Riding Along on Dockwise

4 January 2009 By Louisa Beckett

For most crew, shipping the yacht from one cruising area to another on a yacht transport vessel means a welcome break in the routine – a chance to go skiing, perhaps, or to head home and catch up with family and friends. But for the designated “rider” who goes along with the yacht, the experience is sort of a cross between an ocean passage and a yard period.

“If the weather’s good, I’m going to work my butt off for the first week, and then start to kick back a little bit,” says Glyn Charsley, engineer on the 140-foot high-speed custom motor yacht Adler.

Charsley, who has made more than a dozen crossings with Adler and other yachts on a variety of Dockwise Yacht Transport carriers, including Enterprise, Super Servant 3 and 4, says the loading process is easy: “It’s all pre-planned; they know how deep you are and they know where you’re going.”

The process begins with the yacht carrier fully submerged and the initial “blocking” – wooden blocks with metal straps to fasten them to the deck – already in place for each yacht. “They bring the boats on in order, and position them very accurately,” he says.

After each yacht floats into place, divers swim down and place four massive rubber blocks under it. Then the yacht carrier begins to drain its hold and as it rises the boats settle one by one into the blocks. When “dry deck” is achieved, the ship’s crew puts intermediate chocks in place around the yachts. “Then the welding begins,” Charsley says. Meanwhile, he adds, “The yacht crew get hoses for air conditioning and raw water, which we connect to the ship’s fire main, and we start doing the electrical connections.”

In his experience, the whole loading process only takes a day. “We start loading at eight, get to dry deck by eleven, and we start getting power by about six o’clock that night so we can get fridge and freezer back on.”

Charsley used to have a cabin on the ship during his early Dockwise transits back in the ’80s, but today, riders sleep aboard their respective yachts. After all, he says, “You’re there to look after the boat.”

The ship’s crew feeds the riders, however, setting up a table for them in the officer’s mess. “There are three square meals a day,” Charsley reports, but cautions that you have to get there on time. “It’s not like an open buffet. It’s a meal time.” In addition, he says, “They usually have a barbecue once a week on deck.”

There are gym facilities aboard, but he prefers to walk the decks in the open air. “There are a lot of accommodation ladders and a lot of steps,” he says, “You can get your exercise.”

Charsley uses most of his time on board to perform maintenance on Adler. “You can pretty much do anything,” he says. His typical in-transit checklist includes things like bottom paint, changing zincs, checking hydraulic hoses and working on the bow thruster. “I get the dirty work done first,” he says. It’s also a good time to service the generators and the a/v system, and to change over the satellite receivers to be compatible with the yacht’s destination.

He finds the crew of the yacht carrier to be very helpful. “They will weld for you if you need it,” he says. The ship provides the yachts with fresh water to fill their tanks three times a week. That’s important, because frequent rinsing and washing is required due to salt air and exhaust smoke.

Not all of the riders are as dedicated as Charsley, however. “Some of these younger yacht riders, they think it’s time to party,” he says. He’s seen quite a bit of excessive drinking on board over the years, although he says Dockwise officials have cracked down on it.

“I’ve seen some other riders; they’re partying and kicking back for the first week or ten days,” he says. “And then we get into some rough weather across the other side and they can’t get their work done.”