Capt. Pete Miller of M/Y Lohengrin was electrocuted in a shipyard accident in late November in Hong Kong. The accident involving shore power is under investigation.
With a career that spanned decades, Capt. Miller is remembered as an captain, engineer and mentor on yachts including Silent Wings, Princess Tanya, Princess Lauren, Picante, Akim, Monte Carlo, Lohengrin and Audacia. He was 62.
The accident confounds friends and colleagues who remember Capt. Miller as a competent and qualified engineer. Plus, Capt. Miller knew the Lohengrin well after years working onboard, said long-time friend Laurence Dickinson of Elan Maritime.
“It’s mind-boggling he died this way,” Dickinson said. “He had a full life, but no one deserves to die like that.”
Friends since the 1980s, Dickinson said Capt. Miller always paid attention to detail, maintained equipment and did preventive maintenance.
“Pete said, ‘You should know how to engineer the boat if you want to drive the boat’,” Dickinson, an MCA chief engineer, said in a gathering of his friends in Ft. Lauderdale soon after the accident. “I can vouch for his skills. I’m a Y1 and there’s not much higher than that.”
“He had docked a million times and worked with shore power,” said Gary Skinner of project management company Yotfix. “He was far from stupid.”
Best man at Capt. Miller’s wedding, Skinner was a long-time friend and had worked with Capt. Miller and seen his abilities since serving as his deckhand on a boat delivery from Venezuela nearly 15 years ago. Capt. Miller had since divorced.
“‘I can’t run this if I don’t know the systems,’ Pete said on every boat,” Skinner said. “He would start in the bilge and figure it all out; why this A/C runs here, why this is run like this. Lohengrin in particular. He worked himself into being indispensable.”
“He was a really good engineer; very hands on,” said long-time friend Bruce Schattenburg, director of U.S. operations at Y.CO. “He could run, fix and keep it going and he was one of the few [captains] with a big engineer license.”
“You would think, if you knew Pete, that it would be fitting that he pass on to the next world while working on his yacht engine room, although surprising, as he was a very bright, licensed engineer,” said friend Capt. Marcus Van Oort of M/Y Perle Bleue.
Several captains, crew and industry professionals remember Capt. Miller as a mentor and recalled how he had fostered their careers.
“He was involved in so many lives,” said Capt. Ben Gillard on M/Y Lady M, a 147-foot Intermarine. “I’m in yachting through him; he drew me in.”
“There are lots of guys he helped get on their way in the yachting industry, one of them being me,” Dickinson recalled at the gathering. “Sometimes I thought he was crazy for going out of his way to help certain people, but that’s what set him apart. He had compassion.”
Capt. Miller was captain on M/V Compass, a live-aboard dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef in the 1980s when he met and worked with Dickinson and Gillard. When he moved to the U.S. to work on yachts, the two men followed him.
“It’s amazing all the deckies and first mates he brought forward,” colleague and friend Capt. Nigel Beatty of Super Yacht Logistics said.
“Pete cared more than any other captain about the crew,” Capt. Beatty said. “He always encouraged and pushed crew to advance themselves. Pete was big on that, discussing how to move forward. He would give advice and look after people.”
Dickinson recalled for friends gathered in Ft. Lauderdale how Capt. Miller encouraged him and would not take the wheel from a novice mate or engineer in rough weather.
“Pete would say, ‘Now is the time you need to learn; anyone can drive a boat when it’s flat calm’,” Dickinson said.
With decades at the helm, Capt. Miller was one of the originals in yachting, said Rob Fisher, former crew on M/Y Monte Carlo, now of Tailors Mark in Melbourne.
“We really have lost someone very special,” he said. “From a yachting perspective, Pete was in the yachting industry as a relatively young man when it was in its infancy and is probably one of the last real ‘old world’ yacht captains that helped build the foundations of what yachting is today.”
Originally from Australia, Capt. Miller worked as engineer on commercial fishing boats, later serving as captain on those vessel for about 12 years, Gillard said. He went to military college and maritime academy and had the largest ticket Australia offers, Schattenburg said.
All of his friends recalled his colorful character, often chuckling when they did.
“If you can call someone a typical Aussie, he was one,” Schattenburg said. “He never walked away from a fight or a drink. Pete was brave, one of the least afraid to die or get injured.
“He’s the first one you want with you when you go into battle; courageous, super level-headed and calm as could be,” he said.
“But he didn’t suffer idiots,” Capt. Beatty said. “He could get punched; he was definitely an Aussie.”
Stews Irina Kelemen and Halyna Ivakhiv said Capt. Miller watched out for his crew. The two worked on M/Y Lohengrin with him, and wrote The Triton an e-mail together.
“Capt. Peter Miller was always protecting and fighting for the crew’s rights on the boat,” they wrote. Before he joined the crew, they worked with no days off. But that changed when he took command.
“He was the one who demanded it so we all could enjoy our life while working on the boat,” they wrote. “He always taught us to enjoy our lives today, not tomorrow or after … because it goes just like that.”
Capt. Van Oort did some engineering work for Capt. Miller eight years ago on M/Y Unforgettable.
“He was fiercely loyal to his crew, ex-crew, close mates and his two countries, Australia and the U.S.” Van Oort said. “They broke the mold after creating Pete, a rough and tumble Aussie. We called him a pit bull; Pete was afraid of nothing.
“He once told me with that Aussie accent, ‘Maaacus, there is no better feeling than being close to death,” Van Oort said via e-mail. “I’m halfway to St Thomas right now and I wish Pete was on board with me again.”
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome below.