Q&A with Chief Engineer Chris Clarke

8 April 2020 By Laura Shaughnessy

Laura Shaughnessy is the former managing editor at Dockwalk. 

Chief Engineer Chris Clarke

Name: Chris Clarke  
Position: Chief Engineer
Vessel: M/Y Altavita
Years in current position: 10 months
Years in industry: 8   
Previous vessels: M/Y My Loyalty, M/Y Jiva, M/Y Ocean Paradise, M/Y Altitude
Nationality: British

As I have been at sea since leaving school, I would be doing something marine-related. I did a restoration on a 1930s boat, which was really interesting so I would like to learn traditional boat building.

I spent seven years in the Navy and 18 years total at sea. With the decline in British shipping, yachting seemed the next logical step.

The most challenging part of the job is spending large quantities of the year away from family and friends.

My worst mechanical failure as an engineer: I was brought in to look after a poorly maintained dive boat. Unknown to me, all the alarms on the generator had been bypassed. The turbocharger seal started leaking heavily and all the oil was dumped out of the generator, causing it to seize. The result was that the generator was in exploded view in the engine room.

The biggest issue facing yacht engineers today is probably the new high-tech systems coming on board and everything becoming computer-controlled. Pretty soon, there will be no need for old-school mechanical engineers like me.

My advice for those looking to get started is to always tell the truth on your CV. If you don’t have that much experience, say you don’t. I’ve seen too many crewmembers exaggerating experience and getting found out during the season when they are most needed.

My advice for those looking to impress on the job is to take as many courses as you can, especially if the boat is paying. With new technology coming in, you never stop learning as an engineer.

Something I’ve learned about myself through yachting is that I can still smile and pretend I love life after an 18-hour shift on charter when everything is going wrong.

My most significant achievement is probably restoring a 1930s Gardner engine to fully working former glory.

The best part about my job is working on a year-old boat (on Altavita) and the satisfaction of seeing everything working on board after a long, challenging first season. It’s also getting to see some of the more exotic locations that aren’t on the normal milk run of the Med. 

This column originally ran in the April 2020 issue of Dockwalk.


More from Dockwalk