Q&A with Chief Engineer John Morton

14 October 2020 By Erica Lay

Owner of international crew agency EL CREW CO in Mallorca, Spain, Erica has been a freelance writer since 2008. She loves engaging with the projects she works on, diving headfirst into the research, investigation, and production of the stories she feels are newsworthy. A curious and proactive journalist, she draws on her own life experiences, her studies, and her work with crew all over the globe.

Chief Engineer John Morton

Name: John Morton
Position: Chief Engineer
Vessel: M/Y Lazy Z
LOA: 53M/173'10"
Years in current position: 3
Years in industry: 11  
Previous vessels: M/Y Te Manu, M/Y Aurora, M/Y Martha Ann, M/Y Duke Town, M/Y Four Wishes, S/Y Alithia
Nationality: UK    

If I weren’t on a yacht, I would probably still be sitting behind a computer screen monitoring communications networks.

I was looking for a career change with a bit of adventure when I stumbled across yachting. With a bit of research, I found more and more yachts looking for people with AV/IT skills and saw an opening.

The most challenging part of my job is keeping up with the paperwork. Recording jobs completed and generating reports, keeping PMS and inventory systems up to date, etc. I find the motivation comes in the form of panic towards the end of my rotation though. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

My worst mechanical failure or incident as an engineer happened during my first crossing as chief engineer. On one passage back to Florida, we lost all the data from the starboard engine. We had experienced this before (never whilst running, mind you) and it would come back up with a power cycle. Called the bridge and took control of the starboard engine and shut it down. When I isolated the power from the batteries to the starboard engine, the port shut down as well. Unbeknownst to me, the power module on the port engine had failed and it was using the starboard batteries as its backup power. [After] 42 hours of fault-finding, we were able to get one engine going and limp back to Gran Canaria. 

I find keeping up with technology very time-consuming, yet fairly essential as technology becomes more and more a part of our lives. Whether it be helping guests out with their devices or state-of-the-art systems on board, we need a thorough understanding of how it works in order to diagnose faults. But if in doubt, switch it off and on again.

My advice for those looking to get started is to do your research and understand how the license system works. Organizations will happily take your money even if you’re not ready or don’t need to spend it. 

My advice for those who are looking to impress on the job is to work hard and diligently. Show initiative and never be afraid to ask questions.

I never knew I needed this much coffee before yachting.

The best part about my job is the diversity — every day has a new challenge.   

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


More from Dockwalk