By Lucy Chabot Reed
Capt. Mark Gallaway, skipper of the recently launched 49m Benetti M/Y Elaldrea+, learned several things on his first new build experience. After spending a year in Viareggio, Italy, in the final stages of the yacht’s build, the biggest lesson he learned was the value of the contract, and how challenging changing it can be.
“As all owners do, they change their mind, or the builder didn’t realize that would work or was what you wanted,” he said. “Getting it all right before contract is a very big issue. Once that’s right, it’s a blueprint to build.”
Capt. Gallaway discussed his experience during a live Triton interview at the Benetti Yachtmaster event in Key Largo, Florida, April 30-May 2.
The biggest mistakes they encountered on the build started before the boss signed the contract, he said, with things like how the A/V system was set up and how the electronics were set up.
“The boss chose the general package he thought he wanted,” Capt. Gallaway said. “In hindsight, we needed a lot of upgrades.”
Making those changes in the build process required many meetings, many discussions, and much time.
“Any recommendations we had for improvements had to go through a process, and that slowed things down,” he said. “In the end, though, Benetti and the contractors did bend our way on most items.”
The other lesson he learned was the value of a surveyor for the owner’s team.
“We use Mr. Ian Kerr with Patton Marine,” Capt. Gallaway said. “I have to take my hat off to Ian. If any guy knows his business, Ian Kerr does. Without him and our engineer [Jim McCreery], this would have been a whole different boat. He really kept the pressure on Benetti for excellence.”
With a background in commercial fishing in Australia, Capt. Gallaway moved to Florida in 2006 to find work on a yacht. After a few months, the Australian manager for his current boss spotted his resume in the book at Smallwood’s. After a few hiccups, Capt. Gallaway began working for the owner on his 115-foot Benetti of the same name. The owner put that boat up in trade on the new 49m, and Capt. Gallaway stayed along for the change.
Moving up from the 115-foot yacht to the 49m yacht brought its own set of operational challenges, Capt. Gallaway said, the least of which was the actual driving.
“Driving it is a breeze,” he said. “The most challenging part is the paperwork, and the crew. We have nine, 10 crew, sometimes 12 with extra stews. The more crew, the more challenging it becomes.”
The room full of captains applauded at this.
“One of the biggest challenges is pleasing the owners and keeping them happy,” he said. “They have a vision of what they paid for and what they expect. That’s what they are paying us to do — deliver that for them.”
Perhaps the most important thing he said he learned was patience.
“Being a custom build, it was a learning curve for the builders as well,” he said. “Nothing is set like it is on their production boats. It’s a little bit trial and error to get it perfect. That can be a bit of a challenge. They do get it right, it just takes understanding and cooperation from the owner’s perspective and the build team to work toward a common goal — building a beautiful boat.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.