The Triton


On Course: Complacency, overworking can lead to neglect of career management


I am sitting among more than 100 megayachts at the 2015 Antigua Yacht Show as I write this. A light breeze, 70-degree temperatures and blue skies remind me why so many want to be crew members in our industry.

The charter show has been a great opportunity to spend time onboard a great number of vessels and have quality time with many hundreds of crew in all departments and levels of experience. I have come to the realization that there is a subtle dichotomy among these crew. Approximately half pursue a long-term career in yachting, and half simply work hard and have fun until they can figure out what to do with the rest of their lives.

My many meetings in Antigua reinforced my opinion that many crew, particularly those who consider themselves professional and plan a career in yachting, do a fantastic job taking care of the yacht, the owner, the guests and each other.

The problem I see is that they often inadvertently neglect their own careers in the process. I see this every day as the chief operating officer of our professional yacht training center in Ft. Lauderdale where, with a great sense of responsibility, I provide guidance that will assist crew in having fulfilling, successful maritime careers.

In working with thousands of crew members around the globe over many years, I have concluded that there are basically three reasons why someone would inadvertently neglect their own career:

  1. They work long hours many months at a stretch. Having time to pursue training and certification to advance their career becomes an afterthought, so progress stagnates. All too often, they wait months, and sometimes years, to take action, despite promising themselves that they will.
  2. They procrastinate because they believe that courses and testing are more difficult than they actually are. Yachtmaster-, OOW- and Master-level courses are not easy. The truth is that they are not all that hard, either. They simply take some study and prerequisite experience. Procrastinating on career progress becomes justified when crew combine being overly busy on the vessel and having little time for course preparation with the mindset that courses and testing are more difficult than they actually are.
  3. They are happy where they are. I hear quite often that “I have had a great job with the same owner for many years.” Those crew with the proverbial “good deal” often think they have no need to continue with advancing their licensure and certifications. From a short-term perspective, this makes sense. Unfortunately, these “good deals” disappear with little or no notice. Owners die, boats sell. And crew members are left without a job and a low-level license, despite many years of experience. That’s not a good combination when searching for another “good deal”.

This was the true story of the captain of a 180-ton yacht who came into the training center to upgrade his license to an MCA OOW CoC and then an MCA Master <500 gt CoC because the owner was building a 450-ton yacht. His current 200-ton ticket would no longer serve him on this new boat. He had worked for this owner for more than a decade.

By now, this career captain should have held a Master < 3000gt CoC; with his current boss, he never felt it necessary. Unfortunately, this captain struggled to get through his training. It had been a long time since he last enrolled in a maritime course. This lapse in his formal professional education resulted in knowledge and skill deficiencies that were surprising challenges for his level of experience.

This applies equally to engineering and interior professionals. If the engineer continued her or his professional education, they would be prepared to move up to the larger yacht when the opportunity presented itself. And chances are good that on the much larger vessel, the owner or charter guest would have a much higher expectation for the hospitality experience, an expectation that could more likely be met with additional formal training.

Those crew who are actively pursuing a career in the industry are professional mariners. They must be proactive — not reactive — with regard to that livelihood. Yes, take care of the yacht, the owner, the guests and crew, but don’t forget to take care of your career, too.

No matter the level of achievement in our industry, or the completed level of formal education, professional mariners are always required to maintain the requisite current knowledge and skill sets commensurate with their position on the vessel.

As professionals, career-minded yacht crew should allocate regular time within any busy schedule to review, update and maintain their knowledge and skills. Be sure to educate yourself and continue to license and certify so that you can keep your career on course. In the long run, it can mean the difference between thousands of dollars and hitting all your long-term goals.

Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact him through

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