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Savvy Maritime Academy Launches Crew Training

12 January 2022By Laura Shaughnessy
Savvy Maritime Academy
Courtesy of Savvy Maritime Academy

Written by

Laura Shaughnessy

Laura Shaughnessy has been the managing editor at Dockwalk since February 2018. Having grown up among the cornfields, she is ecstatic to be among the boats in the yachting capital of the world. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in journalism, 15 years of experience with newspapers, magazines, and the online world, Laura has joined a great crew. When not writing about superyacht crew, she’s hanging out with her husband and their German Shepherd, working on house projects, or binging on Netflix.

Training is key for rising in the ranks, which is why it’s so critical to have some good options for crew courses. Savvy Maritime Academy is one such option, and they just started offering their courses at the beginning of the year.

Their eight-week deckhand academy courses, simply called Deckhand Academy, started January 10 (their launch date) while two other courses — a 10-day interior course and a 10-day tender driving course — starts January 17. Plans are in process to add practical painting and polishing courses at a later date. “We realize it’s going to take some time to gain momentum so [we] may not gain any starters in that first round of courses but the process is in place,” says Nick Gray, course director/head instructor at Savvy Maritime Academy.

Nick Gray and Brian Muston

When asked what sets them apart from other academies and training programs, Gray says they’re offering hands-on practical training. “There is no other facility offering the same training. It’s not about a license; it’s about having the skillset to succeed onboard. You will learn in eight weeks what will take seasons to do on board. It will elevate you above the rest of the crew looking for work. This will be what captains look for on a resumè when employing crew.”

“The interior course is also aimed at entry level but as we get more developed, we will break that course down too into silver service or bartending, flower arranging for those that have experience, but want further training in one field.”

Although Savvy Maritime is new, the academy’s team of four people, who combined offer 73 years of experience in the yachting industry, have been developing the Deckhand Academy course over the past year. Gray, a former dive instructor in resorts and cruise ships with a hospitality background, was in yachting more than 15 years and has previously worked with the academy founder Brian Muston before. Muston, also a captain, has been in yachting for 30 years, Doug Norden has been a deck instructor for about eight years, and interior instructor Irma Malabalan was in yachting for 20 years.

Over the course of eight weeks, Deckhand Academy covers everything from joining a yacht, living in confined spaces, living where you work, safety, and deck procedures on through to practical sessions. The first four weeks cover theory and practical training (e.g., knot tying, docking/anchoring using their training vessel M/Y Savvy) while the last four weeks cover purely practical subjects (e.g. polishing, painting, tender driving).

“That is our main course, aimed primarily at entry-level deck crew but can also be for those that have been in the industry but have yet to receive any proper training on board and need to increase their skillset,” he says. “The interior course is also aimed at entry level but as we get more developed, we will break that course down too into silver service or bartending, flower arranging for those that have experience, but want further training in one field.”

During the 10-day tender driving course, there are two days of classroom and practical sessions with a brief introduction to the rules of the road, lines, fenders, checklists, and sea conditions. The following eight days will involve practical sessions in their 31-foot center console, ensuring the crewmember will have the knowledge and ability to drive in almost any sea conditions and situation.

In the 10-day interior course, Savvy Maritime Academy covers all aspects of the interior, from housekeeping to service in their purpose-built training room. Like in Deckhand Academy, the first five sections cover subjects that include:

  1. Introduction to the yachting world
  2. Certificates and contracts
  3. Habitation
  4. Social understanding and awareness
  5. Mental, emotional, and financial preparedness

“They will also touch on nautical terms, watches, and spend time in the facility learning some basic knots, lines, fenders, and docking training to enhance their knowledge prior to joining a yacht,” Gray says.

Over the course of eight weeks, Deckhand Academy covers everything from joining a yacht, living in confined spaces, living where you work, safety, and deck procedures on through to practical sessions.

Courses takes place in their 10,000-square-foot facility using their purpose-built boat for practicing docking procedures, fender use, knots, splicing, varnish work, washdowns, as well as one week of painting, one week of polishing, and two weeks of tender driving on their center console. “We want this to be a standard in the industry and are in contact with various organizations for accreditation etc.,” says Gray.

“Our goal is to give crew the practical training that they need to enter into the industry — and for those already in it [to gain] further practical experience. We have noticed over the years a real decline in skillsets of crew joining and more and more demand on the crewmembers to be seasoned professionals without any assistance,” says Gray. “We want to give back to the industry and bring safer and better trained crew into the industry.”

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