Q&A with Engineer Bradley Johnson

3 October 2023 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.

Name: Bradley Johnson
Position: Engineer
Yacht: formerly S/Y Bristolian
LOA: 36.7M/120’5”
Builder: YDL New Zealand
Years in industry: 7
Previous vessels: S/Y Mirasol, M/Y Arion, M/Y Virtue, S/Y Galateia, M/Y Harmony
Nationality and Country: New Zealand
Instagram: @vivalavidamallorca

I was working in the commercial marine in New Zealand and the South Pacific for 15 years, both as captain and engineer on various vessels, tugs and barges, passenger ferries, car ferries, and survey vessels. On a break to Europe in 2012, my girlfriend at the time took me to Antibes for the start of our summer tour through Provence. I walked the International quay and saw the yachts and was immediately hooked. I arrived on the same dock the spring of 2016 as a dockwalking engineer with not a lot of clues about yachting, but plenty of enthusiasm.

If I wasn’t on a yacht, I’d probably be working in a shore-based support unit providing services to the yachts, or in a sailing program as yacht support shore-based crew.

The most challenging part of the job has to be the time away from home in the summer, especially if it extends beyond six months. I love the water, but I am a homebody, too.

My worst failure on a yacht has to be the crew toilets in the middle of the season (with the owners on board). Knee deep in my work trying to get the pipe cleared and stinking out the entire yacht two days running in the heat of July.

For me as a Gen Xer, I think the biggest issue is moving at pace with the changing electrical tech in engineering. It’s not something I grew up with and it takes me time to understand the issues and remedies. I’m a mechanical engineer by trade and the engines I worked with were very simple to run and repair. For the millennials and Gen Z, it’s just a normal part of their lives and I use them to help guide me in this education.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, not just from other engineers but all of the yacht crew. Everyone on the yacht has come from somewhere and can add to your understanding of yacht life cohesion.

Be yourself. Be respectful to everyone! You never know who you are talking to. I have sat down next to America’s Cup sailors and, for the most part, didn’t know who I was talking to.

Your job in yachting does not define you. It’s the people you meet through your work and the memories you leave with that will define you.

My most significant achievement: A full season on a charter motor yacht. This was not my type of work, but I did enjoy the charter guests and, of course, the tips. It’s incredibly hard work to do a full season of charters and not end up wanting to run away.

I have found the best part of my job was the sailing regattas in Porto Cervo and St. Tropez. These regattas have a fantastic atmosphere and a feeling of belonging to a common cause in the form of competition. Maxi sailing is so impressive, and it’s another world I never dreamed of being part of.

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


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