Owner’s View: Not the recommended procedure for captain, crew career in yachting

May 31, 2020 by Melvin Miller

Owner’s View: by Melvyn Miller

Decades ago, I was berthed in Cape May, New Jersey, next to a flush-deck motoryacht run by a mature delivery captain and a new owner. In describing their run down the Delaware, the captain said that the owner, while at the helm, had decided to cut all the major markers, starting at Ship John. 

The captain’s advice to the owner: “It can be done but is not the recommended procedure.”

Although most folks understand that just because it can be done does not mean it should be done, over the ensuing decades I have repeated that old captain’s advice about the additional importance of recommended procedures. Unfortunately, I find myself saying that more often as captains and crew increasingly try to differentiate themselves by showing that they are capable of doing the unusual.

A unique table decoration may seem silly to a discerning owner or guest. Those very different hors d’oeuvres may not go well with a 21-year single malt. The brilliant Band-aid fix to a wave runner may fail two miles from the mothership, and differentiating a milk run out of Newport by taking a tri-deck into the inner harbor at Cuttyhunk is definitely not the recommended procedure.

This observation is not taken well by many captains and crew who believe, correctly, that they may earn larger tips from charter guests who want to be amazed at the ingenuity and daring of the program. I also understand that there are some owners who view themselves essentially as slightly more frequent charterers and, strangely, like to brag about the ability of their current driver to back a 40m down the inside of the Charleston Mega Dock at 2 a.m. at max tidal flow.

This emphasis on uniqueness by pushing boundaries is evident in the majority of CVs I now read, which is clear evidence of the increase in charter and charter-like programs. In a subsequent column, I may provide some numbers that bear upon the long-term prospects for such programs, but it should be clear that insurance underwriters and very long-term owners (the authors and defenders of recommended procedures) are not fans of uniqueness.

The hallmark of professionalism is the knowledge of, and performance to, the standards that almost always overlay recommended procedures. Those standards and procedures evolve, especially with new technology, but I quickly terminate conversations with yachties who demand the armor of professional recognition while insisting on their ability to be unique.

Megayacht crew quarters are inside an 8- or 9-figure investment with a 7- or 8-figure annual cost. This is a business, best populated by serious, credentialed and professional individuals who are more like the old captain than the new owner on that trip down the Delaware long ago. 

Melvyn Miller is an American yacht owner from the U.S. East Coast. He has owned and operated yachts for six decades and employed crew for more than 30 years. Comments on this column are welcome below.