By Lauren Coles
Capt. Tristan Mortlock, fondly known on social media as the “Super Yacht Captain,” has built a following through sharing a positive spin on what it’s like living and working on a superyacht through his YouTube channel and Instagram page.
With nearly 94,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, he wasn’t always a star of the digital screen. He started his career in the yachting industry at the age of 16, working for Marina Marbella in the south of Spain. In the winter months, he was an assistant marine engineer. In the summer months, he was working boat deliveries, client boat handovers, client boat rescues, and working as skipper for hire.
Being at sea is in Capt. Mortlock’s heritage. His great-great-grandfather and two great uncles on his father’s side were all ship pilots on the River Thames. Their duties included assisting masters and their vessels safely navigate the river. On his mother’s side, his grandfather was a keen sailor who loved sharing beautiful old paper charts and showing the young Mortlock the areas where he had cruised.
“When I started my career, he loved teaching me the symbols and basic navigation,” recalled Mortlock.
But being a captain wasn’t something he always knew he wanted to be.
“It took me two years of working in the industry before deciding I wanted to make my way to captain,” he said. “I made that decision based on the knowledge and love of the industry that I had acquired over the years.”
Capt. Mortlock got his first command in 2007. The owner of M/Y AWOL (A Way of Life) took a gamble on the 21 year old, and 13 years later, he runs a successful charter yacht in the business.
Passionate about his career, Capt. Mortlock started his YouTube channel when he noticed negative opinions about the industry.
“I decided I’d had enough of it,” he said. “The industry has been great to me. Because of it I met my fiance and lovely friends, have a very comfortable income and the opportunity to travel to places that most of us can only dream of.”
What started out as a channel showing what life working on a yacht is really like has progressed to exploring other areas of the industry. He has featured boat shows, and also created educational videos with the chief engineer, chef, and other crew members. He’s witnessed a rapid growth of the channel.
“What really stands out about being the ‘Super Yacht Captain’ is how many messages I get from fans inspired to pursue their dreams both in yachting and in other industries,” he said. “It’s extremely rewarding knowing that it’s having a positive impact, and I can only hope that it continues to inspire people from all walks of life.”
One recent viewer had this to say: “Your videos are one of the few things getting me through solitary confinement here in the UK. You’re a star.”
Capt. Mortlock, who recently got his MCA Master 3000 certification, shared the process:
“Like the majority of the superyacht captains in the industry, I went down the MCA Yacht certification route. This basically involves acquiring a minimum amount of sea time, attending courses and passing written exams. It takes a good number of years before getting to the MCA Master 3000 level as you have to first become an OOW/Chief Mate, acquire more sea time, pass all the masters modules before finally applying for your NOE (Notice of Eligibility) to sit the final masters oral exam with an MCA examiner.”
But the new certification doesn’t mean he’s looking to jump ship from AWOL anytime soon.
“A question I get all the time from the followers is why I don’t move to a bigger boat and my answer is always the same. It’s not about the size of the boat. For me it’s all about the people you work with. I’m very fortunate in that I work with the best team, I’ve been with our central agent Anna Granlund from IYC for well over a decade.”
When describing life onboard, the crew of AWOL has a strong sense of camaraderie, and even family.
“My chef has been with us since the beginning. Our chase boat driver, Harry Morgan, is making a return to AWOL this summer. He runs the AWOL (A Winter Of Luxury) chalet in Verbier over the winter months and has been with us for five years. The Chief Officer Jason Lambert and 2nd Stew Michaela Letley are also a great couple and are working with us full time. My fiance, Chief Stew Giverny Jade, and I have been working together for over eight years now and we all get on really well.
“Finally, the person that makes this all possible is the owner,” Capt. Mortlock said. “The man is an absolute diamond, loves his crew, will do anything for them and is nothing but a pleasure to work for. I can’t thank him enough for believing in us and giving us a canvas to create something special with AWOL.”
With such a pleasurable life at work and at sea, it is clear why Capt. Mortlock has chosen to share it with the public through social media. His advice for yachties looking to make it on the digital screen:
“When filming, be yourself and use your experience to teach the viewers. Be consistent with uploading content. Be extremely thick skinned, because as you grow bigger and bigger, you’re going to attract internet trolls and some nasty people saying nasty things. Learn not to take it onboard, or worry about it.”
The content on his channel has changed since COVID-19. He is doing live streams at least once per week, where subscribers and followers can ask questions. He’s also been expanding on crew stories, including a recent story about a piracy scare on the East African coast. He is currently editing a video about how to become a captain on a superyacht.
His solid advice for people new to the industry seeking to become a captain:
“I would highly recommend going down the MCA Unlimited route. As the industry is growing, more and more yachts that are being built are greater than 3000GT.”
Lauren Coles is a freelance writer and founder of Yoga Yacht living in Port Hercule, Monaco. She holds a master’s degree in education. Comments are welcome below.