Antoine Capstick is someone who likes to pay it forward. A marine fuels and logistics specialist, he has also written a range of indispensable training manuals and books for yacht crew, including 'The Licence Saver Rules Book’ and 'The Port State Control Handbook'.
He has also written about the art of growing your tips, which we will review next time, but he is perhaps best known as the 'go to' for all things jet drive. He also has a talent for spotting potential and enjoys mentoring bright young crew in his spare time. As a crew agent, I was keen to catch up with Antoine to find out more.
How did you end up specialising in the niche topic of jet drive?
In 2009, I was appointed captain of a jet drive Mangusta. I became passionate and fascinated by jet drive systems because, put simply, there is no such thing as an easy manoeuvre. It’s not about lining the boat up with the slip, straightening the rudders and coming astern. There’s always a challenge, the boat is always moving, even in neutral, and it requires real concentration. There are things that can be done with a jet boat that cannot be accomplished with conventional propulsion systems; it can be a performance.
At that time, there were a lot of jet drive boats but not many jet boat captains. I found that owners were understandably reluctant to employ captains with no experience, so I thought I’d help people out by writing my first guide: 'How to operate the bridge controls of the S3 Series Rolls Royce Kamewa system'. Once I’d written that guide, it took on a life of its own; I started doing onboard tuition, wrote more books, and now my most recent book is for sale on Amazon, imaginatively titled 'How to drive a jet boat.'
Tell me about your 'Licence Saver Rules Book' for yacht captains - was this through trial and error?!
No. It was to right a wrong. The captain's job on any size boat is difficult. Around 2019, the French police started confiscating peoples' licences for anchoring inside the 30 metres contour outside the Monaco Yacht Show. This seemed wrong, so I took it upon myself to compile a book that listed all the regulations, easy to understand charts and symbols and to publish a rules guide covering Menton to the Porquerolles.The strapline simply says “Don’t give them the satisfaction of confiscating your licence.” I think that explains why I wrote it.
Things are getting serious; AIS enforcement, criminal convictions and huge fines are all on the up and, don’t forget, if you’re in France on a carte de séjour and you get a conviction, it could be game over; they can ban you for cruising in French waters indefinitely.
A huge part of your career has been spent training yacht crew, what do you most enjoy about it?
In 2019, I was retained by a shipping company to create a safety management system, training up 15 crew in how to use an ISM iPad based checklist platform for hours of rest, maintenance, equipment testing, planning and recording drills - basically everything that would come up in Port State Control inspections and be compliant with LY3, flag etc.
This worked quite well for four years, but when the vessels were routinely sailing through Port State inspections with no deficiencies, it was decided that my time was up!
During this time I was fortunate to meet two junior crew who showed a huge interest in the maritime industry. I started to train them up and having sacrificed a large part of our spare time, the results were good: One is now chief mate on a big boat, the other is in his last year on a P&O officer cadetship scheme.
Another memorable training session involved a bosun who found himself the most senior officer on board after a surprise HOD cull towards the end of a new build in 2018. I was asked by management if I thought the young bosun could be trained to take command. He was, and is, a fine young man, although I wasn’t sure if he was ready, or indeed if I was ready to teach him. However, he was an exceptionally able candidate and a quick learner, and I gave him the support and confidence he needed. Despite senior members of the fleet lining up their own mates to take the job, he got the job and indeed is still there today!
I will give as much to a keen youngster as they will put in themselves. It’s not always easy, but when you start you can’t stop. It’s a commitment and I really enjoy teaching. If someone shows enthusiasm to learn and you’ve got time, why would you say no? I’m still in touch with many of my students and it’s a joy to watch them thrive in their careers.
Do you feel there is enough mentoring within the yachting industry?
Its difficult to answer that. I’m not sure how effective onboard crew-to-crew mentorship is; people work hard and time ashore is at a premium, so I think mentorship is most effective when received from management type people who are seafarers at heart.
To me, 'mentorship' means investing in a person so that they advance much faster than they would unaccompanied under their own steam. Take an interest in any crew and you’ll quickly find people who have already quietly accumulated knowledge far beyond the scope of their job. These are the ones who respond well to the structure, encouragement and advancement that mentorship brings.
You need that happy coincidence of meeting a mentor with time on their hands, and a mentee who’s willing to listen and work on themselves in their spare time.
I find mentoring always pays you back. During a storm in Porto Cervo, it's sheeting with rain, the surge is snapping your lines like guitar strings, you’re down to your last set... Shuffling through the mist comes a bedraggled figure in oilskins, and looking into the hood you recognise a long forgotten bosun you brought up from newbie five years ago. Over their shoulders are a brace of new nylon ropes. “Remember me?” they say, “I thought you might need a hand…”