Dockwalk’s 20th Year: Changes in Yachting

20 September 2016 By Hillary Hoffower

As Dockwalk headsinto its 20th year of publication in October, we decided to commemorate themoment by looking through the eyes of those who have been in the industry forthe same amount of time (or longer!). In this special series, captains, crew,and industry professionals alike lend their unique perspective on yachtingthrough the ages, from the past to the future and everything in between. Upfirst: changes in yachting over the past 20 years.

The last 20 yearshave seen many industry changes. Which has been more important?


“The introduction ofmanagement companies and ISM with all the associated rules and regulations thataffect the owner, the yacht, and all the crew, right down to theentry-level juniors.” — Capt. Vaughan Hill, M/Y 11.11

“The most importantevent in the last twenty years is the way in which yachting transformed into ahighly organized, structured, very safe industry, where service and safety cameto the top of the charts: ISM, LY2/LY3, MLC, PSC. To me personally, the safetyis of utmost importance to the guests and the crew.” — Capt. Baldo Gjurasic,80-meter build project


“The Internet andcommunications in general have been the most significant development during myyachting career. When I first started yachting in 1988, we used VHF and HF radioto communicate at sea (or to be more accurate, the skipper did while the restof us tried to figure out how the radio worked). Weather reports took twentyminutes to scroll off the weather fax, and in every marina there was normally ashort queue at the public phone box to place long-distance phone calls tofamily and friends who may not have heard from you other than a postcard forweeks or even months. High-speed communication, widespread mobile phoneownership, and social media were still some years away. Fax messages fromthe owner were found in pigeon holes at the marina office, and Channel 68 wasthe Facebook of the day.” — Capt. Greg Butler-Davis, S/Y Victoria

“The cellular phoneand, more importantly, the development of the device through GSM technology andinto the smartphone we use today. [In] 1998, I first became captain of a largesailing yacht (thirty meter) — don’t snicker; that used to be large! — andconsequently received my first cellular phone. The development of thesmartphone has made communication between owners, captains, and crew easierwith several options within the one device. Unfortunately, it has also changedthe way captains and crew work aboard and sometimes leads to problems whenoverused or relied upon. I can remember when personal communication was face toface and going offshore on a passage meant you needn’t worry aboutcommunication until you reached your destination or next port of call. The seafor me used to be a place to escape and be free. It still is, just not as adventurousas it used to be…ah progress.” — Capt. Karl Joyner


“To the world:GPS. I remember having to use sextants, mostly DR and LoS, to navigate TheBahamas, down island and the first crossings, even after Loran came out. GPSchanged everything and took the mystery, if not the magic, out of navigation,opening up the horizon to land-bound wannabes.” — Capt. Mx

“GPS. When Istarted in the industry it was primarily satnav, loran, and paper charts. Theplotters and their accuracy have had a huge impact on how we operate our boats.I feel fortunate to have been exposed to both. I think it gives me a uniqueperspective.” — Capt.Chas Donahoe, M/Y Tera-Byte

Vessel Size

“GPS [and] chartplotters come to mind, but in some ways the size of yachts is the ‘big’ news. Ipulled into Derecktor-Gunnell (as it was known back then) on a seventy-fiveAlden Ketch, and [it] was the largest boat there. Look at it now. SSB, Loran,Sat Nav, celestial navigation, and paper charts, goodbye.” — Capt. TeddGreenwald

“Sheer increase insize and number of what used to be a megayacht at one-hundred-plus feet now inexcess of several hundred feet even during economic instabilities.” — Capt.Chris Harris, M/Y Cachee

“A few things; forexample, the continuing drive towards bigger and bigger power yachts, worldwidecruising itineraries, and increased legislation.” — Danny and LisaRobinson, S/Y Meari

“The most significantdevelopment over the last thirty years has been the proliferation ofbillionaires and their desire to show off their fortunes in hugeyachts. Back in 1980, I seem to remember seventy feet being admired as thequeen of whatever harbor she was in. Now, you might run into atwo-hundred-fifty footer almost any place where one would fit. The yacht crewswere berthed much closer to the guests (simply because of the size of thecraft), and they probably all dined at the same table. Nowadays, theguests have very little contact with anyone other than the serving staff; andthen only on their assigned shift. Nowadays, it is very rare for an owner torequest or ‘demand’ wheel time, or enter the engine room or crews’ quarters,bosun’s locker, laundry, freezer, galley, or forward deck.” — David Smith

Licensing and Regulations

“I think…that thebiggest change I’ve seen since I first started in 1987 is the advent of licensingand training. In the late ’80s and very early ’90s, nobody had tickets, at leastnot in the sailing world. To this day, it is not necessarily governmententities that require a private yacht captain to have a license. It was reallythe insurance companies that started it all. I can remember that captains whohad been running yachts for twenty-five years were suddenly told that they werenot qualified. Of course there was a lot of protest and some were grandfatheredin, but once it started it never stopped, and of course, today it is impossibleto get a captain position without presenting qualifications to the vessel’sinsurance company. To me, this is a mixed blessing. STCW training is awonderful thing, and it is very comforting as a captain to know that any crewwith an STCW can launch a life raft andhandle a fire extinguisher. However, I do think that with licensing has come tosome degree a degradation of personnel in the industry. In the old days,practically the only way to become a captain was to talk your way on to a crew,pay your dues, and prove yourself. Most guys back then inherited their firstcaptaincy. Now it seems like there are a lot of people who have accumulatedenough sea time on their parent's forty-five-foot Hatteras or teaching sailingat the local yacht club to earn a license and feel entitled to step straightaboard a large yacht as the master without ever serving as a deckhand or mate.Now, of course it can be argued that no owner or yacht manager will hire acaptain without proven experience, but nonetheless it is a phenomenon that youjust didn’t see in those days.” — Capt. Geoffrey C. Gardner

“The necessary increase in regulation andenforcement mostly caused by bad practices. This covers the maritime industryas a whole. Have you noticed the increase in marine accidents (especially inyachting) in recent years? They were always there; we are just reporting themmore now.” — Capt. David R. Pines

“The most significantdevelopment in yachting is possibly the size and ticketing/ regulating of theindustry since I first started in the late 1980s, together with the sizeof crew around the world working in this industry. When I started, I was intoracing or sailing around the world, seeing different places, experiencingdifferent cultures when we arrived, learning about different styles of food. Itwas an adventure, for the love of sailing and we even were paid to do it. Thenin the mid-90s regulations came in and we all had to be ticketed. It is a goodway to govern the body of crew that are now in the industry as this has alsogrown so much. The size of yachts has required more crew and the wealth that isaround is far greater than it was twenty years ago. The changes have beenenormous, but they have had to come in as the industry has grown so large.” —Chef Polly

“I think the mostimpressive development as far as I can see are regulations that have comearound causing people to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for courses,some of which are not necessary. Part of that problem is the self-servingmaritime schools that prompt the government like the U.S. Coast Guard toimplement more regulations.” — Capt. Adrian Loughborough

“For me, the mostsignificant change has been the implementing of all these new regulations andlicenses. Although many of them do make sense, they introduced a spirit ofbureaucracy in a field previously hell-bent on independence [and] seamanship acquiredthrough experience rather than scholarly knowledge.” — Capt. Jacques Maeder,M/Y Paolyre

And everything else

“The rules, and alsothe professionalism. In the early days it was a bit [of a] wild west, but theskippers were mostly lifetime veterans who knew the sea even if some of themanagement skills were, shall we say, different! The boats were also muchsmaller. A fifty-meter boat was quite rare. Most of the motor yachts weredisplacement-style boats, and I feel there was a more even balance of sail andpower when I started.” — Capt. James Lowe

“I could sound verybrainy and say that I believe the most significant developments in yachtinghave been the zero speed stabilizers and 24/7 access to global communications.When combined, these two advancements allow comfort in most all conditionswhile permitting longer periods aboard without loss of contact in businessand/or family. But we all know that I REALLY think the most significantdevelopments are the new, lighter stretch fabrics and fashionable yachtuniforms!” — Theresa Morales, Liquid Yacht Wear

Uniforms from the '80s. Photo courtesy ofTheresa Morales

What changes have youseen during your time in yachting? Share with us in the comments below and checkback on Thursday for the second installment.