Q&A with Chief Engineer Sonny Kristensen

15 August 2023 By Claire Griffiths

Claire Griffiths is Dockwalk’s contributing editor in the Mediterranean. She fled to the sunny south of France from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Claire has a background in journalism for national and regional UK press and a career in political and corporate PR prior to that. Claire’s hobbies include eating, sleeping and dancing at inopportune times. She tries to avoid sheer drops and Olympic bobsled runs. Email Claire at

Name: Sonny Kristensen
Position: chief engineer
Yacht: M/Y Project X
LOA: 87.6M/287' 5"
Builder: Golden Yachts
Time in current position: 2.5 years
Time in industry: 14 years
Previous vessels: M/Y Il Cigno, M/Y Meamina
Nationality: Danish

I would probably be sailing in the merchant navy if I were not in this industry. I got involved in superyachts after contacting a former Danish engineer from the industry who runs an engineering recruitment company.

The toughest part of my job is keeping track of all the constant breakdowns and making sure I always have a plan for every single issue: how to solve them, who to contact, what parts to buy, etc.

I’ve known quite a few mechanical failures in my time! When I worked in the Navy, we once lost our 76-millimeter cannon, which was located forward of the bridge. It got ripped off in bad weather, leaving a one-meter circular hole straight into the ship. We took on a lot of water and were pumping it out for hours. In this industry, we once filled one of the main engine oil sumps with seawater because the seawater pump shaft seal failed. The water was coming out the oil stick when we found out.

Electrical engineering gets more and more complicated, and yachts are fitted with more and more complicated electric and AV/IT equipment. You must be sharp on the electrical/AV/IT side nowadays.

I would recommend taking commercial engineering education if you want to get started in the industry. Get sea time from the merchant navy and join yachting when you get the papers to be second engineer. From then, it’s only about sea time before you get the CE unlimited papers.

If you want to impress on the job, fix the issues! And be hands on. A good engineer needs to find solutions when issues arise, so get in there and get your hands dirty.

I’ve learned that I really appreciate being around a lot of other colleagues 24 hours a day. It gives me a lot of energy and the close teamwork creates an amazing working environment.

One of my greatest achievements is rewiring a whole bridge console. It took about three weeks.

The best part of the job is the freedom of NOT having a big organization behind you. Big shipping companies have lots of rules on how to do what, when, and why. In this industry, WE decide how, when, and why. I love this freedom.

This article was originally published in the May 2023 issue of Dockwalk.


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