Place of birth Dublin
Current yacht Fair Lady
Previous yachts Jasali (ex-Colombaio Sun), Mary Jean (ex-Shanti)
What was your first taste of the sea?
Dinghy sailing in Dublin was part of growing up there. My first actual job afloat was as a 16-year-old schoolboy on the old British & Irish Ferries’ Dublin to Liverpool route, initially as plate-washer and promoted to officers’ mess steward. What actually led to entering the yachting industry was an invitation from a college friend to cruise on his family’s yacht based in Palma, Mallorca.
Which destinations do you most look forward to visiting?
Those that best suit the guests that we have on board. There is no point in being in the South of France with someone who wants secluded anchorages. It’s all very well matching the yacht and crew to the guests, but the cruising area has to be right, too.
What are your favourite onshore hangouts?
Home! For most of my career I was running yachts that undertook double seasons. Marriage and a child (not necessarily in that order!) came at a relatively late age, so now having command of a Palma-based single-season yacht is a real treat.
What do you like most about your current yacht?
First and foremost, her true classic beauty and elegance. She also has a place in the history of yacht chartering in the Mediterranean. At last year’s Genoa charter show it was brought to my attention that the whole idea of a Med-based charter show was hatched on board Fair Lady one year when she was anchored in the bay of Villefranche.
Which is your favourite on-board toy?
The Laser dinghies – they both have full regatta rigs and the smaller 4.7 rigs so can be used and enjoyed by sailors of all abilities and ages.
What would you change about the superyachting industry?
I would like to see an acceptance of proof of on-board safety training rather than a full STCW95 training course for newcomers.
What’s the most curious request you’ve ever had from a guest?
I must be leading a charmed life as I’ve not really been asked for anything too out of the ordinary. A slightly embarrassing moment happened when I was invited to join some guests for their last dinner on board. The starters had been placed in front of everyone when the principal charterer stands up and invites me to say grace. A quick throwback to school days helped me mumble a fitting thanks for the bounty before us.
What’s the worst weather you have encountered on board?
During a four-day ‘incentive’ charter on Jasali. We started in Nice, overnight to Ajaccio, then up to Calvi. A mistral blew up but everyone needed to be back in Nice for work so we gave it a go – ended up in Genoa. There is nowhere worse than the Med when it’s bad.
Who is the most eccentric/strangest/funniest member of your crew?
I have a really great and stable crew at the moment. The fact that there are no eccentrics helps keep it that way!
Who was the most troublesome crew member you’ve worked with?
Probably a chef who used to berate the guests if they did not eat everything put in front of them. The stewardesses learned to scrape plates clean before sending back to the galley to avoid confrontations!
What’s the most stressful part of the job?
‘Stressful’ is not be the word I would use, but the hardest part of the job is trying to retain that sense of fun and adventure now that yachting has become so ‘professional’ and regulated.
What’s the next big thing in yachting?
I think it is almost there: the disappearance of satcom domes and the connectivity of handheld devices without complicated on-board Wi-fi.
Any advice for an aspiring captain?
Gain experience in all departments of the operation including engineering and catering. We are all maritime hoteliers.
Who would be your top five fantasy charter guests?
Fair Lady is from the years between the wars so I think my guests would be from that era. For class, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; for laughs, Laurel and Hardy; and for the unexpected, Errol Flynn.
What’s the biggest cock-up you’ve ever seen or made yourself?
There have probably been a few over the years, but as long as we don’t emulate those we see or repeat those we make we should all be sailing in safer waters.
Fair Lady charters in the Western Mediterranean and Adriatic through Burgess for €63,000pw (high season); €56,000pw (low season). www.burgessyachts.com
A version of this story appears in the January/February 2015 issue of SuperYacht World. To subscribe, click here.