Q&A with Mate/Engineer Helena Schneider

27 April 2024 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.

Mate/Engineer Helena Schneider
Nationality: German
Position: mate/engineer
Yacht: Aegir
LOA: 82' 4"
Builder: Carbon Ocean Yachts
Time in current position: 1 year
Time in industry: 3+ years
Previous vessels: Mainly sailing yachts from 65ft to 125ft

Helena Schneider

Boats and sailing are life, but if I had to do something else, I would probably choose to be a land-based adventurer instead, or do something fun like restore classic cars.

I had a head start with my strong sailing background, all my certificates up to date and a clear goal in mind. This made entering yachting quite a smooth experience. Nevertheless, when I first got involved, I dockwalked in Palma and dayworked my way into a permanent job.

My worst incident so far happened just after joining a boat and overfilling the diesel tanks. I ended up with diesel in the mast air vent and a little bit in the bilges — very close to charter. Lesson learnt: be certain your sensors are accurate and you have an estimate in mind as to how much fuel you are taking on, and carry a few oil absorbers and lots of air fresheners just in case.

If you are new to yachting and have your heart set on engineering, do your diesel engine courses, the AEC1 and AEC2, and any other course that offers training in a specific area, like refrigeration, hydraulics or electrics. Once you have a supporting engineering job, show initiative, be helpful and be a sponge. Take lots of notes and soak up knowledge from the people you work with.

Be organized in general and with your daily/weekly/monthly checks, spares, tools etc. Be humble: “I don’t know but will find out” is always safer than winging it. Respect the work of the other departments and work cleanly and tidily when invading the interior/exterior spaces. Be prepared to go the extra mile and be an all-round solution-finding wizard.

I have sailed across the Atlantic alone twice, on board my 31ft yacht Freedom, from the UK to the Canary Islands and then to the Caribbean and back, after doing an extensive refit. I am grateful every single day for having had the opportunity to see this challenge through.

I love how every day offers new challenges and chances to extend my knowledge. The more I know, the more I know what I don’t know and that gets me excited! The solution-found feeling is also quite rewarding and addictive, and you get to meet some extraordinary people in this industry.

This article was originally published in the April 2024 issue of Dockwalk.


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