Over the years, we have all worked on yachts with overall programs that vary from the very best to the very worst. The right overall package can be a very tough thing to find and is not something you just walk into either; it takes time to develop. I have been very lucky to work for some of the best captains in the industry (in my mind) and, as we all know, a great boat really does start at the top. Given that though, engineers do serve a very important role in overall morale and the general success of the whole programme, and it is up to us, especially as chiefs, to constantly be aware of that responsibility.
We all know that we are there to maintain the vessel to the best standards possible, to create a safe working environment for the owners, guests and crew alike. It is a big responsibility and something that we all need to take to our hearts everyday. Whether it be a day-cruise or a trans-ocean passage, safety is always the number one priority.
But beyond that, our position goes much further. Our relationships with the crew also play an integral role in the success of the vessel. I’m not talking about going out and having the team-building drinks and dinner with crew, as we all hopefully enjoy that aspect of the job and lifestyle either way. I am more referring to the crew’s understanding of their roles and how the things they do can, and often do, affect the physical condition of the yacht. We all have different stories but we can all attest to the importance of each position understanding how they affect the machinery they use.
Given the nature of the engineer’s position and the general desire for longevity for the position, it does take time to learn the intricacies of any large machine such as a yacht. But during this time, it also allows us to properly help hone the program and teach personnel responsibility for each position on board.
Chefs can be notorious for leaving the doors to the walk-in refrigerator and freezers open while working inside, and then come and tell you about excessive frost and ice build-up. Or have you ever walked into the galley to see the faucet running over a frozen piece of meat, when soaking that same item in a sink works just as well, or better, without wasting the water.
Better yet, the deck department often leaves hoses running while washing down, and the abuse of tenders is a common sight as well. Tenders can be an on-going nightmare on many vessels as they are integral parts of everyday life on board and get used and abused as a result. Yet nothing can be more frustrating than rebuilding a lower unit for the third time because people are just not paying attention when operating the tender and running aground as a result.
To give the benefit of the doubt, most are not acting in a knowingly malicious manner in any way, and I do not want to imply that they are, but it is both lack of knowledge of how things work, and lack of thought processes, that often leads to unnecessary work for all departments. Obviously these examples may not be dramatic but, none the less, they can be avoided.
Many of these things may seem common sense to us as engineers, and many of them are common sense to the other departments too. But it is our responsibility to make sure that the other crew are fully aware of the demands put on the vessel every day. Everything from flushing the toilets and what goes in them, to the proper operation and care of a steam oven falls into this department.
Whose job is it? Many will say it’s everyone’s job, and they are not necessarily wrong. But we, as engineers, know who will be the ones putting the pieces back together if we do not make sure that unnecessary “accidents” are avoided and prevented. It is our job, while also working with the other department heads, to make a conscious effort every day to think about how our actions, and the actions of those we work with, impact on everyone around us, as well as the physical vessel. We are all there to take care of the owner’s asset, but it is our job as engineers to make sure we provide our co-workers with the knowledge to do so. At the same time, we’re making our job easier and more enjoyable. The extra time in education each day may save hours or headaches later on.
What are your thoughts and how have you been able to create a well-honed and efficient, accident-free workplace?
Michael Wilson has 12 years of engineering experience in the yachting industry, working full-time and freelance. He has also worked in project management, yacht management and brokerage. Mike is currently a rotational chief on M/Y Senses, and has worked in the industry for over 10 years on multiple yachts, including S/Y Maltese Falcon.
He is a Florida native and U.S. Coast Guard Chief Engineer 3000Grt Unlimited HP (a Y-1 equivalent). He studied finance and human resources at Purdue University, graduating in 2000.