Q&A with Deck/Mate David Chabbey of M/Y RR

8 August 2022 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: David Chabbey
Position: Deck/Mate
Yacht: M/Y RR
Length: 45.3M/148'7"
Builder: Mangusta / Overmarine Group SPA
Years in current position: 3 months
Years in industry: 6
Previous vessels: M/Y O, M/Y Etoile d’Azur, M/Y Ocean Mercury
Nationality: Swiss

My ultimate goal is to be a purser as I have a strong management background, but in the short term, I am aiming for a mate position. I still want to sail the Pacific Ocean and other remote places. There are so many places I want to see.

If I wasn’t working in the superyacht industry, I’d still be working in the marketing industry, working for cultural/sports events and tourism as I did for 15 years before joining the yachts.

The toughest part of the job is the lack of sleep. When you have guests on board and you are working 16-18 hours a day and you need to wake up at 3 a.m. for your anchor watch, it’s a feeling that I don’t really like.

Once you have decided to join yachting, save some money, sell all your belongings, keep just the minimum, and go for it! Landing your first permanent contract is not easy and can take time. Don’t give up, be patient, keep on dockwalking, expand your network, and give 120 percent on every daywork you do. Make sure people remember you — market yourself!

If you want to impress, try and be humble, work hard, learn as much as you can, don’t question the orders, don’t complain, put the tools back in their exact place, help your colleagues, and don’t gossip!

Extra skills do help. In my case, having a strong management background has helped me to keep things organized and to plan ahead. Other skills related to sports activities are important as it improves the guest’s experience. They are going to have more fun if you can coach them correctly.

The most important thing I’ve learned on board is to keep cool in critical conditions or situations.

My most significant achievement? Having the courage to have a radical change at 37 years old to start a career from scratch: dockwalking, living in crew houses, and cleaning bilges.

It all happened after a meeting with a client. I remember thinking that it wasn’t enough. I needed a big change in my life so I handed in [my] resignation, sold my car, got rid of my apartment and my belongings and went to Antibes where I started dockwalking. I found daywork quite quickly but it took me six months to sign my first permanent contract.

The best part for me is the diversity of countries you see and the diversity of people you are working with. You always need to adapt yourself to different cultures. And the challenges you face every day make it really rewarding work.

My best tip or hack? Forget the Leatherman, buy a Swiss Army Knife.

This article originally ran in the January 2022 issue of Dockwalk.


More from Dockwalk