Place of birth London
Current yacht Nero
Number of crew 20
Previous yachts Welsh Liberty, Welsh Falcon (Marandis), Welsh Conquest, Welsh Princess, Margaux Rose, Maupiti, Maridome, Polar Star
What was your first taste of the sea?
When I was growing up in South Africa’s landlocked province of Transvaal, my parents were keen dinghy sailors and we accompanied them sailing most Sundays, racing at our local club and sometimes attending regattas. I was sent to school in England aged nine and spent many summer holidays with my aunt and uncle at their seaside house in Sandbanks, Poole Harbour, messing around in boats and waterskiing around Brownsea Island. There was a large, out-of-commission 160ft steam yacht, Marandis, anchored off the island and my cousins and I always marvelled at how large she was. Years later, I became her master after she was recommissioned by Dragon Yacht!
What’s your favourite on-shore hangout?
Ballybla Farm in County Wicklow, my home in Ireland.
Which destinations do you most look forward to visiting?
New places and new voyages are always the most exciting, but one place that stands out in my career as special is Antarctica.
What do you like most about your current yacht?
My present command is a wonderful mix of old and new. Nero is a modern motor yacht built in the style of the 1900 steam yachts – she stands out from the pack and will never really age. She is a time machine merging a past era with today’s hi-tech world.
Which is your favourite toy on board?
I’ve had toys aboard yachts over the years, from the first jetski-type boats to a hot air balloon. I would have liked to have had a submarine! The Seabobs are my favourite toy aboard Nero.
What’s the most stressful part of your job?
Dismissing non-performing crew, completing Italian port arrival forms and doing the monthly accounts.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the industry?
The introduction of the modern communication systems that have brought so many benefits to yachting. Another transition I’ve seen is from dedicated amateur sailors who worked for the thrill and privilege of being aboard a yacht to professional crews for whom income is the prime mover.
What would you change about the superyachting industry?
I would simplify the ISM system for yachts and make it relevant to the yachting industry. I think the current system of classing yachts as merchant ships is wrong: it ignores the skills of seamanship and is catapulting the industry in to a legalised labyrinth of administrative quicksand. It is becoming a huge overhead on resources in manpower and funding that is not driven by the consumer but by a bureaucratic headless monster, which has marginal benefit to end users.
What’s the most curious request you’ve had from a guest?
A charter broker recently asked us to buy a goldfish bowl and two goldfish for the charterer. When our charter guest came aboard, he was as puzzled as we were about the request. It turned out that his children liked Goldfish Crackers – but by the time the instructions reached our side of the world they had got a bit distorted! We all had a laugh and now we have two fish called Cracker One and Cracker Two who have been signed on to the crew list.
Any advice to an aspiring captain?
My advice for a crew member who wants to be become a captain: take the Merchant Navy unlimited route. It’s a better training, you get paid as a cadet and you have more options once qualified.
Who would be your fantasy charter guests?
William, Kate and Prince George, David Attenborough, Ranulph Fiennes, Lewis Hamilton and Ernest Shackleton.
What is the worst cock-up you’ve seen a captain make?
The best time to see amusing cock-ups is when the semi-professional and amateur boats are trying to berth on the fuel dock in Porto Cervo in August. The biggest mess-ups are usually compensated for by beautiful and scantily clad people being involved!
I piloted a balloon flown from the Margaux Rose in the Berry Island Flats, Bahamas. I took off with the charterer’s wife in the basket and flew over the shallower waters, watching all the fish and coral pass under the basket as we skimmed a few metres above the sea. I soon realised the tide was going out and it was getting too shallow for the tenders we would be landing on to follow us through the coral-strewn water. I managed to land in a shallow lagoon on a small island but our rescue took several hours as the crew had to wait for the tide to rise before they could walk the tender across miles of very shallow sea.
I was forgiven but teased about the event for many years.
Nero is available for sale (asking price on application) and charter (from €385,000pw) through Burgess.