Rotational Captain Morne du Toit was introduced to yachting after saving someone's life. He grew up in the Stellenbosch area of South Africa, and worked as a lifeguard while he studied psychology. "A guy got caught in a riptide and I pulled him out," he says. ''As a thank you, he offered me a summer job on his Sunseeker, M/Y Ecstary, invited me to Palma, and paid for my flight and STCW. I took a gap year from university, and I never went back."
Later, du Toit captained a 23-meter Lazzara in the States with his now wife, where they spent most of the year outside the boss's house in Fort Lauderdale before cruising three months in the Turks and Caicos. "That was my first job as a captain," he says. Du Toit took a hiatus from yachting before returning and deciding he didn't want to work on small boats anymore. "I quite like having an engineer on board when things go wrong!" he says. So he started as first officer and then captain of M/Y Callista, where he stayed until the boss sold the boat when Covid-19 hit.
He was then approached by Capt. TJ Torrance for a rotational position aboard M/Y Acala. "He's the build captain of Acala and has been with the owner for 13 years," he says. "TJ and I met in 2010 when I took over his job as bosun on M/Y Amevi. His wife also worked [aboard] and that's where I met my wife, too." The 43.1-meter M/Y Acala launched from the Cantiere delle Marche Ancona shipyard in January 2022. "I joined about a month and a half before we took ownership of the boat," du Toit says. "So we finished the build, set up, and then did our first trip. Our initial trip was Ancona to Venice."
He is especially impressed with the yacht's volume, which he thinks feels more like a 55 meter. "I've worked on big 80-meter Oceancos and 23-meter Lazzaras — but this volume is incredible," he says. "The walkways are enormous, the space in the crew mess is amazing, which is a just a testament to the build captain and the amazing owners. They don't like crew turnover and they like to see the same familiar faces, so they made sure they gave crew enough space because we'll go to [the] far reaches of the world; cross the Pacific and spend time in the Sea of Cortez where there are not a lot of marinas, so we will anchor for months at a time. They literally wanted to make the boat as comfortable as possible for the crew. The crew mess is the same size as on a 60 meter."
He is also impressed with the interior, where comfort is king. ''You can see it is a family boat. The kids come on board and put their feet up on the sofa. It's a superyacht but has a touch of home."
The bridge is classic/modern, simple and old-school, just the way he likes it, where you can still touch objects rather than them being integrated into touchscreens that control everything. The galley is "enormous" and well thought out. "It's easy, clean spaces and everything's beefed up — it's a much bigger galley than you'd usually get on this size boat. They've built a big boat in a small boat frame," du Toit says. "Even the storage is surprising. The laundry is good, everything works. I think we have seven ice machines on board, all suitably placed."
The yacht owner's father had superyachts when he grew up, so they are experienced yacht owners and they know what they want, how they want it, and where - hence the scattering of fridges and ice machines around the boat — which makes a good working environment, du Toit says.
"The owners like diving and watersports and our whole lazarette is specifically made for that," du Toit says. 'We've got a nitrox dive compressor that normally costs as much as a small boat and 16 sets of scuba gear. Everything is set up for watersports and diving, so they absolutely enjoy that."
Du Toit is impressed that the yacht is fitted with a pool and Jacuzzi, unusual features for a 43-meter yacht, and the AV/ IT systems don't disappoint either; the projector works in daylight and the aft deck can be turned into a cinema. A gym can also be set up on the sundeck.
"TJ and I have got a good thing going on here and the owners are lovely," he says. "So for the immediate future, my plans are to look after the boat and help them build the next one."
This article originally ran in the February 2023 issue of Dockwalk.