What was your first taste of the sea?
I am the fifth generation of my family to go to sea as a captain. I started working on my grandfather’s fishing boats as a child, cleaning hulls for pocket money. It was good training to become a deckhand.
Which ports do you most look forward to visiting?
I think the harbour of Marina Grande in Capri is very special: I love the dramatic cliff face and fabulous scenery, and secretly I enjoy the challenging manoeuvre of getting a big yacht into the port.
What are your favourite onshore hangouts?
That’s an easy one: the hanging village of Eze in the South of France. It’s where I fell in love with my wife Jodie, mother to our two delightful daughters. We had our honeymoon there and often revisit. You need to stay until the day-trippers have gone to appreciate its true beauty.
What’s the one place in the world you’d like to cruise to?
Antarctica. I almost went in 2008 – I had the whole thing planned and had an ice pilot and guide on board. Just as the boss was flying in a deep depression hit, causing 60-knot winds and 15-metre seas, so instead we went north through the Magellan Strait to the Chilean fjords and cruised inside the fantastic lower Patagonia region.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
The pool of quality crew is inevitably getting smaller as the fleet expands. Highly qualified captains who were once running 50-metre yachts are now in command of 80-metre superyachts, meaning the smaller yachts are now captained by people who should still be first mates. There are only so many qualified people around and I don’t think you can fast-track experience successfully.
Which is your favourite on-board toy?
Undoubtedly our Celestron Sky Scout Personal Planetarium, a device that uses advanced GPS technology to identify stars, planets and constellations. It is educational and a navigation tool, but fun too.
What would you change about the yachting industry?
Don’t get me started! There are so many things! People come into yachting and think they can change the industry just like that, but ultimately it is the industry that changes you.
What’s the most stressful part of your job?
Being away from Jodie and our daughters who are five and 1½. Jodie and I worked on board together when our eldest daughter was younger; she was brought up on board from the age of three months. When our second child was born, my family went ashore to Australia.
I am a Skype Daddy and read the girls a story every night. I see them every few months, but it’s still hard.
What’s the most curious request you have had from a guest?
A group of lady guests once requested that the deck crew dress up as male strippers, wearing nothing but black shorts, black bow ties and white collar cuffs and to serve them at dinner. They were a handsome deck crew who were all very buff and they took to the idea with great gusto. The guests loved it and so did the boys!
Who is the most difficult crew member you’ve encountered?
A former submariner served with me once as chief engineer. He liked a drink and one day the owner came up to me and said: “I think your chief engineer is asleep at the end of the passerelle.” We walked to the stern and the chief was fast asleep on the dock, curled up around a pot plant without a care in the world!
Do you have any advice for an aspiring captain?
Don’t move yachts too fast, because everyone loves longevity. The most important thing is having honesty and trust between a captain and an owner, which has to work both ways. Always keep in mind that it’s hard to build up international credibility but very easy to lose it.
Who would be your top five fantasy charter guests?
Jerry Lee Lewis, who inspired me to play the piano as a child. I would love to watch him play. Elvis because my father used to impersonate him. The two greatest maritime explorers, Christopher Columbus and Captain Cook, to show them how we explore today, and finally Buddha because I have so many questions.
What’s the biggest cock-up you’ve seen a captain make?
Not taking any navigational charts to Belize. He ran aground almost every day, sometimes for over 20 miles at a time!
I lost a tender when I was 21 and captain on one of my dad’s fishing boats. It broke free from the stern of the boat at anchor during a storm. Dad wasn’t happy that I couldn’t find it, so I hired a plane and finally spotted it on a beach 40 miles away.
Superyacht captain: David Clarke of Laurel
What was your first taste of the sea?