Q&A with Engineer Lee Wetherall

6 December 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: Lee Wetherall
Nationality: British, based in Mallorca, Spain
Position: Freelance Y3 engineer
Yacht: Currently temp on S/Y Parsifal III
LOA: 54M/177' 2"
Builder: Perini Navi
Years in industry: 30 in marine engineering, including 20 in yachts
Previous vessel: Various motor yachts up to 73 metres, sailing yachts up to 54 metres

If I weren’t on a yacht, I would be spending more time with family and friends.

I started out dinghy sailing when I was eight years old — there’s nothing better than twin trapezing with asymmetrical kite screaming along on a reach. It just developed! I was London area champion two years in a row; from there, yachting was a natural progression.

The most challenging part of the job is meeting timelines for maintenance, often with the goal posts constantly moving.

My worst mechanical failure or incident? The coffee machine, washer/dryer machines failing! To be honest, not that much, as I have always made sure I keep on top of my planned maintenance. If I had to name one, then it would be sewage issues and a gearbox interlock fail on a sailing boat drifting off the South of France in the middle of the night.

The biggest issue facing yacht engineers today? Poorly maintained yachts seem to be a newish trend, with boats following absolute minimum manning levels. A one- or two-week course does not make you an engineer or captain, so let’s all have a reality check on that. Long term, this will cost the owners so much more. Also AI-generated resumes and false experience will be on the market soon. Interviews will have to go back to being face-to-face, which costs money for everyone, but will be for the best.

My advice for those looking to get started is to make sure you can walk before you run. Easily paid-for courses only provide companies with revenue – do some research before you’re talked into them. There are no courses for sea time and experience. There’s no rush, just take your time and learn your trade properly. In the end, you’ll be a far better engineer for it and reap the rewards of a strong and established reputation and track record.

If you’re looking to impress on the job, be a good communicator. Be honest, have good manners, respect others, and respect rank.

Yachting taught me that money doesn’t buy happiness.

My most significant achievement is becoming a professional yacht engineer and juggling a family life in the sunshine.

The best part about my job is being able to troubleshoot without having to call in contractors. Using the knowledge I’ve gained over my long career enables me to streamline systems and make them more user-friendly for future crew.

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


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