Secrets of a Dubai superyacht crew: What it’s like to work on one

October 7, 2019 Off By administrator

(CNN) — The symbols of Dubai’s transformation into a global city are on show wherever you look in the “City of Gold,” from soaring skyscrapers to five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Perhaps the most recognizable symbols of Dubai are found floating in its ever-expanding luxury marinas: the superyachts, playthings of the rich and powerful that vie for eminence in size and beauty.
Each year Dubai’s yachting infrastructure expands as the city aims for “global capital” status. The Dubai International Boat Show earlier this year anticipated around 450 of the most extravagant superyachts from across the world.

For leisure and business visitors to Dubai, the view from the shore suggests indulgence, relaxation and glamor. But it’s a different story for the specialist staff at work on board these luxury vessels.

CNN spoke to workers in five key roles to reveal the ups and downs of their experience on the waves.

Superyacht 'Fast & Furious' on a voyage in Dubai.

Superyacht ‘Fast & Furious’ on a voyage in Dubai.

Alessio Bernacchi/JLS Yachts

The captain

One captain who spoke to CNN – who asked not to be named to protect his livelihood – first arrived in Dubai as a tourist in 2007.

The city struck him as a safe place to raise his family and he has remained ever since, captaining a succession of yachts that are typically more than 40 meters long.

Trips tend to be shorter than in the Caribbean or Mediterranean he says, with yachts sometimes rented by the hour rather than days.

In the early days, the skipper recalls a lax regulatory environment in which “anyone holding a speed boat license was a yacht captain.” But this has changed in recent years with increasingly onerous requirements for safety and qualifications.

The low bar to entry contributed to lower salaries for yacht captains than other parts of the world, he says, although they have climbed as standards have risen and tend to correlate with the size of vessel.

A captain is notionally the most important decision-maker on a vessel. But in Dubai his expertise often comes second to the whims of the owner.

“You can have owners who want to take a boat somewhere it is not allowed to go,” he says, recalling a 26-year-old owner who told him to drop anchor in a restricted zone. “You have to be tactful but follow the rules.”

He has also had issues when asked to multitask in roles beyond his remit, such as delicate repair jobs that would usually fall to a specialist engineer.

But the captain’s job has been made easier by advances in Dubai’s yachting industry, according to Captain Mike Fetton, who has transitioned from captaincy to management of his own company JLS Yachts.

“The improvement of facilities and infrastructure over the past few years has been phenomenal,” he says.

“Four years ago you would have struggled to find a dock for vessels over 70 meters but now there are new (superyacht) berths coming online all the time.”

Captain Mike Fetton aboard the superyacht 'White Knight'

Captain Mike Fetton aboard the superyacht ‘White Knight’


The chef

David Buchanan has served as private chef to VIPs…

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