Transiting the Panama Canal.

2019 ended with an interesting adventure for me. Before transiting from the old to the new year I had the opportunity to transit the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The Lagoon 620 “Plan B” was moored in Shelter Bay Marina, Colon. It’s a nicely manicured place but the adjacent jungle produced the eery deep growling of a large cat in the evenings and vultures were hovering over us throughout the day. Just before sunset on the 25th of November we left with 3 local line handlers on board. They brought large clean fenders and long mooring lines. In front of the Atlantic Bridge we waited for our pilot, or advisor, to come on board. His role was to communicate with the lock tenders and offer instructions to Martin, Plan B’s captain. Apart from the advisor’s late arrival, the Gatun locks transit went smooth. With 3 different locks the ships are raised 26 meters up from sea level to the Gatun Lake. The speed at which the locks are filled is impressive. The mix of salt- and freshwater in the first lock makes it feel like you’re floating in a big pot of boiling soup. Once into […]

Certification versus qualification

Recently we have seen an increase in yachts registered under Belgian flag. Especially for commercial yachts the lenient coding process seems to be the selling point for flying the beautiful (not) black, yellow and red colours of my home country. The issue however lies with the safe manning rules. Irrelevant of the yacht’s size, the captain must be a holder of an MCA Master 200 license, accepted under the STCW-95_II 2 convention. This is different from the Yachtmaster 200 Ton license which falls under the STCW-95_IV 4 convention. The exams for the MCA license seem to be considerably more challenging than the RYA or IYT Yachtmaster exams. It’s safe to say that it’s a higher, more serious certificate. Once again, none of this is relevant to Pocket Superyachts, in fact, this safe manning rule has an adverse effect. The captains who have have studied for the MCA 200 (and it’s actually more common to find Master 500’s) usually aspire to command +100ft yacht. So when we have a client with a 60ft Belgian flagged commercial yacht we have to refuse perfectly qualified captains because they don’t hold the correct license. They usually hold the more popular Yachtmaster license. Additionally the […]

The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance

This time of the year we do a lot of deliveries, bringing yachts to their summer cruising grounds. These trips at the beginning and the end of the season reminds many of us, Pocket Superyacht crew, why we made sailing the 50ft to 100ft range of luxury yachts our job; The true love for offshore sailing. In the middle of the summer the Mediterranean sailing conditions can sometimes be a little too comfortable and benign.   The focus shifts to keeping the yacht clean, to technical maintenance and of course to hospitality. Conditions are so easy that we stand the risk of becoming complacent towards safety until a September storm sends us a (not so) gentle first reminder. Bringing the yacht to the next pick up point for guests is done under time pressure which, in combination with light airs often prevents crew from quenching their sailing thirst.    But a delivery in March or April, that takes you through the Bay of Biscay or the Golfe de Lion, can put your salty sailors skills to the test again. “The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance.” This is a quote by Annie Van de Wiele which […]

Pay Peanuts get Monkeys.

Atlantic crossing  It’s that time of the year again when most yachts are preparing to cross the Atlantic aiming to be there for Christmas and New Year’s eve. Temporary crew In the Pocket Superyacht niche, which we exclusively work with, we see owners hiring temporary crew to deliver their yachts across. Some of them don’t have permanent crew and for others it is the right time for their crew to take time off between two busy seasons. Experienced crew At Invisible Crew we do quite a few of these deliveries every year. We price these deliveries in relevance to the size (and value) of the yacht. We only send crews who have done these types of trips multiple times before. We tend to send small but experienced teams. We see little use in spending travel expenses (only) on someone who has no idea what they will be doing on board these valuable yachts. Less people on board means fewer personalities to deal with. Not having enough experienced people is dangerous. Less than 70 € a day? Very recently I had an enquiry from an owner and upon receiving my quote he was surprised that we were twice as expensive as a professional yacht […]

Are the Pocket Superyacht owners employers or clients?

In our online course “How To Find Work On Pocket Superyachts” we are offering ways for Pocket Superyacht crews to increase their professional approach. This is why we discuss the question: Are the owners employers or clients? In theory, the owners are your employers but: what happens if you look at them as your clients? -And for now, I am not talking about the type of contract you have with them- What is the difference? An employer does not only pay your salary, he or she will give you instructions and feedback, have staff meetings with you, evaluate your work and help to improve your performance where possible. Clients, however, hire you because you are an expert in your field and because you know -better than them- how to perform the job. They expect to do much less follow up. And this is exactly the point. When owners come on board their yacht, the last thing they want is another staff meeting or looking into the operations and evaluating them. How do I know that? Because, this is exactly the service that we offer with Invisible Crew Management. We keep owners at bay from the organisation and the hassle around […]