Chief Officer Richard Craven’s Take On Mental Well-Being On Board

Richard is from a small town but that had no effect on the limit of his dreams. With a cruise ship background and an upgrade to a prestigious yachting career, Richard is well on his way to landing his own Captaincy. Mental well-being is well and truly on his radar, he is absorbing best practices from superiors he admires in order to carry those through to his own Command one day. We caught up with Rich to delve into his career and journey, weighing in on COVID and mental well-being onboard in today’s current climate.

You’ve had an exciting and varied career – can you tell us a little about your background and where you’re from?

I’m from Selby, North Yorkshire in the UK although I now live in Newquay, Cornwall. I began my career at sea with a cadet ship with Princess Cruises. I then moved across to yachts at the age of 23, having worked on 4 different yachts to date, ranging from 60-160m. 

How did you first get involved with the superyacht industry?

I first came across yachting during my stint on cruise ships. I viewed it as the pinnacle with the high standards they set so, with the help of a colleague who made the jump a few years earlier, I transferred across.

What has been your most favourite part about a career in yachting?

My favourite part of yachting has been the opportunity it has given me to see so many different parts of the world. 

Is there an achievement or contribution within your career that you are most proud of?

Achieving my Master Mariners Unlimited and first stepping up as Relief Captain is my proudest moment so far.

Looking after the mental well-being of your crew is a huge part of your job, how prepared for that were you when you first climbed the ranks?

I don’t think this is something you can ever be fully prepared for. I covered as Relief Captain during the peak of the COVID pandemic and managing the crews’ mental health was one of my biggest challenges. I have been fortunate enough to have worked under some great captains and I followed their lead in taking the time to regularly check in on everyone and actively promoting an open door policy so that crew would know I was approachable whatever their issue.

In your view, what are the biggest pressures and factors which contribute to poor mental well-being at sea?

I think long contracts away from loved ones is one of the biggest  pressures on mental well-being. I think the yachting industry is doing a great job of moving towards better rotations over the past few years for all crew and I hope to see the commercial sector follow suit. Additionally; improvements in communication has made it easier to regularly contact home, and I believe this has helped with mental well-being in our industry, particularly during the pandemic.

What does a healthy working environment for mental well-being on board look like to you and how do you go about creating it?

I believe it looks like a workplace with both internal and external support systems in place. With the opportunity to take some time away from work to relax, socialise and enjoy some of the advantages of our industry such as seeing a new location.  Although we all live and work in a tight space, a ship can actually feel like loneliest place if you’re having a hard time so it’s important people know there is a support network around them.  This can be achieved by hiring the right people, organising crew events, and working as a team to bring the crew together so they become friends rather than just colleagues so as to watch out for one another. Then by setting up a mental health service such as offered by Medaire that crew have access to that gives an external support system if crew want to speak to someone other than their colleagues. 

What are some ways that you look after your own mental well-being whilst you’re onboard?

My number one way to mentally reset is to take an hour out for the gym each day. I see a lot of yachts promoting crew circuit classes, yoga, fitness challenges etc. which is great. Additionally I find a few hours ashore once in a while or an evening off to spend with the crew is great for my mental well-being.

As discussions surrounding diversity and mental well-being are slowly increasing within the industry, what would you like to see in the industry in the next 10 years?

I would like to see mental health awareness have its own segment as part of the STCW medical courses. The more crew who can recognise the signs of mental health issues, the quicker we can respond and help one another. 

And finally, where to next for you?

Next for me is to continue understudying experienced Captain’s on my current vessel so that I’m ready to step up to a permanent Captains role when the time is right. 

It is clear that we can expect great things from Richard and we can’t wait to follow his journey in the industry.  With mental well-being onboard being a priority, we look forward to watching him shape into one of the fine Captain’s of today. All the best, Rich!

Neal Roche

The Journey To Become A Captain With Neal Roche

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!

Peter Vogel & Team

Peter Vogel – A Guru In The World Of Hospitality

Peter Vogel – A Guru in The World of Hospitality

Peter Vogel’s name is synonymous with expert leadership and hospitality training in the yachting industry. If you (have been living under a rock and) have not heard of him, he is the Managing Director at Luxury Hospitality Management. Based in the Netherlands, he is also a mentor to our very own Bec McKeever! 

Peter has explored many different avenues in the world of hospitality, ultimately focusing on training and leadership development. Always on the go, Peter is full of energy and passion for what he does. Spreading his amazing expertise, and lighting up lives with his infectious personality. This month, lucky us had the pleasure of sitting down with Peter, as he took us through his wonderous journey from where it all began, to how he envisions the future.

Did you always know that you wanted to do yachting?

I did not, but I knew I was definitely going to work in the world of hospitality. Very early on, I stated to my parents that I would be working on a cruise ship.  When I was 7 or 8 years old, my mother later told me, it was a statement which I made again with conviction. I was 19 when I joined Seabourn Cruise Line in Sevilla on the 4th of May in 1993. I will never forget it! It was magical and after 5 years I got head-hunted by Lady Moura, which is when my career in yachting kicked off.

How did your career begin in the world of hospitality?

I began as a dishwasher and waiter at our local wedding and event centre, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Not only did I enjoy it but, I completely loved it! I only worked there for four months to earn some extra money while I was at school. Eventually, I realized I loved it so much, that I changed schools and joined the School for Bakery & Hotel personnel. I am no baker, so naturally, I chose the hotel side, which led me to apply at a high-end restaurant in my hometown. I worked there for two-and-a-half years as an intern and learned the ropes of our trade. 

How did you transition from yachting to Luxury Hospitality?

After 5 years on the cruise ships and 12 years in yachting, it was time for me to follow my heart. It told me that it was time to offer a service to the industry that was about the crew. I wanted to assist crew to learn all about being a hospitality specialist, as I truly believe that everyone onboard is in service. Not in a boring classroom, but onboard or onsite in the actual “playground”.

After my time with Vulcan Maritime, from the late Paul Allen, we launched in 2009 and enjoyed a great start as it appeared there was a need for it. Since then, we’ve added our leadership development programs for Captains, HODs, and middle managers. This is a field that I’m very passionate about as it is not taught in school anywhere. What a journey – it’s amazing to support crew in an ever more challenging industry. 

Who is your mentor outside the world of hospitality? 

My true mentor is an awesome gentleman, Mr Boerman. He is 85-plus now and I’ve known him all my life, he was my dad’s boss. My father has been a truck driver his whole life and recently retired. He travelled through the whole of Europe on his truck and as a kid, I joined him on week-long trips. I do think that my love of travel was inspired at an early age, thanks, Dad!

Back to my mentor, Mr Boerman, he always showed an interest in my travels and when I started my own business I asked for advice now and then. This grew into a great mentoring relationship and I aspire to be as great as him one day in coaching and supporting fellow entrepreneurs. He always listens and probes you with provocative thoughts and ideas for you to come up with your own solutions. Such a wonderful skill!

Where do you see yourself and Luxury Hospitality in 10 years?

This is a great question and I’m so glad you’re asking it. We are on a mission and this mission allows us to lift the quality in the world of hospitality to great heights. It is an industry whose focus lies on the human capital available to the owners and charter guests. Human capital that is appreciated, nurtured, and cared for will ultimately provide much greater experiences to their guests. These will naturally be oozing in personalized hospitality and Luxury Hospitality will be at the forefront of this mission and be a leader in the field.

How are you finding online training compared to face-to-face training in the world of hospitality?

There is a space for either form of delivery but online will never replace face-to-face training, it just can’t. There is something about human energy that can’t be transmitted through an internet connection and a screen. However, with the recent pandemic, it has been proven that you can deliver impactful training and development services, coaching for example, that support in-person delivery throughout the year. It inspired us to create leader and learner journeys for a multitude of our clients in recent months. 

What do you love most about your job?

I would have to say discovering my own potential, as it is unlimited. Every day we assist people to do just that. We help people unlock their true talents and allow them to understand their purpose in life. Whilst doing this I realize that there are no boundaries. When you allow yourself to lead from the heart it is possible to inspire others to do the same. It is very rewarding and waking up every day with true purpose is available to everyone. 

How has COVID affected your mindset?

It’s been interesting. I think that everyone, including myself, has had a bit of a wave effect as we are entering the third wave here in the Netherlands. Initially, during the first wave, I was rather happy to be home, to be honest. After all these years of non-stop travelling it was wonderful to be home and reset! This obviously changed quickly.  After a few weeks of enjoying life’s goodies – great wine & food – the indulgence was too much I needed to find a more balanced lifestyle.

I shifted the focus onto my health and I’ve been very grateful for this time as I’ve found ways to recentre. My sleeping habits changed, yes even did a sleeping course! I have become a sleeping champion, which allows me to have far greater energy levels throughout the day. Right now I’m just glad to see that the world is seeing vaccines arrive and being distributed and it gives a sense of hope that this is almost behind us. Luckily we keep ourselves busy with work for our clients as they have all transitioned online with us. But like all of us, I think it’s time to start drinking corona beer again and leave this disease behind!

Is there anything you miss about yachting?

Waking up on the water, sitting on the deck with my cup of tea, and enjoy the scenery change every day. That I miss immensely!

What has been your most memorable training session in the world of hospitality so far? 

There was one training during my early days, onboard an amazing Feadship. The owner had complained about the service during his previous trips and the Captain asked for me to come on board and figure it all out. Now, as I always look for the strengths in people, before introducing change, my initial assessment wasn’t received well by the Captain. He thought I was too “sweet”. I’ve been called many things in my life but not “sweet” haha.

Anyhow we continued on my training path, and the crew loved the training, they got opportunities to share their own feedback of what happened during guest trips and together we found a service approach that we all agreed would work. It was therefore a great moment when the Captain shared, following the next guest trip, that the owner had loved his trip! The service was amazing and we were asked to please come back to continue the development work. We have done so for 9 years now.

Peter Vogel

Peter is truly one of a kind and has a persistently positive outlook on life. His drive and creativity are certainly a huge inspiration to the world of hospitality and us at Virtual Pursers.  If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him, count yourself lucky!

Desire Truter

Yacht Life While Confined Onboard With Desire Truter

Yacht Life While Confined Onboard with Desiré Truter

Running a team on a yacht & entertaining guests can be a tremendously challenging task. Add in the COVID pandemic with its restrictions and life becomes even more complicated! Being confined onboard, senior crew are faced with several additional pressures in the workplace. They need to prioritise keeping their guests entertained and safe, as well as ensuring crew well-being. Chief Stewardess, Desiré Truter, gives us first-hand insight into guest & crew life whilst being confined onboard. She also reveals what measures her team are taking to create a daily positive environment.

How are the crew keeping their spirits up during the pandemic?

Although we have some restrictions, spirits are still high, and the team grows stronger day by day! We make a huge effort to host weekly activities onboard. We’ve hosted a number of events while being confined onboard, including quizzes, movie nights and even bingo!

Are there any activities or routines to make sure the crew are keeping healthy?

Even before lockdowns our crew have been an active bunch, we really encourage a health-conscious environment. Our team is exceptionally fit and have excellent routines that include daily workouts; it’s amazing what workouts you can do with minimal equipment! I personally use an app called CompTrain, it offers free home workouts and all you need is a skipping rope and a dumbbell, or kettlebell and is perfect for when you are confined onboard! Other crew love yoga and Pilates, but HIIIT and kettlebell circuits are the most popular. We are also lucky to have nutritious food, with a huge thank you to our wonderful chefs. Proper nutrition and easy workouts make living a healthy lifestyle while confined onboard completely achievable!

What COVID friendly activities are you providing the guests with to keep them occupied?

Although they are not confined onboard, shore excursions have been limited as guests want limited exposure. We have covered all of the classics including Guest and Crew Olympics, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed! A lot of our themed entertainment takes place at mealtimes as the guests are quite active during the day. We recently did a karaoke evening where dinner was a bougie take on classic snacks, did somebody say truffle popcorn?! My favourite evening so far has been our disco themed night. We had our cocktail station all set-up and encouraged our guests to get creative behind the bar. Before we knew it, they all got stuck in and were learning how to make their favourites!

The deck department have also been very proactive in entertaining the guests with all sorts of water sports. We have had some very athletic guests this season, who have been participating in everything from jet-skiing to diving. It is fair to say that the eFoils have become especially popular! At the end of the day, the yachting experience for our guests has continued to be just as wonderful and has not changed immensely. We have our incredible crew to thank for that!

What additional measures is the boat having to take during this time?

There have been several additional measures, with both guest and crew health & safety being our number one priority. For guest trips, the crew quarantine and are confined onboard prior to guest arrival. Extra precautions are taken when receiving provisions, all packaging is removed prior to items coming onboard which are then fully sanitised. For crew returning from leave, we have imposed mandatory hotel quarantine as some countries have no quarantine rules at all.

Has the pandemic affected crew turnover at all?

COVID has definitely put things into perspective for many yachties and some of our crew. A few have chosen to leave the industry entirely due to the heightened risks and complications that now come with air travel. I would say our turnover has stayed the same, however, the reasons for leaving have shifted. Ultimately, crew have to do what is best for themselves and it’s really important that they are happy onboard.

Do you have any recommendations for keeping your team motivated while they are confined onboard?

The pandemic has been a tough time for everyone and especially seafarers. It is essential to shift from a purely outcomes-based approach and check in with your team. Are people okay? Do they require support? What can you do to help? Sometimes it could be in the smallest gesture but now, more than ever, mental health awareness should be a priority. You should see your fellow crew not just as colleagues, but as family! Using this time for professional development has been a key motivator. There are great courses offered online, especially for interior and are a perfect way to keep occupied when you are confined onboard. Why not study for your WSET II, learn a new language, or even get another department to teach you a skill!

What do you predict for the upcoming season?

I doubt that we will see any immediate changes. However, there are now more systems in place for handling the curveballs that the pandemic has thrown at us. I predict that charter and private yachts will see more usage and job opportunities will increase. I urge crew to be proactive when it comes to being informed about restrictions, travel advice and keeping their certificates and visa’s in-date.

What have the positives been in this unprecedented situation?

We have definitely learnt to not take things for granted anymore! As superyacht crew we have always been fortunate when it comes to traveling and seeing all parts of the globe. For many of us, this has not changed. We are also lucky to still be able to be surrounded by other people whilst being confined onboard. Whereas many people on lockdown in our home countries, are extremely isolated. The silver lining is knowing that we would have grown immensely, for smooths seas never made skilled sailors!

Desire Truter & team

The yachting world has been just as affected by the pandemic as any other. Making the most of any given situation is always a positive way to deal with a tough time. It sounds like Desiré and her crew are certainly making lemonade out of lemons, despite being confined onboard. We would love to hear your ideas some activities you use to keep your guests and crew occupied during this difficult time!

 

Captain Sally-Ann Konigkramer

Captain Sally-Ann Konigkramer’s Career in Yachting

Captain Sally-Ann Konigkramer on Her Career in Yachting

Everyone’s career in yachting is a unique experience, however, we still find common ground in the challenges we face and the triumphs we accomplish. Sally-Ann hails from South Africa, but it was in Italy that she launched her career in yachting. Wide-eyed and eager to learn, her passion for achievement in the industry still burns strong. Below Captain Sally-Ann offers invaluable advice to those seeking a career in yachting, taking us through her journey from fledgling deckhand to accomplished Captain, where quitting was never an option.

Tell us how your career in yachting began.

I started my career in yachting as a deckhand onboard a 116-foot Azimut in Viareggio. I had no clue about the industry or what was expected of me. All I knew was that I wanted to be a Captain. At the time I only had about €1000,00 to my name. I was very fortunate enough to meet great people along the way. I remember catching a ride with a painter to France who showed me the crew house in Antibes. He kindly gave me a quick twenty-minute crash course on how to get day work. Sustaining myself on bread rolls and salami, I read a lot of books and stayed out of trouble. Quitting was never an option.

What initial career path did you want to take?

Before joining the industry, I always wanted to be a pilot. It seemed a far-fetched dream as my father was not going to pay for the schooling. During that period, females making careers as pilots and captains were not very common. It seemed like a childhood fantasy at the time. If I could not become a pilot, a Captain was the next closest thing when I realized I was good on the water, so I chose a career in yachting. I left South Africa at 20-years-old already knowing I was leaving to pursue my dream of becoming a Captain. The only time I returned was for a 2-week vacation in-between seasons.

Tell us more about your training.

It took my whole yachting career to get my Master 3000. I went from RYA Yacht Master to OOW to Master 500, to Master 3000. I climbed quickly, as I never took time off and was dedicated to reaching my goal. I am still hungry for more and am now I am pursuing the commercial route with Solent University. I did my training all over the world, some at Warsash University in South Hampton, some in Fort Lauderdale. Some in Antibes and one or two courses in South Africa.

How have you dealt with the challenges you have faced along the way?

I had to learn how to control my emotions, and not let the job get the better of me. I had to remain calm and strong in all circumstances. People will always behave badly or have something nasty to say, it is just the nature of striving to get to the top. During my career in yachting, the biggest challenge has been to never let anything knock me down. Trust me, it is a hard road, and you don’t have the time to be knocked down. People are constantly watching you and judging your every move, especially when you’re a female.

What experiences have made a career in yachting worth all the hard work?

Being in the position I am now allows me to share my journey and motivate others. I love to mentor people and help them grow. I love to share my knowledge and watch others succeed. My ultimate experience was driving the media chase boat for the Louis Vuitton American Cup in Nice France. Now was that adrenaline pumping! It was such a great experience to be part of the action!

Describe some positive influences you have during your career in yachting?

I am one of the luckiest people there are! I have had such great people in my life, from captains, their wives to brokers, you name it. The abundance of support and strength along my career in yachting has been a very humbling experience. I am surrounded by positive people constantly, which makes me want to better myself daily. Never stop pushing, never stop trying! 

Have you been influenced by anyone you would deem your mentor along the way?

YES! LJ Houghting from CharterWorld and Adam Steel, one of my former Captains, and the biggest mentor being my family. My brother and father are the strongest men in my life and have guided me through everything like absolute men of honour.

What is important to know about being a Captain?

A Captain is just a human being, like everyone else. They hold no superpower. They have not opened up the Red Sea with their arms. They should be expected to behave and act just like any other, and in fact, with more integrity. Being Captain does not excuse you of any behaviour or any law. Being Captain should make you work harder, not less. Yes, you have earned your stripes, but wear them with pride and honour, with morals that one can look up to.

What advice would you give a young female contemplating a career in yachting to become Captain?  

DO IT! DO NOT LOOK BACK, and every sacrifice is worth it if being a Captain is your goal. It’s a long, hard and lonely road but the reward of being a respected leader is worth it. Becoming a person that can positively impact other people’s lives is beyond describable. 

What is in store for your future career?

I want to go bigger and better! Potentially offshore on oil rigs as Unlimited Master. I’m not sure if ultimate dream job is a title. I would just want to be fulfilled with happiness and satisfaction. That’s enough for any job to be a dream come true. 

leaders in yachting

Young and ambitious, Captain Sally-Ann still has big plans for her future career in yachting and beyond. Bringing honour and energy to the role of a Captain, she radiates true leadership and is an inspiration to all aspiring Captains. We wish you all the best for your future and are thrilled to watch you continue to succeed!

Captain Liz Brasler

Leaders in Yachting with Captain Liz Brasler

Passionate about the yachting industry, professional achievements, and personal development, Virtual Pursers are focused on keeping everyone in the loop and encouraging our industry peers to reach for the stars. With our new and exclusive Q&A segment, we sit down each month to discuss career development and hot topics with captivating industry leaders in yachting, providing personal insight through the eyes of those with experience. Leaders in yachting play a vital role in guiding the future of the industry; we are thrilled to dive into their distinctive narratives and find out what is next.

This month, we have the privilege of chatting with Liz Brasler on her inspiring journey to becoming Captain.

Feel free to comment below!

All leaders in yachting have to start somewhere. How did your career begin?

In February 2006 I had just arrived in St. Maarten after another Atlantic crossing aboard my parent’s Sailing Yacht. I had completed my schooling and had read every book on board. I gazed out at the yachts moored near the bridge and wondered what it was like living on something that big compared to the boat I grew up on since the age of 9. I assembled a little resume, you could hardly call it a CV, with the most relevant qualification being PADI Divemaster. I walked the docks at Isle de Sol, and one Captain overheard my conversation. He chased after me on his bicycle as I ran for my RIB that I had left at the dinghy dock. (Access was strictly controlled from land, but arriving by boat was totally normal for me, I was not being sneaky) John was very kind and offered me a temporary deckhand job provided I could quickly do my STCW modules. Enter Jan and Veerle from MSWI who had a no show on the day the course started. I was accepted on the course and the yacht.

Did you always dream of becoming a Captain?

When I first joined yachting I did not think of becoming a Captain, however, as time went by, I found myself wondering what I would do in a particular situation if I was the Captain and explored the possibilities.

How long did it take you to get your Master 3000 and where did you do your training?

If you count my time on that first yacht, through M/Y A, and all the others, it took me from 2006 till 2019 that’s 13 years, 8 of them with a Chief Mate 3000t ticket.

I did training at so many schools if you include the RYA stuff. Honestly, the hardest modules for me were Stability and Celestial, and I passed those with self-study. I found a heap of educational videos online and knuckled down to understand them completely in every way instead of exam-cramming.

Being a female leader in yachting, have you encountered obstacles along the way?

I think all of the usual problems a woman expects. Girls reading this who are thinking about this career must know that everything you do, must be done 4x better than your male counterparts, no matter how unfair it is. The upside is that as a woman you can deal with that unfairness better It’s sad but true, the expectation of failure is higher if you are female.

What have been some of your career highlights?

Obviously passing my Master’s Oral Exam ranks high among them, but otherwise just personal milestones and small successes.

Describe some positive influences you have had in your career?

I never googled other female leaders and Captains, honestly, the most positive inspirations were the new crew just setting out who asked questions and seemed inspired by me, when in fact I was inspired by their energy and optimism.

Have you had any mentors along the way?

No, unfortunately not. I have heard of some though and envy the ladies who have had them

What advice would you give future leaders in yachting contemplating a career path to Captain?

Try to find a boat where you will be mentored. It’s a lonely path when you go alone.

Where to next for you? What’s your ultimate dream job?

Next? Well with Covid all around our plans will need to be even more fluid than usual. My partner and I will both be looking for a new position taking into consideration the current global pandemic and restrictions.

Ultimate dream job?

That’s a tough one as it very much depends on the vessel and situation. Either a couples position with my Chef partner, on a research or owner only, adventure yacht or joining a  new build and setting up a vessel in the shipyard which is always an exciting challenge.

Liz has successfully managed to hold her own in the industry and her hard work has paid off. She is an inspiration to future leaders in yachting everywhere

From Deckhand to Captain

From Deckhand to Captain

As a young twentysomething, you might not have your sights set on climbing the ranks from Deckhand to Captain. However, with the right attitude and love for the industry, this highly esteemed title may be a realistic goal.

Not for the faint hearted, the ambitious career path is taxing as it is rewarding. Read on as we discuss the high-level requirements for your professional journey from Deckhand to Captain.

Deckhand to Captain, Step 1:
Powerboat Level 2 and VHF / SRC marine radio certificate

Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Powerboat Level 2 (PB2) is an introductory powerboat training course. Also, considered a must-have in the industry because 98% of superyachts have watercraft on-board, such as jet skis and powerboats. The two-day course provides the skills and knowledge necessary to operate a powerboat up to 10 meters in length. Forming the basis of the International Certificate of Competence, this course covers,

  • Launching and recovery
  • Boat handling
  • Securing to a buoy
  • Anchoring
  • Leaving and coming alongside
  • Man overboard

A radio is an important piece of safety equipment on-board, which is why correct usage procedures are vital. The Short-Range Certificate (SRC) is the minimum qualification required to operate VHF (Very High Frequency) and DSC equipment (Digitised Message Broadcast). This includes both fixed and handheld equipment using international channels. On completion, the certification will enable unsupervised radio usage as well as the ability to supervise others usage. The one-day course will master the following,

  • Basic radio operation
  • Correct frequencies (channels) to be used
  • Distress, emergency and medical assistance procedures
  • Ship to shore calls
  • Digital Selective calling (DSC) using simulators
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)
  • Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS)
  • Search and Rescue (SART)
Deckhand to Captain, Step 2:
RYA Day Skipper Theory Shorebased Certificate

Taught over 40 hours, this theoretical course will equip students with enough knowledge to navigate familiar waters by day. Providing a comprehensive introduction to cruising for inexperienced skippers, the course will also touch on the basics for lights, for night cruising. Course topics include,

  • The basics of seamanship
  • The essentials of coastal navigation and pilotage
  • Chartwork
  • Electronic charts
  • Position fixing
  • Plotting a course to steer
  • Weather forecasting and meteorology
  • Tides
  • Collision regulations
  • Construction, parts and equipment of a cruising boat
  • Emergency and safety procedures including distress calls, use of flares, safety harnesses, life jackets and life rafts.
Deckhand to Captain, Step 3:
RYA Intermediate Powerboat course

Building on previous RYA courses, this two-day course bridges the gap between PB2 and the Advanced Powerboat courses. It aims to teach the standard required to complete a short coastal passage by day on coastal waters using both traditional and electronic navigational techniques. More time is given to,

  • Planning a day cruise
  • Boat preparation
  • Boat handling
  • Pilotage
  • Passage making
  • Man overboard
Deckhand to Captain, Step 4:
RYA RADAR Operators course

Radar is the most versatile of all electronic navigation aids and is an important and effective tool. However, it can easily mislead those who don’t know how to adjust controls, understand its limitations, or interpret images correctly. As superyacht crew, the radar is generally used to conduct vessel tracking on a secondary radar screen during navigational watches. This one-day course assists in navigation and collision avoidance, covering

  • How the radar set works
  • How its adjustments and features affect the way it works
  • Target definition
  • Radar reflectors
  • Types of radar display
  • Radar plotting
  • The use of radar in navigation and collision avoidance
Deckhand to Captain, Step 5:
RYA Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Shorebased

The advanced theoretical course builds on the knowledge gained from the shorebased Day Skipper course. Taught over 40 hours, the content is designed to stretch navigational knowledge. Equipping skippers to navigate safely on coastal and offshore passages both during day and night, course syllabus includes

  • Position fixing
  • Course shaping and plotting
  • Tidal knowledge
  • Use of almanacs and admiralty publications
  • Electronic position finding equipment
  • Taking and interpreting forecasts
  • Plotting weather systems
  • Weather predictions using a barometer and by observation
  • Collision regulations
  • Customs and excise regulations for cruising abroad
Deckhand to Captain, Step 6:
RYA Advanced Powerboat course

By now, skippers should be confident and practiced coastal powerboater’s. The 2-day course is the pinnacle of the RYA Powerboat scheme and requires experience in coastal powerboating for several seasons. Navigation at planning speed, weather, other challenges, and undertaking a night time passage will be covered during the course. The course outline entails,

  • Preparation for Sea
  • Boat Handling
  • Passage Making and Responsibility as Skipper
  • Pilotage
  • Meteorology
  • Rules of the Road
  • Use of Engines
  • Emergency Situations
  • Night Cruising
Deckhand to Captain, Step 7:
RYA / MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) Advanced Powerboat Examination

The final step! This exam is a practical day and night time test of boat handling and navigation, in the type of craft applicable to the National Powerboat Scheme.

The entry requirements include,

  • Minimum age: 17
  • Knowledge of navigation and chart work to Coastal skipper level
  • RYA VHF radio license
  • First Aid at Sea Certificate (STCW)
  • Logged Sea Time, 30 days, 2 as skipper, 800 miles, 12-night hours.
  • Logged Sea Time if you hold the Advanced course certificate, 20 days, 2 as skipper, 400 logged miles and 12-night hours (in addition to the sea time on the course)

Hot tip! There is a big difference between a deckhand who gained their 800 miles through relevant practical experience vs cleaning the stainless steel.

Congratulations! You’re a qualified Skipper!

The MCA recognises this qualification and could result in a complete change of career direction, including an increase in responsibility, seniority and pay. The door is now open to work on vessels up to 24m in length, operating in category 3, 4, 5 and 6 waters – that is up to 20 miles from a safe haven – day & night.

Begin your journey from Deckhand to Captain

If you’re serious about your career, feel free to contact our affiliates PYA for personalized advice. PYA have options that suits your position within the professional yachting community.

We are not a yacht management company; rather  an extension of your crew, acting as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. Virtual Pursers – The future of seamlessly, effortlessly, and efficiently navigating yacht administration. For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.

Efficiency and Operating Systems

Efficiency and Operating Systems

Operating Systems, the key to efficiency

Often overlooked, Operating Systems are fundamental to running a tight ship. Without which the crew are dead in the water.  Sound processes remove doubt, provide direction, and assist with seamlessly operating the vessel. 

Despite having access to world-class hardware and software, it is imperative for Yachts to stay abreast of technological advancements. Charter Yachts are essentially a business and not keeping up with the times could jeopardise success. 

Yachts vs the real world

Life at sea can be somewhat isolating. Without a spare moment, keeping in touch with life ashore may become an afterthought. Each day revolves around being on call to guests 24/7, regular tasks, safety drills and watch duties, making much else near impossible.

Yachtie’s are accustomed to a chock-a-block schedule with high demands, impeccable standards and tight deadlines. Which is why relentless preparation to manage expectations is so important. To avoid keeling over, skilled crew with the necessary tools and Operating Systems need to be in place to ensure smooth sailing. 

Deep Blue Soft, a complete and comprehensive Yacht Management Software

There are numerous programs out there, with more being developed daily. Virtual Pursers have found that none are as all-encompassing as Deep Blue Soft. This revolutionary yacht management software allows Captains & crew members complete transparency. The shared procedures encourage a harmonious and unified working environment whereby crew members complement each others work on board. Developed by yachting industry professionals for yacht operators, compliance with various regulations and security measures are taken care of. This complete and comprehensive Yacht Management Software covers all administrative areas required to run a vessel such as

  • Core Module: User profiles, Contacts, Shared calendar, Crew & guest lists, certificate management for crew and the yacht, technical documentation.
  • HRM module: Calendar, leave summary, scheduler, HOWR, payroll
  • PMS: Inventory, maintenance tasks, equipment, logbook counters, requisitions, work reports, purchase orders, spare parts & kits
  • Finance: accounting, reporting, budget
  • ISM: Dashboard, procedures, reports, records, contacts
  • Charter: contracts, accounting, APA, reporting, calendar
  • Fleet: Dashboard, management analytics

Worth mentioning is the HRM module. This tool allows the flexibility to either adopt stringent MLC rules or the opportunity to customise rules according to the yacht’s operational requirements. The HRM Module also allows for the activation of seafarer contracts under different standards, including rotational contracts and safe manning rules with different flag rules.

Other helpful tools to streamline operations 

Tools such as DS photo, Monday.com, Sortly, Hubdoc, Pinpoint, and numerous other applications are also worthwhile options to investigate. As useful as Excel may be, it is strongly recommended to consider a comprehensive industry relevant alternative when it comes to yachting operational requirements.

Virtual Pursers all about working smarter and these technological advancements are the way to go. For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.

Maritime Administration

Cyber Security IMO Regulations

Cyber Security IMO Regulations

Maritime Administration

Ignorance is bliss? Not when it comes to Cyber Security.

Technology plays a critical role in our daily lives. Technological advancements are blisteringly fast compared to previous years, which is why it has become an urgent topic of discussion. In this digital era of ubiquitous computing, organizations without Cyber Security are at risk. Land, air, water and cyber; it’s recognised as the fourth ground for nation-states. 

As the drive towards digital transformation continues to ceaselessly gather momentum, industries need to reassess their security strategies. By not properly protecting the attack surface, private and public sectors leave themselves exposed to possible breaches.

What is Cyber Security Management and why is it so important?

In short, all connected digital systems are prone to cyber-attacks. Expanding networking capabilities to all corners of our lives can make us more efficient, but more susceptible. 2020 catapulted industries online, with cyber security becoming a top priority for businesses. The pandemic has effectively become a catalyst for cyber security threats to rise exponentially, with all sectors being vulnerable. Connecting to the internet also means connecting to potential cyber threats. Attackers are always on the prowl to compromise systems. Generally, hackers are motivated by financial gain via corporate espionage or by acquiring personal data. Not having “top secret type government information” or “lifestyles of the rich and famous” does not make one untouchable.

Maritime Cyber Security Risk

While the threat is very real, the yachting industry has been quite lackadaisical until recently. Reality is – the fancier the yacht, the greater the risk. Adding complexities to ensure an immersive, bespoke experience, has resulted in modern superyachts closely resembling an enterprise-grade network. Vessels are more connected than ever before. Despite the cutting-edge technologies to allow for reliability, efficiency, and safety, cyber security seems to have fallen by the wayside. A breach is troubling in any business; however, consequences could be far more serious in the maritime environment. Don’t assume to know what hackers want. Money may not be the only motive, terrorism is a scary reality. “A successful breach of a vessel’s control systems can potential grant the assailant the ability to take control of bridge systems and control the vessel’s operational functions from anywhere in the world, in real time”, Super Yacht News

IMO Cyber Security Regulations

“When we talk about cyber security, it is not a matter of if you will be attacked but when. In order to deal with that, you should have a risk management approach on it and this what the IMO is introducing.” Mr. Chronis Kapalidis, Cyber Expert, HudsonAnalytix

Because of the ever-rising threat of an inevitable attack, the IMO has put cyber security regulations in place for compliance by 2021. The MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3 guidelines enforce a mechanism for dealing with risk rather than listing controls that should be implemented. Not reinventing the wheel, the IMO decided to build off established international frameworks for cyber risk management, adopting five functions that represent a holistic approach to cyber risk management: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover. By taking this functional approach, captains and security officials have the flexibility to use their discretion to tailor a program that effectively meets the requirements of their vessel without becoming excessively onerous.

NIST Cyber Security Framework

Not industry or size specific, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (“CSF”) is a useful benchmark which the maritime industry can refer to when developing internal regulations and standards.

The CSF features five core functions,

  • Identify: Define personnel roles and responsibilities for cyber risk management and identify the systems, assets, data and capabilities that, when disrupted, pose risks to ship operations.
  • Protect: Implement risk control processes and measures, and contingency planning to protect against a cyber-event and ensure continuity of shipping operations.
  • Detect: Develop and implement activities necessary to detect a cyber event in a timely manner.
  • Respond: Develop and implement activities and plans to provide resilience and to restore systems necessary for shipping operations or services impaired due to a cyber-event.
  • Recover: Identify measures to back-up and restore cyber systems necessary for shipping operations impacted by a cyber-event.
Is your vessel ready for IMO’s Cyber Security compliance?

“It’s been decided that no later than the annual verification of each company’s Document of Compliance, the 1st of January 2021, all shipping companies will be mandated to ensure that cyber risks are appropriately addressed in existing safety management systems (as defined in the ISM Code)”, Pelion Consulting

With a strong background in the yachting sector, Virtual Pursers recommend Pelion Consulting to ensure Safety Management Systems are updated and ready for audit after the deadline date.

Maritime Administration Virtual Pursers are not a yacht management company; we are an extension of your crew and act as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. As trusted yachting professionals with 20 years combined industry experience, we are here to help as well as to keep you informed on relevant industry related news and updates! For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.

Cyber Security in the Super Yachting World

Cyber Security in the Super Yachting World

High-profile owner and guest information is top priority and needs to be completely protected. Cyber Security attacks are generally aimed at accessing/destroying sensitive information, or extorting and stealing money. This is the last thing guests want to deal with whilst trying to enjoy a relaxing holiday. Many yachts lack the most basic security measures and yet, they need them the most. Crew also need to be educated on simple measures to protect their personal devices which may contain sensitive information pertaining to the vessel and guests.

Virtual Pursers understand the risks associated with Cyber Security in the Super Yachting World and have taken all the preventative action necessary. Our services have considered the top 5 cyber security threats.

Ransomware is a form of malicious software that attempts to scramble your data

An obvious but often overlooked form of protection against this type of malware is to back everything up. By merely backing up, you can, in large part, mitigate this risk. It’s also a good idea for business continuity for apparent reasons. Doing this with a cloud-based storage provider that automatically backs up your entire file system is best, as distributing your data as widely as possible makes it inherently more resilient to any loss. There are several providers such as iDrive and Backblaze, but it’s a good idea to shop around.

Phising is an attempt to gain sensitive information by posing as a trustworthy contact

This often comes in the form of a fake email in order to gain an urgent payment or personal information. At Virtual Pursers, we use G-suite and an anti-virus to mitigate these kinds of emails. Here are some points to remember when it comes emails:

  • Remember that email, on the whole, is completely insecure. Being the digital equivalent of a postcard, it’s easy for anyone to intercept and read. Never send anything commercially or financially sensitive via email, especially bank details, credit card numbers, etc.
  • Never, ever, click on any link in an email from an unknown source. Just one click can open you up to a considerable number of attacks, even if nothing seems to have changed/happened.
  • Do not open any attachments from anyone unless you are expecting them. Word docs and Excel sheets are especially risky, but viruses and other malicious code can be hidden in nearly any type of file, even images.
  • Be mindful of the email source, especially if a known contact suddenly says that they’re using another email account (personal, etc.) out of the blue. Always call to confirm.
  • Anyone’s email addresses can be spoofed (faked), so if a known contact suddenly sounds somehow different, then don’t be shy about checking that everything is ok and that it is them!

Data Leakage and hacking are two major problems in the modern-day working environment

There are a few simple ways to counteract these one of which is to use decent antivirus/security software. Whereas both Windows 10 and macOS are relatively secure, they’re both susceptible to spyware, viruses, etc. Even Macs, who people think are generally “virus-proof” out of the box, really aren’t. Installing good antivirus/firewall software is an absolute must for any laptop or desktop used in a professional capacity. Virtual Pursers prefer Norton, however there are alternatives such as BitdefenderKaspersky. Avast is the only trusted free software option.

Use two-factor authentication whenever you can 

This ensures that even if somebody gets hold of your credentials or passwords, they cannot log in to anything with additional security. There are various ways to do this and there are a few built in systems on some programs that send a code to your cell-phone, for instance.  Virtual Pursers use Yubikey’s, a physical USB key for both hardware and software access.

Be careful how you connect to WiFi networks and use a VPN where possible

Never, ever, connect to an insecure public WiFi network that does not require a password. If you have to connect to any network outside of your own trusted office or home network, then it’s vital that you use a VPN or “Virtual Private Network.” VPN services create a secure data “tunnel” from your device, directly through to another secure server elsewhere in the world. This makes you a whole lot more secure and prevents anyone from intercepting your data. There are several options out there, but ExpressVPN is a recommended one as they’re fast, reliable, and they offer apps for all major platforms that make it very, very easy to setup. 

Always stay updated to the latest version or the operating system

The moment a new version comes out, an army of both good and bad hackers try breaking into it. As soon as they find vulnerabilities, believe it or not, the good guys tell either Apple or Microsoft before the bad guys can exploit them, and patches and updates are released straight away.

G-Suite, the ideal Cloud-based ecosystem for Cyber Security in the Super Yachting World

Not only highly recommended, but Virtual Pursers prefer this robust cloud computing platform because of the archiving and collaborative abilities. G-Suite makes it extremely easy for both in-house and external clients to share and contribute. It’s also a reliable environment to keep all your documents, files, email attachments, etc. With G Suite data is kept away from local devices and potential cyber security threats. 

Cyber Security Regulations to be in place by 1 January 2021

With the assistance of International Maritime Organization, vessels can mitigate threats by adhering to the Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Risk Management. The recommendations are complementary and can be easily incorporated into existing risk management processes. By 1 January 2021, The Maritime Safety Committee require all administrations to ensure that cyber risks are appropriately addressed in existing safety management systems (as defined in the ISM Code).

We understand the risk of Cyber Security in the Super Yachting World so you can rest assured knowing that your safety is our top priority. Virtual Pursers – The future of seamlessly, effortlessly, and efficiently navigating yacht administration. For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.