Capt. Jonathan Parmet is at the helm of M/Y Audrey’s Place and an alarm is sounding. It’s a low pressure gauge reading in the engine room. The yacht’s former captain happens to be onboard and offers assistance.
“If I’d had an ordinary mate on this trip, I could have lost an engine,” Parmet said after returning to safe navigation. But his “mate” on this trip is Capt. John Maze, who ran this yacht for about 13 years.
Changes of command on yachts range from difficult to smooth, and this handover is a fluid, productive transition.
“John knew exactly where to go, what to fix, and what to hold his finger on,” Parmet said after the alarm stopped. “Now I know what needs to be fixed this week. We can hold off on upholstery but we can’t run without the fuel pump.”
The two captains first met when the yacht was for sale, but built their relationship after the new owner gave Parmet the job. Soon, Maze found work on a different yacht.
Yet Maze made himself available to help Parmet through those sometimes-confusing first few days onboard. He usually helps captains transition onto the yachts he leaves because he knows how much it helps.
“I like to give all the information and let them work for two to three weeks,” Maze said. “But nobody remembers half that stuff, so I say call me in a couple of weeks and I’ll come over.”
It especially works in this case because it is a mutually beneficial relationship. Maze helps Parmet learn the yacht and Parmet crews for Maze on deliveries and trips up and down the New River in Ft. Lauderdale.
“I help him, and he helps me,” Maze said.
“He doesn’t charge me, I don’t charge him,” Parmet said.
Both men are knowledgeable and competent, but enjoy a light-hearted banter on this trip.
“It would have been hell to figure everything out,” Parmet said. “It’s not like a new boat where you turn it on and it works. It’s more like, ‘What is that gum holding together? Where is water leaking from? What did your boss wait for my boss to fix?'”
New owners often bring new priorities to projects and timelines, so work crew are onboard while the yacht heads up to New River Marina. They removed the air handler at the dock and it took three men to cart off the length of big black duct. Temporary rubber runners are laid in the salon and furniture is covered and taped. Interior panels lean against every wall.
Parmet said he would have eventually figured everything out on his own, but Maze showed him some of the more complex issues.
“This yacht has an in-depth fuel transfer system with six tanks, it’s not a regular system,” Parmet said. “John walked me through optimizing it and walked me through an oil change.”
Parmet said to run the yacht efficiently he has to monitor which fuel in which tank is being used when.
“I could eventually figure that out, but it would take a long time,” he said.
There are things that former captains can share that makes the job easier for the new captain onboard.
“He gave me the important names,” Parmet said. “He said, ‘here’s the contact at Hatteras that knows about this…’ and ‘this is the only guy I would let near this..’.
“He showed me where things are, like unmarked switches,” he said. “I couldn’t find the lights on the arch to save my life.”
Parmet realizes how fortunate he is because not all changes of command are easy.
“When you have a guy that walks away, you are left with unanswered questions,” Parmet said. “John has been instrumental in me getting a good start aboard this vessel and we’ve become friends as well.”
“Here’s a guy that has been in command of this for the last 13 years and he graciously gives me command,” Parmet said. “Did you see how respectful he was?
“Yes, he’s in my speed dial.”
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.