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Captains group one step closer to reality

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Over the past six months, a small group of yacht captains have met and had conversations with industry players to determine if there’s an interest and a need for an association for professional yacht captains.

At its first open meeting in late October, they presented not only a speaker on ethics but also their vision for what such a group might look like and what it might do.



Capt. Michael Schueler of the 58m Lurssen M/Y Ronin said he hoped the group will focus on management training, which will resolve some of the issues that cause owners to leave the industry such as crew turnover and inadequate communication. The captains have talked to officials at Nova Southeastern University about captain-specific management training and have been well received, he said.



“I hope you realize that if you are 30 years old and a captain, you have things to learn in your management style, and that if you are 60 years old, you have things to learn in your management style,” Schueler told the group of about a dozen captains. “In the end, all that matters is the safe and legal happiness of the owner. If they are not happy, they are gone.”



Capt. Chris Lewis of the 47m M/Y Ellix II also wanted to focus on management training and supported a code of ethics for captains.



“Running the management side is something we’re not really trained for,” he said. “And ethics is when you do the right thing when you think no one is watching.”



He also believed a captains group would make it easier to tackle some challenging issues, such as maximum number of passengers and operating under the newly mandated safe working hours.



Capt. Wendy Umla said she hoped the group would attract like-minded professionals to give owners a pool of candidates for open posts who have a commitment to moral and ethical behavior.



“If we don’t get together and make this industry better, we’re going to lose the good owners,” she said. “Owners will come to us once they know these kinds of captains exist.”



Capt. Ian Bone is passionate about educational and business opportunities for yacht captains after they leave yachts. The skills captains learn onboard can be translated into any number of shore-based leadership or management positions, but many captains don’t know how to access those opportunities, especially when they fall outside the yachting industry.



One captain in attendance warned the organizers to be clear that the group would not be a union. Bone and the others assured him it would not be.



“We’re just normal guys who have an interest to better ourselves and better the industry,” Bone said. “There are no secrets here, no other ambitions. It will be a typical, membership-driven association.



“Look, if we don’t take some sort of leadership role, we’re going to be left behind,” he said. “It’s time. The industry is mature enough for an organization like this to take place.”



The captains in the room were supportive and lingered after the meeting todiscuss the group’s evolution.

“It’s going to falter a bit, but it will go forward,” one captain said. “You just have to start it and work through the bad period.”



For more information or to get involved, e-mail Bone at  ianbyca1@gmail.com.



Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at lucy@the-triton.com.

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