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!

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.