Marlies Sanders

Chief Officer Marlies Sanders

Chief Officer Marlies Sanders


An ACREW nominee for Chief Officer, previous deckhand, mate, chief officer, and captain, as well as engineer, stewardess, and chef – she’s done it all! Having sailed, cruised, and raced extensively in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, East Coast of the States, and in the Arctic, including the East Coast of Greenland, crossing the Atlantic 13 times, her experience speaks for itself. She loves being on the water and helping the crew become their best. Marlies kindly shared all sorts about her career and future goals with us!

Marlies, you have had an exhilarating life at sea – could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how it all began?

My first experience sailing was when I was about twelve years old, sailing with cousins on a 7m Dutch Valk on the lakes in Friesland. I absolutely loved it and when they let me helm the boat, I was smiling from ear to ear. As we did not live near any sailable water and my parents’ business prevented me from going sailing two hours from home, it wasn’t until I was 17, or 18 that I learned to actually sail; on the same boats and the same lakes. Early on, I learned there can only be one Captain on the boat (imagine four family members all trying to direct one another when coming into a small Frisian port under sail!). I sailed for years for fun without knowing anything about the yachting industry, despite some of the best yards, for both sail and motor, being in The Netherlands!

I picked up my love for travel and sailing during my studies. After an international corporate career where I traveled a lot but never saw anything but airports, taxis, hotels, and offices, I decided to take some time off to travel. After my first Transatlantic on a 54ft-er, I got into racing and found my first job in the BVI’s and I have been sailing ever since. I did everything on that first boat, except captain and stew, including setting up accounts to organising the boat. From there I continued and after a season as a boat captain on a 56ft sailing yacht I realised I had found a new career and decided to do my Yachtmaster.

My first years were much more racing and freelance-focused, with lots of race gigs, deliveries, and relief jobs. Moved to more permanent after a season in Greenland and the Arctic (fabulous!) and then in 2014 decided to get my tickets to the level of my experience and now hold a Master 3000GT. Working as a captain and chief officer on sailing and motor yachts, I have now sailed, cruised and raced extensively in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, East Coast of the States and in the Arctic, including the East Coast of Greenland, crossing the Atlantic 13 times.

Yacht racing has been a huge part of your career, racing all over the globe, could you tell us about your most memorable regatta and why?

It is hard to pinpoint just one as there have been so many incredible moments: being part of the inaugural Caribbean 600 offshore race, and doing my first paid racing job on the Rolex Transatlantic in 2005; among the most memorable ones though is definitely a start on the Swan 51 Star Chaser as bow, where we took a chance and started on port tack on the pin end (unusual, as it means that you need to duck any boats you’re on a collision course with that are starboard tack); we then crossed in front of the whole fleet and were in the lead! Exhilarating! A bonus was the regatta photographer got it all on camera from the air!

How early in your career did you start planning to climb the ranks

Quite quickly after doing that first transatlantic I decided to do my yacht master as that was the direction I wanted to go. I captained lots of smaller yachts, and once I had done my MCA Master 200 (the entry ‘professional’ Master ticket) I thought that was it for me – I couldn’t see myself running yachts over 200GT. So I didn’t start the OOW/ Master 3000 route until quite late! Your experience widens, yachts get bigger, your ambitions change, and you adapt your goals and go after it!

Working on both sailing yachts and motor yachts, which is your preference and why?

I very much started out as an avid sailor and didn’t want to move to ‘the dark side’ for quite a while. Having moved over last year to motor though, I have discovered a whole new world and am equally loving that side of the industry. And there are definitely places where a motor yacht is the better option, like Greenland where there is often either no wind or too much wind. Ultimately, for me it is about being out on the water, working with guests and seeing them have an unforgettable time, making that come true with a great team, most of all, both can be done!

What’s your favourite part about working at sea?

I love nights at sea when sailing, especially mid-Atlantic…it is something truly special to be out there, no land for miles, the milky way to look at, and the sky just one big canvas for the stars and planets, dolphins tracing like torpedos, leaving phosphorescence trails, experiencing a full moon out there – it so surprised me the first time, it is like somebody up there just turned the light on!

What motivates you?

Learning new things, discovering new places, meeting new people: I am always curious to learn more, and discover more! And something that really has inspired me in the last years is to see people around me grow and learn as well, and see a team come together.

I’m passionate about helping the crew become their best, and building a good team on board and love being on the water while doing so. Training, for both crew and myself, as well as being open to keep learning from everyone onboard, are key for me to become a better leader and a better person. And it keeps life at sea interesting!

What do you feel is the most important aspect to leadership?

For me, it is respect, communication and honesty. You cannot always agree or accommodate everything that everybody wants and taking difficult decisions is part of the job. How you deal with these and how you communicate this to your team, sets the tone for your team spirit. It is important to make people feel heard and understood, especially if you cannot accommodate things. Even though a yacht is not a democracy, you can involve crew in a lot of areas, like safety or maintenance, and create support for policies and decisions on board.

Honesty also involves not promising things you cannot deliver and delivering what you promise. And just simply, communicate. Don’t just go silent, especially in difficult situations. Even if you have to tell your team you don’t know (yet), it’s crucial to keep communicating. Like in any relationship, personal or professional, respect is the base of everything and makes communicating that much easier. It is something to be earned though and not something that just comes with the rank.

If you could offer any advice to a young crew member following in your footsteps, what would it be?

Think about what you want out of a life at sea, and why and then make a plan how to get there, and go after it! Find a mentor to help you talk through goals, decisions, or situations that you encounter so that you have a sounding board, support, and maybe even some help to make it happen. And don’t be afraid to change if your circumstances change, or you grow in a different direction than you originally thought you wanted!

And lastly, what’s next for you?

I have just taken some time off to spend with my family, celebrate some milestones, catch up on some new courses (playing on ice with floaty things but also the watercolour painting), and am just starting to look around for my next challenge that could include more polar cruising, a new build or simply a fantastic crew to work with!

Marlies Sanders

Marlies has since done the Palma super yacht racing on the bow on 40 meters and accepted a job as C/O on a 72m converted icebreaker starting in Svalbard, heading to East Greenland and maybe Arctic Canada as we speak! Congrats Marlies, wishing you all the best!

Captain Tom Crockard

Captain Tom Crockard

Captain Tom Crockard

Tom was thrown (almost quite literally) into the deep end of sailing life relatively early on in his career. Having circumnavigated the globe on a sailing yacht, to now Captaining a super yacht, there are no waters he cannot charter. Tom shares his early journey at sea and the highs and lows that come with, as well as some sage advice for our green crew.

Tom, you have had a long and exciting life at sea – could you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from?

I was born on a Sunday, 18/01/1987 in London, UK.  My parents are Northern Irish but moved to London after graduating from medical school, primarily to get away from the worst of the rain and somewhat to get away from the conflicts taking place at the time in Ireland.

I lived and attended school in Highgate, north London up until the age of 18, where I founded and subsequently ended up being the ‘Captain’ of the schools sailing team (the sailing team consisting of all the kids who didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t run, jump or participate in anything involving a ball).

I was introduced to sailing by my father Alan, who had sailed as a child on Belfast Loch.  Dragged unaware from my comfy bed, I was stuffed into a wetsuit at about age 7 or 8, plonked into a Topper dinghy, and shoved hastily off the quayside in Christchurch Harbour in Dorset being told to ‘learn to sail or swim home!’.

Growing up sailing and racing – could you tell us about that and what it is about yacht racing that excites you?

There are many elements to racing especially those that are exciting. I moved to Cowes, Isle of Wight when I was 19, which is the hub of the UK yachting & racing scene. There is the ‘team’ element to large yacht racing or the individual challenge in smaller dinghies and always a battle with the elements and conditions.

You circumnavigated the globe back in 2012 (correct me here!!) – what was your most memorable moment on that trip and why?

Almost correct, I joined an Oyster 655 ‘Sotto Vento’ as a skipper in 2012 in Hamble, UK, having been put forward for the job by the owner’s daughter who was a Yachtmaster Student of mine at the sailing school (Flying Fish) in Cowes where I was working at the time.

The yacht was all signed up to participate in the first ever Oyster World Rally – a 15-month circumnavigation westwards from Antigua to Antigua, departing in January 2013.  We departed the UK in August and headed south to join the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers)  and subsequently the Oyster fleet in Antigua for the start.

The entire experience as a 24/25-year-old, setting sail around the world and visiting places that I never even knew existed and/or certainly never thought I’d ever get the chance to visit was amazing.  People always ask where was your favourite place and it’s impossible to pick one – from the remoteness and desolation of Ascension Island to the thriving, vibrant Polynesia Islands. The scenery, experiences, and comradery made the entire trip memorable.

Could you tell us about your studies and career progression? What advice would you give for balancing work with studies?

There wasn’t so much of a balance for me.  I have never been lucky enough to find a boat that would offer to pay for my studies, courses, or training and as such I have had to quit my job in order to further my qualifications and find new employment once qualified.

I think more and more boats are now offering training incentives and with the move to online oral exams for CoC tickets finding that balance is getting easier. I gave our Chief Officer two weeks of study leave prior to her OOW oral during a quiet month in the Seychelles last year, which has been rewarded by her committing to staying onboard for another year!

When hiring crew, what attributes do you look for? And what makes someone stand out to you?

The main attribute I interview for is personality and a willingness to get involved and offer assistance to other departments. Basically NO EGO! I find it tricky to gauge professional capability over the phone and one must take an element of risk by assuming qualifications are earnt and not bought….

I have typically been on boats with small crew numbers and as such being able to get along socially is paramount. One rotten apple can be much more destructive when there are only five people!!

If you could offer any advice to a Deckhand, hoping to climb the ranks, what would it be?

Don’t be hasty – Too many junior crew are chasing titles and promotions too quickly.  Get good at your role, be an expert in your department.  Being ‘lead deckhand’, ’bosun’ etc. Is meaningless if you’re no good at your job.

The promotions will come, the salary will increase and then you’ll probably wish you’d stayed as a deckhand because you were having more fun with very little responsibility.

And lastly, I know you’re busy submitting your NOE for your Master 3000, which is a huge feat, congratulations! What’s next on the horizon for you?

Since we last spoke I’ve actually received my NOE so the next step is to book and pass the oral exam! I’m going to put off a little until 2024 when I can take some time to actually focus on studying.

Captain Tom Crockard

Congratulations Tom! We are certain that you will pass the oral with flying colours and we will certainly be rooting for you.

Mairin Hunter

Chief Officer Mairin Hunter

Chief Officer Mairin Hunter

Mairin Hunter is part of the 3.9%* of female Chief Officers in the yachting industry today. She’s forged an incredible career and shares with us her experiences, hopes, and dreams. Her tenacity truly shines through, contributing to her success at every turn. 

Mairin, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you were lured into the superyacht industry?

I grew up on Terrigal Beach on the NSW coast of Australia. I became a surf lifesaver at a fairly young age and always had a love for the Ocean, then I just had to find out how I could make it part of my career. It was actually my school friend in Australia that told me about yachting. I followed him out to France about a year afterward and we both still work in the industry today as Chief Officers. 

You joined the industry back in 2010, that is quite the stint! What has been your secret to staying in yachting for the long haul?

I don’t really have any secrets, it’s a tough job at the end of the day. One that takes you away from loved ones for extended periods of time in completely different time zones and missing some major life events. It’s about being able to accept those days and appreciate the good ones onboard and the experiences you are having and the knowledge you are gaining whilst working. I personally, love the everyday challenge of this job. Not one day is ever the same and being at the mercy of Mother Nature most days means you are constantly thinking on your feet and still having to maintain the standard of the yacht, motivating the crew, and if on a trip, maintaining the guest’s experience.

We’d love to hear about your journey from a Deckhand to a Chief Officer, did you find any significant challenges along the way?

I didn’t really have any major challenges, the first few months attempting to be a female deckhand with no prior experience was tough. I was like every other green deckhand arriving in France, male or female, not having a lot of actual yacht experience it took me longer to land something. When I did eventually get something, day-working for 6 months in a shipyard on a 30-year-old Feadship, stripping everything back and putting it together again. I stuck it out. I soaked up everything I could and had a great team who were willing to teach me. Things only went up from there to a new build 90m Feadship in 2011. There are always challenges, and I don’t believe they will ever stop, and if they do, I should probably stop!

Did you have a mentor or a role model that supported your career progression?

I have been lucky to have had many mentors and some great role models, good and bad, throughout my journey. My very first ‘Big Boat’ captain has always been a sounding post for me and continues to be to this day and someone who I have great respect for. I believe everyone I have worked beside has given me something, positive or negative, to take away and shaped me in some form into the person I am today. 

Having a significant amount of New Build experience, can you tell us what’s the most challenging part of your role as Chief Officer with a New Build?

I think the overall management of the yard relationship and getting the most out of the final product would be the biggest and most time-consuming. Knowing which battles to pick and which to hold on to. I love seeing the project come together and making that maiden voyage, it’s a great sense of achievement. The final stages of the build are chaotic and you need a good team beside you. 

I have had some great companies assist in builds that have an extensive naval architecture background, this has definitely made the experience slightly easier at times and taken some of the pressure off. 

You have an impressive resume, what have been some of your career highlights?

It would have to be the circumnavigation I completed on Plvs Vltra in 2017-2020, incredible owners, crew, and itinerary. I am not sure that trip could be re-lived if I tried. We had some incredible challenges and made memories I will cherish for a lifetime. 

Other than traditional yachting courses – has there been any other training that has helped you in your role today?

I completed and Senior Leadership and Management course last year. I met some great people on it and we shared a lot of experiences. I took a lot away from this and believe that all senior crew should take some further form of this course as it’s something that’s missing from yachting. We learn about the nautical and scientific side of yachting but not the management and leadership of the people and the running of a multi-million dollar asset. 

What advice would you give to young crew who are looking to follow in your footsteps?

Be motivated in learning and taking the tough jobs and making the most out of them. Not needing to progress too quickly, the more experience you have in the junior and middle levels, the more rounded crew member you will be when getting to those senior levels. 

And finally, where to next for you?

Hopefully another new build and then a drive of my own in the future. 

Mairin Hunter

Thank you for sharing with us Mairin, we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!

*According to She of the Sea 

Chief Officer Nick Ward

Chief Officer Nick Ward

Chief Officer Nick Ward


At the young age of 9, Nick Ward embarked on his seafaring journey and has since become a seasoned sailor. In 2012, he entered the world of yachting, and over a decade later, he generously shares his wealth of knowledge, personal experiences, and future aspirations with us.

Nick, you’ve had a long yachting career thus far, could you tell us what enticed you into a life at sea?

At age 9, I joined a local sailing club and learned to sail on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. I was completely hooked at the first lesson. I remember not being able to sleep through excitement for the following day and being amazed at the concept of how boats float and how the wind and sails work in unison. I admired the sailing instructors immensely and after 3 years I became a sailing instructor myself. I taught kids on Friday nights and Saturday mornings as well as adults on Saturday afternoons.
At primary school, I recall going onto the Sunseeker website and requesting a brochure. I spent days and days looking through the pages with my friend in absolute awe – ‘one day’.
I was headhunted at age 12 to start racing dinghies. I raced Mirrors and represented Team GBR around Europe. I was paired with my sailing partner, Tom, and we had a very successful racing career. Eventually, outgrowing Mirrors and moved to 405’s and 29ers.
Tom and I were European Champions in the 405 class and trained with the current 49er Olympic gold medallists. Racing began to absorb my life and I was lucky enough to be at a college where they supported me through this time, leaving school early on a Friday to get to Weymouth Sailing Academy and coming in on a Monday absolutely exhausted.

How early in your career did you start planning to climb the ranks?

I climbed the ranks quite quickly – I progressed from Relief Bosun on an 89m to Second Officer on a 76m. I created a ‘3-year plan’ in my iPhone notes of the courses I wanted to complete in years 1,2,3 including my OOW exam and I stuck to them – it is such a great feeling to be able to tick them off one by one. I am lucky to have worked with incredible Captains and Officers during my time as Deckhand. They supported me through all of my courses and I was able to take this time off to complete them.

Can you remember your very first year in Leadership? And from that time, how do you feel your Leadership skills have changed?

When I had my first Officers job I was 25 and on a 75m private yacht – it was quite overwhelming. The HELM course helped me a lot – it is an incredibly important course and a favourite to date. It is crucial to be approachable and listen to your team. I very much stick with the ethos of firm but fair. I support and respect all of my team through their learning and progression.

My leadership skills haven’t changed a lot over the years. Through working as Second Officer on a 75m I am now Chief Officer on a 92m so the main difference is an increase of crew.

What’s been the most rewarding part of yachting for you?

The most rewarding part of my job is to stand back and watch the deck team work their magic boss on. I work very hard with the current Second Officers on training the team to work efficiently and effectively – through launching tenders, driving tenders, anchoring and general seamanship.

Have you noticed any significant changes in the yachting industry over the years?

I have. It is very apparent that rotation is a new thing for Junior crew which I completely agree with. It is important to have a work/life balance. Yes, initially it is more expensive for the Owner to agree to this, however, you will keep crew longer, reducing recruitment fees and they will be much happier and work harder – the Owner and guests see everything, be attitude or general vibe. In the long run, it is cheaper for the Owner and they will have a better experience on board.

What’s important to you when it comes to working in a yachting environment?

Arguably, the hardest part of working on yachts is to work and live with your colleagues. It is very important to respect fellow colleagues’ space and don’t forget to be patient outside of work.

What advice would you give a green Deckie who’s looking to follow in your footsteps?

Work hard, always be 10 minutes early and look presentable – everything is noticed. Ask questions if you are not sure. Do not forget those skills that will help you. I look for a crew who has those extra skills – drone flying, video editing, PT, medical, and tender driving. Unfortunately, ‘just having the qualifications’ isn’t enough.

And finally, what’s on the horizon for you?

My goal is to be a fleet captain working closely with the owner and management company. My priority is to manage the owners’ expectations whilst delivering unmatchable service.

Chief Officer Nick Ward

Nick, your journey has been truly remarkable, especially considering your young age. It’s always inspiring to hear stories of early success, as it reinforces the notion that with dedication and determination, anything can be accomplished. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours and have every confidence that you will achieve every one of your goals!

Chief Officer Stirling Mason

Chief Officer Stirling Mason

Stirling Mason is a husband and father of three with his Masters Unlimited. After his mother adamantly introduced him to the marine industry, he created a fantastic career at sea with many more successful years to come. Stirling is among the rising generation of leadership in the industry, advocating for open and honest communication and honing his leadership skills to set an example for his team and fellow crew members. 

You started in the commercial sector, could you tell us what that was like?

I actually didn’t want to come to sea originally, my mum took me to a maritime open day at the Dover docks in the UK and tried to palm me off onto chemical tankers at 16 years old. Of course, I was having none of it at this point. Then 2 years later, she took me back to this maritime open day where shipping companies were advertising for cadet deck and engine officers. This time I had completed my A-levels but still didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, this was an opportunity to travel and not end up in a ton of student debt. So I applied to be both an engineer and a deck officer and the deck officer application was successful so I was given an interview with the training company and placed on P&O ferries.

I loved my time as a cadet on ferries, I would shadow the ABs (able seaman) and do all mooring ops, loading and unloading of vehicles, anchor ops, and planned maintenance. As a very young and inexperienced 18year old it was a real eye-opener, deck crew was over 40 and so had a lot of job and life experience, the time was always interesting and some of my funniest moments came from the ferry days. After qualifying as a 3rd officer I had the opportunity to remain with P&O, which I did as it’s always good to get experience in your discharge book plus the lessons I learned from navigating the some of busiest shipping lanes in the world has given me so much confidence in my collision avoidance decision making abilities and a firm grasp of the rules of the road.

After about 6 months I really did want to travel and so I took a step over to cruise ships. This was an amazing experience, I really did get to travel all over the Mediterranean and we did a great cruise through Panama, into the Pacific and all the small islands, for me it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime that I took away from the cruise ships was the bridge team management skills. The operation procedures are so well written, the closed loop communication is ingrained into all the team, and there are constant training sessions onboard for all aspects of safety, but it’s done in a way that isn’t a drag but a positive learning opportunity.  This was also around the time the Costa Concordia capsized and so all cruise ships were really hot on all regulations, cross-checking each other and safety areas. It has been very beneficial to me and I would recommend it to any junior officer to try it out, not only the social aspect of it because cruise ships are great fun but the professional aspect, as they really do put a lot of money into training their officers and the transition from cruise ships to large yachts has been very streamlined.

How did you find your way to the yachting world?

After cruise ships, I went back to the ferries for a few years as I was enjoying the time for time rotation (week on week off/ 2 weeks on 2 weeks off) we had also had our first child so I was happy to be at home. However, while on the cruise ships I had always seen the yachts and was interested in what they did and wondered what it would be like to work on one. I tried through various agencies to get a job and only had 1 strict criterion, it had to be time for a time as I had a young family. Finally, I was given the opportunity to take a temp role with the prospect of going permanent which would have been time for time. It was a big decision because I was definitely in a comfort zone on the ferries and I had heard of all the horror stories from yachts. I absolutely landed a great boat, however, and have been there for the last 5 years.

What was the most difficult transition period in your career at sea?

Definitely having children. It makes going away so much more difficult, I have often questioned whether it’s a good idea to be going away, and what it does to the kids, I know it puts a lot of stress on my wife. I always try to justify it by saying I get quality time with the kids when I’m home and not a lot of dads get that.

Onboard, my most difficult transition was going from 2/O to C/O.  It’s a whole different ball game,  and communication is king. I’ve also struggled with the leadership aspect of the role. I’ve sailed with so many C/O and captains and tried to take their best bits and make a conscious effort to avoid certain styles. I had a tendency to try to please everyone but I’ve learned that simply can’t work. I’ve undertaken a really good leadership course and putting those elements into practice has been rewarding I believe I can see a difference in how the vessel runs.

When hiring a new crew member, what do you value most?

Again due to this leadership course, my perception of recruitment has improved a lot, it’s not just about what’s on someone’s CV. It’s so important to build up a background on the person, whether they will work well in the ship’s environment and whether they will get on with everyone. Are they hands-on or happy to stand back?

We just hired a new deckhand, with no experience in yachting but his attitude is what sold it for me, he came across as a guy that would get stuck in and not complain, he was very hands-on and mature. He knows how to handle himself in a social situation and is easy to work with, he’s been a great hire for the boat.

You completed an Iron Man in 2020, that’s quite a feat! How did you manage to train whilst onboard?

Haha, I wouldn’t recommend doing it how I did it! I gave myself a year to go from gym meathead to Ironman, so I’d not run anywhere close to a marathon before, I don’t even really like cycling but I’m a decent swimmer so I entered the comp. Fortunately, we have a well-equipped gym onboard with a treadmill but we only had a spin bike at the time and that was soul-destroying trying to keep the resistance the same and HR steady. I was 2/O at the time and I’m pretty sure my C/O had enough of me constantly in the gym training! It was a lot of hours of cardio and I’d have to sacrifice shore leave to get the training in but it was worth it to hear the words ‘you are an Ironman.

What advice do you have for anyone in the industry at the moment?

It’s all about attitude, that will get you far. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, putting yourself forward or always being available to assist puts you head and shoulders over everyone else

Showing interest in your job role is as important as being curious, don’t just sit on the bridge at night and play games, look around, explore the equipment, go into settings come up with procedures, you want to improve what you have all the time. If you’re a deckhand, don’t just turn up, see what you think can be done more efficiently, on a well-established boat, they might have seen it all but there’s always room for improvements and a good boat will always trial it.

What would your ideal itinerary be?

I would love to go back to the Pacific Islands again and hopefully get more time ashore. I remember we went to 1 atoll in the Pacific and it didn’t have ECDIS for the area so we were literally using a hand-drawn chart from when Captain Cook visited, the cruise ship was anchored over a mile away as the sounding couldn’t be relied upon. It was incredible.

And finally, are there any specific goals you have for the year ahead?

I’m still doing my leadership course with the crew academy at the moment, I’m learning a lot about my style of leadership, how to implement certain techniques and how to motivate my team. I find the psychology of leadership and people fascinating so I’m really enjoying the course.

Otherwise, I’m focusing on building the foundation to step up as captain one day, learning from those around me. I don’t have a specific timeline to become captain, I’m still trying to become the best C/O I can be.

Thank you, Stirling! Fantastic advice and insights, and great work to your mum for giving you the push to start your incredible career.

Shaun Frith

Captain Shaun Frith

Captain Shaun Frith

Shaun Frith has a very impressive career at sea and is now facing a challenge a lot of Officers and Captains share at his stage – balancing life with a family! We want to offer our congratulations to Shaun and also delved into what life looked like before all of the responsibilities and how he hopes to continue life at sea.

Shaun, you’ve been in the industry since 2009, that’s quite a stint! Tell us about your journey so far.

Tell me about it, it’s flown by!
I started the Industry in Fort Lauderdale. I had studied IT and had been working as a programmer and had a travel bug that was eating away at me. My twin brother got wind of my investigations into it all and jumped on board with my plans to do the basic courses and head to the USA. He is now a chief Engineer with us both having started at the bottom and worked our way up. We even had a chance to work together on MY Laurel and MY Gladiator.

I did initially think it may just be a gap year and even had doubts about doing my OOW because the first few years were so much fun and a lot more carefree. That being said, I put my big boy pants on and completed my OOW in 2015 and my Chiefmate ticket shortly thereafter. From there my head was down with a goal in mind and achieved my Master 3000 in 2019.

You’ve been on both charter and private yachts, which do you prefer and why?

This is a tough answer, they both have their perks. The money on busy charter boats is great but the burnout is real and have I known people to be chased away from the industry because of that. You also don’t necessarily form a bond with your employer as you may only see them once a year and you kind of become just a number.

Private boats have their perks with attractive bonus schemes and forming of relationships with the owners but also can tend to sit still in places for a lot longer and not as much on the go as a charter boat. Each would suit different people in their different life situations. Right now charter is great with rotation and the tips help with the drop in salary.

You’re coming up to almost 2 years as Captain, what has been your most challenging moment?

It’s not so much a moment but a general area that always has to be managed. This is sometimes having to say no to people who are used to having everything they want right there and then. This comes into play when you see some guests get out of control at the risk of damaging the vessel they are chartering, and you have to draw the line for the owner you represent.

What do you think is currently missing in the yachting industry?

I would like to see more representation for crew. There are of course the social media communities and offerings of the PYA, Nautilus and even the Crew Coach. I think it would be great if there were one single hub specialised in yachting that incorporated all of the above. I want to say a union but it’s more than that with the offerings of managing crew mental health and legal disputes. Maybe there is but I have yet to come across such a hub/institution.

How do you manage balancing life at sea and home life?

Also, not an easy one to do but rotation helps and FREE mobile with their great sim card offering while on board for facetime. And even then, when at home it’s good to have a hobby whether you have a family or not. I think one just gets so used to being so busy that it can be a struggle to get home and sit still. As with everything in life, it’s finding balance and being mentally present in the place you are.

If you could attend any yachting event this year, which would it be and why?

I’d love to attend the superyacht awards ceremony. Always some big players there and a good networking platform with the top performers in the industry.

If you could give yourself advice as a deckhand all those years ago what would it be?

People are always watching, and this industry is smaller than one thinks. Always compose yourself in a way that would be respectful to others that you could end up working with one day. If not, just don’t advertise yourself as working on a boat and rather say you are on holiday.

What’s next for you in your career?

At this stage, I have a newborn baby and trying to figure that life balance out with this career while making sure all my crew and guests are still taken care of. Over and above that, hopefully, a bigger Dutch-built boat with my current owner.

Shaun Frith

We wish all the best for Shaun and his family and we can’t wait to hear all about his future adventures!

Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

Power House Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

Power House Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

Caterina Oliviero from Acquera Yachting is the incredibly talented, extremely passionate and driven Commercial Director. Born in Venice, she has worked in all areas of the yachting agency business, from VIP concierge services to immigration and customs. Not only that but she is also a fully licensed ship agent and highly experienced in working with Captains to deliver over and above what yacht owners require. Caterina was kind enough to give us insight into her role at Acquera and what it’s like on the management side of the fence. Oh, and did we mention she is also multi-lingual, speaking Italian, English and Greek?!

Caterina, you have been working for 18 years in the yachting industry, could you tell us about your background and how you originally got into it?

When I first started, I didn’t even know what a yacht was, and it was at a time when a 30m was about as big as they got! At the time I was working in the shipping industry in my home port of Venice and simply thought to myself that it might be fun to try out the yachting industry for a season. I never looked back and I became a licenced ship agent in Venice for yachts.

What is your main goal at Acquera Yachting?

I’m Commercial Director but I’m still involved in the Venice operational side.  We know how difficult it is for Captains and crew during the season, and our main goal is to offer a seamless experience, and take away the stress so that they can concentrate on looking after the owners and guests. We have 23 offices in 11 countries across the Med, and it’s paramount that each country offers the same top level of service that our clients expect no matter where they are.

What are the biggest difficulties faced by yachting agents today?

I think that Captains and Charter Brokers really underestimate the complexity of local formalities and berthing logistics surrounding the yachts. You have to think that every charter yacht is different, and if we aren’t on top of European tax laws and charter legislation, it could have disastrous results. It isn’t helped by the fact that it is extremely common for local authorities to have their own interpretation of EU law and given that we operate in multiple destinations and countries, this is a huge endeavour to ensure that we are 100% on top of things.

Between concierge, immigration and customs, logistics, provisioning etc, which is your favourite and why?

That is such an easy question! I absolutely love the concierge side of the business. I’m a complete perfectionist and I just love organising experiences and events, where it all comes down to attention to detail. Even if it is just a simple restaurant reservation, I always request the best table, or one that has a particular view that I think the guests will like, I like to see if they can do a specific menu based on the guests’ preferences etc. I think the secret to my success is that I’m really flexible, and always available and I strive to always go the extra mile for our clients.

How do you think relationships between crew and agents can be improved?

Call me old-fashioned, but I am a great believer in forging personal relationships via phone calls and personal meetings. The majority of our work nowadays is done via WhatsApp, and we are in the throes of launching our digital platform AcqueraPro which will be a game changer in regards to how crew and agents work together. I always underline to our clients that they should see us as an extension of the crew, but onshore. Just like them, we are working 24/7 towards the common goal of a successful cruise.

What is the hottest destination this summer?

After a couple of challenging seasons post-Covid, I think that the Balearics have reclaimed their position as the hottest destination once again.

What has been the most challenging request you’ve ever received?

When I get this type of question, it always takes me a while to think, because I am so used to getting challenging requests, that it has become the norm for me! So, I would say private transportation by water limo for pets, opening up a restaurant when they had closed for holidays, buying live crickets for an iguana, as well as special events organised on board. Every day is a challenge, but that is what I love about my job.

What changes do you hope to see in the yachting industry?

I really hope to see our industry become more transparent, more sophisticated from a digital standpoint and more invested in sustainability and oceanic research. The world has moved so quickly in the last couple of years, and the next generation of yacht owners have very different values, and we need to ensure that we are up to speed.

And finally, what is next for you Caterina?

To be perfectly frank my only objective at the moment is to survive the season!!!! After that, a well-deserved break to clear my mind before preparing for the 2023 season with all our country offices. I think that being a yacht agent is vocational, you have to love what you do!

Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

With her skills and experience, we can safely say that Caterina will not only survive but surely thrive during the season. We are so excited to see the development of AcqueraPro and hopefully have the privilege of working alongside such an amazing individual one day!

Captain Chris Durham

M/Y Savannah’s Captain Chris Durham

M/Y Savannah’s Captain Chris Durham

Amongst safety and modern leadership techniques being of high importance to Captain Durham, he is also passionate about developing and supporting a positive, blame-free culture on board.  He believes in the power of the individual and leads by example and through effective communication and motivation to inspire each member of the crew to draw upon their own innate ability to provide an unparalleled guest experience. We were curious as to how Captain Durham arrived at his current position and he was kind enough to enlighten us!

Chris, you’ve had a career in yachting for 14 years so far with some very prestigious yachts under your name, can you tell us a bit about how you got into yachting?

Good question! After Sixth Form College I decided to go travelling and embarked on what turned out to be a two-year trip to Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Whilst living on the North Island of New Zealand, I found myself a summer job at the local shipyard in Whangarei as a painter’s labourer and joined the team involved in their main project which was a full repaint of ‘Douce France’, a large sailing catamaran. As I started to get to know a few of the crew, I realised I was very much on the wrong side of the fence. The life of a deckhand and the lure of travelling the world seemed like it would be a lot more fun and adventurous than being stuck in a paint suit longboarding the mast and hull! After six months in New Zealand, I found myself in a non-paid deck position on a small sailing vessel for 4 months which enabled me to gain some miles at sea and build some experience. I then returned home for a short time to complete my STCW before heading off to Florida to find a job on a yacht.

What has been your favourite yacht to work on far?

Apart from my current vessel, it would have to be, the 67m Damen Sea Axe yacht support vessel. We had a fantastic team and a great working environment, and the exposure to a large array of operations and equipment including a Triton submarine, high-tech and rebreather dive set up and a commercial helicopter, not to mention the large tenders, proved to be an invaluable experience. It was a great fleet to be part of.

It seems that creating a blameless culture onboard is very important for you, how do you go about achieving that?

I have worked on many yachts where speaking up has been viewed as throwing someone under the bus. In that type of working environment, it is very hard to evolve or improve. I feel it is so important to learn every day and I find the simplest way to encourage this mindset onboard is to hold regular meetings and always hold a debrief after an operation or event. I do this by encouraging the HODs to sit down with their teams and ask a few simple questions, i.e. What worked well? What didn’t work well? What do we need to change or action to ensure we do not make the same mistakes next time? I believe it is important for every member of the crew to have a voice, and to feel confident about speaking up knowing they will be listened to. This is especially crucial where safety issues are concerned.

Was it always a goal of yours to become a Captain?

Quite early on in my career, I decided I wanted to become an Officer, but the idea of becoming a Captain didn’t come to mind until I had spent some time as Chief officer. On my first yacht, I was very lucky to work with a Chief Officer who guided and mentored me. He handed me a training record book in my first week! He really encouraged and helped me to set goals and targets, which paved the way for me to become an OOW.

What advice would you give someone following the same path?

My advice to someone starting out in the industry would be to acquire as many “superpowers” as possible! The more depth of knowledge and extra skills you arrive with, the more likely you are to choose a good program that puts time and money into training and developing the people they take on. I would advise someone a bit further on in their career to never be afraid to reach out for help. I have several mentors with whom I speak regularly and am also in contact with the client manager from our management company to whom I often reach out for assistance.

What is most important for you when looking for a job?

I think one of the most important considerations for me when looking for a position as a Captain is to find a rotational partner and program which align with my own values and philosophy. Another important factor for me is the itinerary. I find it hard to sit still and love to travel and keep moving.

What changes do you hope to see in the industry in the next 10 years?

I hope to see a professional industry that is more diverse and inclusive and places more importance on the well-being and mental health of the crew. I believe these changes will help to create happier and higher performing teams and crews, which in turn can only equate to an improved guest experience.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Having recently completed the TCA Command and Leadership course I would like to continue to develop my leadership and management skills and am considering going back to school to complete a Masters in this subject.

Captain Chris Durham

With so much ambition and progressive thinking wrapped up in Captain Durham, we can see great contributions coming from him for the future of the yachting industry.


Christie Curphey

Inside Management with Christie Curphey

Inside Management with Christie Curphey

We have been fortunate enough to spend some one-on-one time with Christie Curphey in the work environment (a rare occurrence in our virtual world! ) and she is absolutely lovely! Christie works as  Senior Yacht Management Administrator at Döhle Yachts, one of the industry’s most established yacht management companies. The relationship between management and crew is a very important one as everyone is working towards the goal of making the guest and owners’ experience as smooth as possible. Forming strong, openly communicative relationships are among the best ways to do this, as Christie reveals. We were so excited to get an insight into working with yachts from a management point of view!

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you became a Senior Yacht Management Administrator?

I was born, grew up and still live on the Isle of Man, which is a little island between England and Ireland that is only 33 miles long and 13 miles wide, but I am very well-travelled, and I have lots of plans to see more of the world now that we can travel more freely again! I started my career in yachting when I left school and it was by accident; I started at a corporate service provider which provided services to yacht owners. Over time, my role grew organically, and I gradually became more involved in the yacht management side. I was then given the opportunity to join Döhle Yachts and its Yacht Finance and Administration team… now here I am!

What are the key responsibilities of a Senior Yacht Management Administrator?

I am the lead contact for the day-to-day yacht management. I spend a lot of my day doing the following:

  • Charter management – i.e. dealing with fiscal representatives, obtaining VAT registrations, charter licences (both in and out of the EU) and negotiating charters between broker and owner to ensure they fit schedules, cruising areas and most importantly at the right fee
  • Ensuring the yacht is complying with the regulations of both flag state and the place in which they are cruising
  • Assisting with the import and export formalities
  • Liaising with Flag in relation to yacht registrations, changes in yacht registrations, and renewals of certificates on board
  • Managing bank accounts and credit cards
  • Insurance claims and renewals
  • Working with owner and crew on budgets
  • And everything in between!
Could you describe what a typical day looks like for you?

Every day is different, and I have no idea what could come my way at any time! Our team process all the payments for the yachts that we manage so that is one thing that I know is certain… payment authorisations!

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The ever-changing environment that we deal with around the world. COVID was a difficult time for the charter yachts and those on board at the time had many cancellations and postponements. We now have issues with the recent conflicts. This is on top of the changes in rules and regulations that are set by each jurisdiction. It is challenging to keep on top of it all.

What is your favourite part of your role?

I love meeting and building relationships with people, whether that be captain, crew, owner, or broker – I am very much a people person, so the fact I get to spend every day interacting with the most interesting people in the world is amazing!

What kind of vessel is your ‘ideal’ client?

One with a great captain and crew who communicate well with us, so that we can all work together as a team to provide the best possible service to our respective clients.

How important is communication within your role?

Communication is key and we have contact with the majority of the yachts we have under management on a daily basis. I also feel that communication with the family office is just as essential to good management. Yacht owners engage with us for our services to relieve the stress of what owning a yacht brings, so that the owner can enjoy the yacht without any headaches. In order to achieve this, we need to have a clear understanding of where the yacht is, where they are planning to go, who is on board, are they adequately insured, do they comply with flag state and class regulations etc. It really is crucial!

How much of your role involves working with onboard yacht crew?

We are about 50/50 onshore and onboard. Since we deal with a lot of the regulatory and fiscal side of the operations, we spend a lot of time liaising with professionals in these areas, as well as insurance, bank accounts and owner. The rest of the time we spend liaising with crew to ensure operations run smoothly.

Where can you see an area for improvement between the working relationship of onboard crew and yacht management?

It essentially comes down to having a good level of communication with those on board and we try to visit as often as we can to build a personal relationship so that crew feel they are able to raise issues with us. A lot of the time we are the ‘middle-men’ between the crew and the owner, so it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone is safe and happy on board.

What advice would you give experienced crew who are keen to move shoreside and to find work with a yacht management company?

There are so many avenues that you can go down with yacht management which would suit those looking to come onshore. There is finance and administration, technical, maritime compliance, ISM/ISPS, crew employment, and recruitment. You would find that your experience would be extremely beneficial, and your skills would be transferable. There are not many people or industries that service the kind of clients that we do.

I would also say that there are many success stories of those who have come ashore and started their own businesses. If you are particularly good at something and can monetise it, then go for it! Just like the girls at VP who are doing an excellent job.

Christie Curphey

Thanks Christie for your words of wisdom, compliments and insight into the day in the life of yacht management.


Captain Khalil Bethel

Captain Khalil Bethel

Khalil Bethel recently accomplished the achievement of a lifetime – he became a Captain. Hailing from the Bahamas, he is a calm and charismatic industry professional with more than eight years of diverse experience in yachting, private, and charter. He is a confident leader and motivator with extensive knowledge of yacht and project management, safety, and financial administration. Khalil gives us insight into his career, his home, and what he hopes for the future.

Khalil, you’ve recently completed your Captaincy, which was your lifelong dream congratulations! Tell us how it feels?

The weight of this type of leadership role is definitely not for the faint of heart, this type of job is both dangerous and/or dangerous if the appropriate amount of care isn’t delivered. And it’s something that goes both ways! You have to take care of yourself as a priority, it allows you to think clearly. Captains are constantly dealing with a myriad of moving parts – navigation, owner/management, weather, crew, budgets etc.

I am grateful for the opportunity to work for and alongside some great individuals.

Give us a brief career history – from where you started to where you are now.

2011 to 2014 I worked on an 80m that did the maximum amount of miles, heli-ops and beach missions as physically possible with a live-aboard owner. I’m very appreciative that I did that because everything after seemed easy! I was fortunate to work under a knowledgeable and tactful Captain along with navigating Officers.

2014 I took a break to recoup and stay around home a bit more. I freelanced as an officer and thought it would increase my experience but sometimes the more frequent the job changes the less likely you are to land that dream job in the future. I managed to figure out that three years is the minimum commitment that I like to give. Enough longevity to be respectful but also enough time to not get settled in too much of a routine. Experience in different places with the right frequency is more valuable to me than seeing someone holding a job for 10 years.

After that, I worked on a very extensively cruising 65m which frequented the Indian Ocean, Asia, and the med for just over three years. I thought it was time to get back to my origin, the Bahamas, and settle into a program that allowed me to be closer to family and friends. There is truly no place like home, especially when you’re from one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

What has been your main driving force in achieving this goal?

My main reason for choosing this path is because I love to learn and I think every captain has a different experience, both in the command position and climbing the ranks. Any day on the water beats any day in the office.

How different do you find the yachting industry now versus when you first started?

Yachting in the 2010s is different than now, in my humble opinion because the work ethic and reasoning behind things have changed. I respect everyone has hopes and dreams but you can’t do something for money or the fairytale factor, it fades away and it doesn’t make you feel fulfilled. I decided to get involved in yachting because it afforded me to travel, meet people in different places, truly experience living in places other than my home and expand on what is valuable out there that I can bring back home.

What do you hope to bring to the yachting industry?

I hope I can pass on a bit of my love for the Bahamas, not just as a tourist destination but as a home for many of us, and as one of the world’s favourite yachting destinations.

What is your favourite destination to sail to and why?

My favourite destination to cruise would be the Bahamas. Purely because it’s a challenge due to how shallow it is and also because it’s technical when you get down to requests from the owner/guests, cellular coverage, provisions, and weather routing!

What developments do you hope to see in the next years in yachting?

I hope to see more healthy decisions in yachting. Do what’s healthy for you (the best you can) – choose the best program, choose to NOT let peer pressure put you into situations you wouldn’t normally agree with, choose to stand up for yourself in the most polite way possible when things aren’t necessarily going your way. In summary, take the good with you and find support to get through whatever life and work bring to you.

Tell us what’s next on the cards for you?

I’m involved with a few community projects in my community and I’m also a dreamer. I hope to become a successful charter captain like those before me whom I learned volumes from. I am forever in their debt and I am forever appreciative.  Thanks to all that came before me – crew agents that took the time and gave me a chance, all the yachties that took the time to hang out, listen or lend a helping hand and especially all the captains that believed I was true to my goal of becoming a part of the gang!


Kahlil’s passion for yachting is palpable, and his enthusiasm infectious, We can’t wait for another catch-up to see the development and contributions to yachting he has made. Good luck Khalil!