first Guest cruise onboard M/Y Dubai, which was my first Captaincy, was an exciting moment for me.  I am also proud of becoming Captain of M/Y Dubai, one of the world’s largest yachts, not many can say that! When I became Captain of the M/Y Barbara build and subsequent operational Captain was also a great highlight. The build was a pleasure, the boat is really great, and there was & is a great crew onboard. My current position of Build Captain of project Z1010 is proving to be a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to seeing it through to fruition.

How does your relationship with your crew change when you become a Captain?

When you move to the Captain’s role, a clear separation from the crew has to develop. It is possible to be very friendly with the crew, particularly the junior ones, but not to be their friends. This works both ways; You need to be able to have a broad overview of your crew structure and morale, and they also do not need their boss to be their friend. The crew will also appreciate a clear and respectful demarcation, and not to see the Captain as someone trying to relive their youth with them.

For the Captain this often results in quite a solitary role, but it’s the same for any leadership position. If you feel that this is the case, you are doing the job right.

What would your ideal itinerary be?

The answer is twofold. My personal ideal itinerary is a wide ranging world cruise, visiting both warm and cooler destinations. From a professional point of view, I would wish to have an itinerary that I am familiar with, so as to ensure that the Guests have the best experience. Visiting places for the first time always brings an element of concern for something out of the ordinary happening due to unfamiliarity.

Neal Roche

To anyone who is lucky to work with Neal, keep your eyes peeled and make sure you collect the nuggets of wisdom that he so often offers. We are all looking forward to the launch of project Z1010 and wish you every bit of that Irish luck!