A Love or Hate Relationship?

11 March 2010 By Louisa Beckett
Photo by Suki Finnerty

While it’s the boss who generally hires the yacht management company, it’s the captain who has to make the relationship work. For many captains, this is a tricky situation made all the more difficult by an air of distrust.

Capt. Steve Rodda of M/Y Blind Date says bluntly: “The main reason owners want management is to monitor the financial operation of the boat and to fire the captain.”

“Some management companies feel they have to be a wedge between the captain and the owner,” echoes Capt. Les Annan of M/Y Paradigm. “I think when a company is charging bigger dollars they feel they have to be more invasive in order to justify their expenses.” Capt. Annan is quick to point out that’s not the case with his boat’s management company, Luxury Yacht Group, however. “Rupert [Connor] is not telling me what to do and when to take a vacation.”

As Capt. Rodda puts it, “It’s a people industry and at the end of the day we all need to get along.” These six tips can help captains and yacht management companies work more effectively together.

1. Stay in touch. Don’t ignore the fact that your yacht manager exists. “Communication and understanding the agenda are key factors and this works for both sides,” says Yves Damette, director of yacht management for YCO.

2. Be up front about your needs and requirements. “I’ve always been straight up, honest and open,” says Capt. Annan. “There are captains who make it more complicated. I’m a simple guy and I like to keep it [that way]. I’m just a chauffeur.”

3. Keep them updated about the yacht’s schedule. “Many staff members have no shipping/yachting experience and in an age of email it is very easy to [irritate] people,” Capt. Rodda complains about some management firms. “For example, the accounts lady will want to know why she hasn’t received the end-of-the-month statement. Well, that is because we are on a four-week charter, due to finish next week.”

4. Keep a record of your interactions with the management firm that you can refer to later. “I always like email because email leaves a ‘paper trail,’” says Capt. Annan. “Although there are times you need to pick up the phone and call.”

5. Let them do what they do best. “You can’t run these things from shore; at the end of the day, the guy at the wheel has to make the decision,” states Capt. Annan. By the same token, he says, “They do all the nitty-gritty stuff, that I’m more than happy to let them do, so I don’t have to do it myself.”

Capt. Annan is keen to let Luxury Yacht Group handle time-consuming tasks like shopping for competitive insurance rates for the owner, in addition to helping with the yacht’s ever-increasing load of paperwork. “I don’t know how a classed boat can do it without a management company,” he adds.

6. Treat them with respect and they will return it in kind. “Respect is vitally important. Both parties have been hired to do a job and everybody should respect that. Everyone is working for the same team and mutual respect for everyone’s position and responsibilities is vital,” says Damette. “Captains know the yacht best, whilst the management team will have management experience to use and share.”

More from Dockwalk