The life and times of a superyacht charter captain

Written by Georgia Tindale

In our previous feature on SuperYacht Times, we spoke to superyacht captains from across the industry and discovered the highs and lows of this unique job, whether it be the difficulties in juggling personal and professional life, finding the right approach for dealing with challenging situations on board and, of course, spending some time reflecting on the incredible locations these men and women get to visit whilst at the helm. What difference does it make, however, when you speak to superyacht charter captains? With an ever-changing array of guests on board, working as a charter, rather than a private captain, brings with it a whole set of new and exciting challenges. We speak to captains from across the industry to find out more.  
Clicia yacht cruisingWhat are the main differences between being a charter captain vs. being a captain of a private boat?  
David Burke, Captain of motor yacht Clicia (for charter with Camper & Nicholsons)  

The main difference is that it’s quite a lot more demanding in the service aspect of things: you’re effectively like a floating hotel manager with constantly changing guests and it’s also much more of a commercial enterprise. People are a lot more interested in value, economy and revenue. There’s also a lot of admin in chartering, but I like that as well. I like the organisation, the logistics, the bunkering, the VAT arrangements and finding the best value for the clients. Everyone likes a deal, and I really enjoy delivering that to them!  

Another difference is definitely the variety. In private work, you’re dealing with one family, they’re often owners of a yacht for a long time often and it’s quite a static environment in comparison. I enjoy the charter side of things because it’s much more dynamic and it really helps to motivate me as well because it keeps me interested and I really enjoy the change.  Clicia yacht saloonDane Kolo, Captain of motor yacht Robbie Bobby (for charter with Fraser)

I feel that when you are a charter vessel captain, you need to be able to read people well and also very quickly. You need to be very adaptive with your plans and actions. Each charter is a completely new start and being able to find the charter guests’ rhythm and pace and fit the charter to their likes and dislikes is truly essential.  Robbie Bobby yacht cruisingPhoto: FraserWhat are the biggest challenges of your role as captain?  

Paul Hutchinson, Captain of motor yacht La Dea II (for charter with IYC)  

I don’t think third parties realise what a challenging role it can be. Being a captain isn’t just about starting the engine, driving from A to B and looking out of the window. You have to be a business manager and a mentor to your crew too. You’ve also got to be a legal advisor and representative, working with the boss’ office and their lawyers so you’ve got to know VAT, legislation and so on. Basically, you’ve got to know everything. It’s a big ask. There are so many facets to being a captain in yachting. It’s a hard role with goal posts which can be constantly changing because of something like a regulation change or a change in the mind of the owner or a charter client. You have to plan ahead and so you’re never really able to live for today.  La Dea II yacht exteriorPhoto: IYC Yachts

La Dea II yacht bridgePhoto: IYC YachtsDane Kolo, Captain of motor yacht Robbie Bobby (for charter with Fraser)

There can be very short turnarounds which can make life very interesting! We are quite lucky on Robbie Bobby as we have a really good shore-based support team. We have very supportive owners and Fraser as our management company, all of whom make my life a lot easier for those short windows due to the support that we get around the clock.  Robbie Bobby yacht saloonPhoto: Fraser
Robbie Bobby yacht tenderHow would you characterise your charter crew?  

Dane Kolo, Captain of motor yacht Robbie Bobby (for charter with Fraser)

I have an amazing crew on board Robbie Bobby! All of the crew are really passionate about what they do and instinctively know what is required of them, being able to adapt to the guests’ requirements as seamlessly as possible to make every day unforgettable. They are the foundation of the vessel’s charter experience.  Robbie Bobby yacht dining We have a fantastic interior team who see to it that the guests need for nothing. Our Chef Luis, having previously been a head chef on a 140-metre yacht and coming from Michelin Star restaurants, makes guests’ dining experiences a truly unforgettable experience. The deck crew are constantly getting guests out and about and putting smiles on all of their faces with water sports and beach setups. But the unsung hero is our C/E Matt who keeps the vessel running like clockwork. We have a great team onboard: all of the crew are real team players and have great chemistry together. This is one of the biggest factors for making a charter experience a success. Teamwork makes the dream work!  Sharlou yacht sailing with her tenderPhoto: Camper & Nicholsons

Martial Beguin and Patrick Sassier, rotational captains on board sailing yacht Sharlou (for charter with Camper & Nicholsons)

Martial: Currently, it’s a real mix of nationalities, which we really like and which works well for the team. It’s really important to be able to meet people from different places and to experience different cultures. We have a Phillipino, a South African guy, a Kiwi and French crewmembers - it’s great to have such a variety of people working with us.  

Patrick: We are not the kind of boat which says, “Okay, we are the captains, don’t speak to us” - for one thing, the boat isn’t big enough! Part of our job as captains is to keep the spirits up of our crewmembers and to create a positive feeling on board, which we definitely have. It is very important to take care of everyone on board: everyone has their own personality and sense of humour of course, so it’s about finding the right balance to keep the team dynamic as strong as it possibly can be.  Sharlou yacht sailingPhoto: Camper & NicholsonsSharlou yacht deckPhoto: Camper & Nicholsons

What have been some of your favourite places you’ve visited on board your charter yacht?  
Dane Kolo, Captain of Robbie Bobby (for charter with Fraser)  

On Robbie Bobby we have been to some great spots on the west coast of Corsica that I really like, with Mallorca being another favourite of mine in the Med. The Pacific is pretty hard to top, whether that’s Tahiti, Hawaii, New Caledonia or Palau. On board, we have lots of water sports equipment, including a nine-metre chase boat which is great for guests who want to go and explore.    

It’s quite hard not to like any of the places that we get to go to on these yachts: we live an amazing life and get to do and see incredible things that the majority of people in the world will never see or do. This season we will be cruising around the South of France, Italy, Corsica and Sardinia. We have also just received our Spanish charter license so hopefully we will be able to show off some of what the beautiful Balearic Islands have to offer now as well.    
Robbie Bobby yacht jacuzzi David Burke, Captain of motor yacht Clicia (for charter with Camper & Nicholsons)  

It’s so hard to choose my favourite places because there is so much beauty in the Aegeans and in the Cyclades but also in the Dodecanese islands. I also really love south-east Turkey, south-west Turkey, the Göcek Fethiye region, Bodrum and Marmaris - the list goes on! Overall though, I think that Corsica is probably my favourite place out of everywhere because we can reach the truly secluded spots on the yacht and avoid those which are ram-packed full of people. To be able to go to one of these beaches in the middle of August when the whole of Europe is on holiday and it’s almost completely empty and really beautiful and clean is really remarkable. It’s such a special thing to be able to provide your clients with this experience.  
Clicia yacht sundeckClicia yacht stern Photo: Camper & NicholsonsFinally, what is the best part of your job as a charter captain?  

Paul Hutchinson, Captain of La Dea II (for charter with IYC)  

Seeing the smile on the face of a happy guest. As captains, we work in service: the upper echelons of service, but service nonetheless. Having a successful summer and getting great feedback from the charter clients makes it all worth it. Obviously that positive feedback goes to the owners, so they are happy, the clients are happy, the broker is happy, and that’s what we’re always aiming to achieve. When people have had a great time on the boat and give you those genuine thank yous at the end of the charter, that’s what makes it so worthwhile.  La Dea II yacht saloonPhoto: IYCDane Kolo, Captain of Robbie Bobby (for charter with Fraser
The most enjoyable part of my job would have to be seeing the expressions on people’s faces during the charters. Whether it be from waking up in a secluded, picturesque anchorage, visiting amazing places they have never been before or guests just having an unforgettable experience on board - this is the best part of being a captain.  Robbie Bobby yacht deck



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