In this Podcast interview, I’m having a chat with my Son, Hamish. He is home on leave from his work on a Superyacht.
Now that he is 21, I’m curious to find out what it was like for him growing up in the Turvey family, living on a yacht for five years and sailing an ocean passage at the age of 12.
From there, we talk a lot about his transition from school life to a career in the Superyacht industry.
LINDSAY: Today I’m interviewing my son, Hamish Turvey. Hamish grew up on our family yacht Blue Heron. He left home at the age of 20 and started his career working on superyachts. I’m Lindsay Turvey, this is part of what I do to help others enjoy the sea through my website ToSeeTheSea.com .
I’m going to try and find out what it was like for Hamish from his perspective growing up with the opportunities we tried to create for him. Then we’re going to share what he had to do to get a job on yachts owned by very successful people.
Welcome to the interview Hamish.
HAMISH: Thanks Dad.
LINDSAY: Tell us your earliest memories of growing up in the Turvey family.
HAMISH: Some of my earliest memories is being in our house in Auckland in the Navy house. Growing up with our dog Robbie. That was before we had to give Robbie away when I was five, but I remember running around the back yard and basically trying to copy what he did. There was a couple of times that my Mum caught me nearly drinking out of a puddle and then I also tried to copy what Dad did with Robbie. Which is things like Dad would pat on his chest and Robbie would jump and put his front paws up on Dad’s chest. I remember trying to do that one time and Robbie jumped up on top of me and pushed me over basically because he was bigger than what I was.
I also have really good memories of going down to Devonport on a Wednesday night in the winter and Friday night in summer. We’d go get fish and chips and watch the yachts sail past. They were doing their weekly races. That was really cool. Then we moved onto the boat.
LINDSAY: That was pretty impressive when they came down on a south-westerly and all the spinnakers were up and the sun was setting behind them. I really enjoyed that time too. Just sitting in the car and yeah, good fun.
I want you to take us on a journey through the years of the various boats that you’ve been on up until we sailed to Australia. Can you remember them all?
HAMISH: Some of the earlier boats was mainly dinghy sailing. I first started at that one on the other side of the harbour bridge, I can’t remember what it’s called but it was a lot of fun. I remember a couple of times when I was first starting out I was the youngest by a year or so and it was about my third week or something like that. I went out and just kept capsizing because it was so windy. I got very, very scared and ended up…Well you ended up having to jump in the Optimus and sailing it back.
LINDSAY: That’s right. Yeah, it’s the first time I’d sailed an Optimus as a fully grown adult and it was quite hard getting underneath the boom. Not a big boat.
HAMISH: Eventually I overcame that and went out again and had a lot of fun. We did a lot of these event sort of things where we had challenges. We had to sail around buoys or go in an X3 without the sail up and we’d have to paddle it around the buoys and those sort of little fun events for kids.
I also remember sailing our dinghy which Dad built. It was nicknamed MyST which is an acronym for, was it “My Spare Time”?
LINDSAY: Yeah. That’s correct. Lynley named it My Spare Time because that’s what it took me – all my spare time over winter to build it.
HAMISH: Yeah. We’d put a Laser radial rig in it and I’d go sailing in that around the islands in Auckland.
I also remember driving the Auckland ferries when you were working there. That was pretty cool going 30 knots up the harbour driving big passenger ferries with a little joystick. I was only about nine years old. That was cool.
LINDSAY: Before that you got to help me bring boats back from the slip at Gulf Harbour. Occasionally you came back on the Navy Chico 40’s.
HAMISH: Oh yeah. I remember that.
LINDSAY: Just doing delivery trips. Those were good times hey?
HAMISH: Yeah. Inspired me to carry on doing stuff in this sailing scene.
LINDSAY: You weren’t very old when we first got our family yacht Blue Heron, what was it like in the early days when we were going out sailing? We used to shoot across to Great Barrier Island and there was a few things to learn there wasn’t there?
HAMISH: Yeah. Great Barrier Island’s still probably one of my favourite places that I’ve been to. Especially Smokehouse Bay. There was a little bay there that has a little smokehouse, little bathtub in it. Go out, catch some fish in the morning then come back and smoke them in the little place. It also had like this big rope swing and a little barbecue area and stuff. It was awesome.
I remember one of my first lessons was rowing MyST – our dinghy into Smokehouse Bay and it has a very small channel where you have to use a leading – two leaders. Which was a little stump and a rock or something I can’t remember. You had to line them up to get into the thing without hitting anything, which is cool.
LINDSAY: So, you learnt at an early age about steering a transit?
LINDSAY: Cool. What about when we were anchored at Motuihe Island and you didn’t follow the instructions that we gave you.
HAMISH: Yeah. That was when I was…I really wanted to try and get in the dinghy and I was told I wasn’t allowed to and the quick release gate was done up. I managed to get the bottom one off and couldn’t get the top one off and I started leaning on it, and then all of a sudden it let go and I fell over the side with my inflatable life jacket on. There was just like a “ping” and then fell into the water and it’s just like this big “phssss” and the life jacket inflated. That taught me a pretty valuable lesson and that’s to do what you’re told.
LINDSAY: Yeah. We got a lot of mileage out of that actually because you came up, you were pretty upset about the whole thing, it was a bit of a shock to the system. I was down doing the dishes and I flew up the hatch when I heard the splash. Lynley was in the cockpit. She met me where the gate was and we looked over the side and we couldn’t see you. We were about to panic but all of a sudden, the lifejacket went off and you popped back up again and we reached down and dragged you onboard. There was a few tears, but I think you learnt that day that when we tell you that it’s a safety issue that you really need to listen. That was good. Nobody got hurt really. It was just a bit of pride lost.
So what were the happiest memories you have of growing up around and on boats?
HAMISH: It was always pretty cool to be able to say to my friends that I grew up on a boat. I remember being in Bayswater marina and pretty much my backyard was the whole marina. I remember spending hours playing on the rocks just looking at little crabs and things like that or just lying on the pontoon and sticking my hand in the water catching little shrimp that would live in the weeds and stuff there. There was a couple of other boats that had kids and actually the boat next to us had a dog, a golden retriever called Josh. Absolutely loved that dog. That was cool. IT was awesome to go out on the weekends and mainly on long weekends, but we’d go to Smokehouse Bay and Great Barrier Island and go to Tiritiri and go and do some hikes up through the tracks up there. Mainly growing up and doing that trip from New Zealand through the Pacific. We went to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia then across to Australia. That was probably the biggest highlight. Got to see some really cool places and hopefully get to go back and see them later.
Also got to meet some really cool people. That was fun. Meeting boats that had kids the same age was always good.
They were pretty much most of my happiest memories. I’m sure there’s a lot more.
LINDSAY: So, it was a pretty good life growing up?
HAMISH: Yeah, I’ve been pretty lucky with my life so far.
LINDSAY: That’s good.
I know the answer to my next question – do you get seasick, so I’ll ask it a bit different. When you get seasick what’s that like?
HAMISH: I haven’t been seasick for a very long time now. When I was younger I remember it being very unpleasant. You’d get these big hot flushes and you’d feel very ill in the stomach. It was like you don’t want to do anything. You just lie there and try and overcome it I guess by looking at the horizon or getting fresh air and stuff. As soon as you go down inside it just makes it worse for me anyway. I spent a lot of time in the cockpit lying down – my snuggly little blanket that we had. That was pretty cool. Yeah, I didn’t like the feeling of being seasick. Luckily, I outgrew it and now I haven’t been seasick for a long time.
LINDSAY: Yeah. I think the last time I ever saw you seasick was the first day out of Whangarei when we were on our way to Fiji. We left on the back edge of a very active front. It was quite rough. I’ve got a couple of photos that I’ll put up there and show people. Both you and Kate with your head in a bucket lying on the floor of the cabin. That was quite funny. Sad but funny.
You finished school after year 12 at the age of 17. What happened in the next few years and what was your life like after leaving school?
HAMISH: After I left school most of the group that I hang out with went off, did their own thing. I only had two very good friends that I still talk to. I spent about four months not really doing anything, trying to find a job. Ended up getting this very short-term job at a petrol station. They started cutting my hours and stuff there, so I had to look for a new job. Ended up getting a new job at Jeppo Gelato in Cleveland. That was a very good learning curve for me. It was hard at the start, I was only just doing dishes and stuff but I eventually worked my way up and started learning more. I became one of the baristas there. Learnt how to do latte art, make really good coffee that I still enjoy today, learnt how to do like swans and stuff on the top of the coffee. He also taught me how to make gelato which was good fun.
LINDSAY: And I must say he makes some of the best gelato that I’ve ever tasted and yours was no different. You’ve certainly got a good technique there.
HAMISH: Yeah. It was a very good learning curve for me. I stayed at that job for about 18 months and towards the end of it I kind of found myself in a rut where I was just getting up, going to work, coming home, playing on my computer, having dinner, playing some more computer, going to bed and doing the same thing every day pretty much. I started to just not be very happy. Then I had quite a lot of money saved up because one thing I’m pretty good at is saving money and then I decided to do a road trip. I bought a Nissan Elgrand.
LINDSAY: That’s a van.
HAMISH: That’s a van yeah. I took the back seats out and then built my own camper out of it. I made a double bed in the back with enough storage for food, plates and all the normal stuff you would need for camping. Had a little hot cook plate and I had a fridge in there. I put a solar panel on the top. I had an awning which broke after the first time I used it because I didn’t have it on the right angle and it rained and collected water. I wouldn’t have been able to do the road trip without a little bit of help from mum and dad.
Once I finished the road trip which was really good experience. I did it by myself so I could kind of get out of my shell and get out of my rut, and force myself to go out and meet new people and see what I could actually do. See if I could travel by myself sort of thing. Which ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made because it did exactly what I hoped for.
When I got back I sold the van for $3500 more than what I bought it for which worked out to be really good. It paid for my next adventure.
LINDSAY: Yeah. We could see that you needed more and watching you spend hours playing computer games drove me nuts. Every time I came home from work there you were on the computer.
LINDSAY: So, we got you on a STCW95 entry level course for commercial vessels that gave you sea survival, firefighting and other relevant knowledge for mariners. What was that like when you did that course?
HAMISH: The course was good. I still had my van at that stage and I went up to the Sunshine Coast and basically lived in my van while I did my course up there. I learnt a lot. A lot of the stuff I already knew from when I was a kid. Dad did similar courses and I’d be allowed to join in. So, it was mainly like flipping life rafts and stuff.
LINDSAY: Because we did that before we went offshore. We got you kids in the wave pool in Auckland and…
HAMISH: Yeah. We had to do that. It was pretty much the same sort of course, or same elements to the course as what I did. I already had a knowledge of that but I really enjoyed the firefighting because we had to get dressed up in the full firefighting gear, they lit their own fires and stuff in these containers and they had scenarios that we had to put them out with extinguishers and fire hoses. We had to go inside the container when it was full of smoke and we couldn’t see anything, find and recover patients which were in there, and there was also a first aid element and also security awareness which was what to do if there was people that weren’t supposed to be on the boat. What if they came on board and all that sort of stuff, which was really, really good.
LINDSAY: That was a good entry level course. We knew that you wanted a career in the superyacht industry so we helped you out a little bit. Then you did some training with Flying Fish in Sydney who specialise in yacht master, super yacht and water sports education. What did that involve and what certification did you get at the end of that?
HAMISH: I did a week-long course there down in Sydney. The first two days were powerboat level two. Which was learning how to drive and control a small tender, or small motor vessel.
LINDSAY: How hard was that?
HAMISH: For me it wasn’t too difficult because I’d already had a lot of experience driving a dinghy. So, it kind of came naturally to me. Some of the other people did struggle in the course.
After that I did a five day live aboard sail on one of their Beneteau 40’s I think. I met some really cool people there that I still talk to today. The one I was originally supposed to do was just a competent crew.
LINDSAY: This was RYA qualifications?
HAMISH: Yeah. RYA. This is part of the RYA Yachtmaster scheme. I was originally only supposed to do competent crew but the instructors recognised that I had a good understanding and good background and they pushed me up to a coastal skipper qualification. That meant I had to do passage planning, learn how to read charts and all that sort of stuff. We also had to do boat skills. We spent two days in the marina – I think it was two days, where we were learning how to moor the boat, playing around with how to control the boat in small areas and all that sort of thing. We did a couple of little sails out in Sydney harbour. Then we left and went up the coast, played around in some tide, did some long overnight passages with the sails up and that was really cool. I enjoyed that. We had to do our watches and I remember being on watch and sailing at night. We were doing a broad reach and the swell was behind us, and I just remember playing in the surf and trying to maximise the speed and get the record for fastest speed – which I did. Very competitive.
LINDSAY: Can you remember how you were feeling leading up to the point where you left home after you’d done these courses?
HAMISH: Basically, what happened was I was playing on my computer and I was switching between the game I was playing and then looking at the whole super yacht industry. There was a bunch of boats there that I thought were absolutely incredible and it would be such a cool experience just to be able to see them, let alone work on them. Then I kind of just opened up a travel agency and checked how much flights were. I think it was about AU$1400 for a one-way ticket to the south of France. I ended up just booking it and paying for it, and then I was kind of like, “Alright well it looks like I’m doing this so I better go and organise all my accommodation and all that for the first week. So, I went and booked my accommodation, then went back and checked the dates for the flight and I realised I’d booked them for a month later than all the accommodation and from what I wanted to go. I had to change the flights again.
I kind of started getting a bit nervous thinking, “Oh maybe I shouldn’t be doing this,” but then kinda stuck with it and yeah, just went along with it and ended up doing it which was the best decision I’ve ever made.
LINDSAY: So, it wasn’t easy…
HAMISH: No. It definitely wasn’t easy.
LINDSAY: Going out on your own big time.
The day you left home I took you to the airport and was a bit surprised after you had gone through departures how choked up I became. When you left home to start your super yacht career, what emotions were you feeling and what were your first six weeks like?
HAMISH: It was a very confusing mix of being very nervous and very excited at the same time. When I was going to the airport – when you were driving me there, I’m pretty sure I was pretty quiet. I was excited just thinking, “Oh my god. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? This is crazy.” Then I got to customs, said my goodbyes, went through the gates and it was like, “Okay looks like I can’t turn back now.” I boarded the plane, landed in Singapore and I didn’t know where I was. It was a huge airport. I didn’t know where my next flight was. I had a nine-hour stopover so I was just walking around the airport. It was a pretty cool airport actually but yeah, I was still kind of thinking, “What am I doing? This is insane.” but got on the flight to France.
I landed in Paris and then I had to catch a train to Antibes in the south of France. That was interesting because I only just caught the train, but there had apparently been train strikes. The train the day before hadn’t left and a lot of people were trying to get on the train the day I was there. They had overbooked everything and I had paid for a first-class seat but there was already people in my seat, so I had to end up staying in the luggage compartment. I was…
LINDSAY: Ripped off.
HAMISH: Yeah. I think it was a three-hour train journey and I spent two hours with my head bent over trying to get comfortable in this luggage area.
LINDSAY: They probably thought, “Oh he’s young. He’ll cope.”
HAMISH. Yeah. I didn’t get to my first-class seat until the last half an hour of the train trip which was kind of annoying. I still got to see what I wanted to see which was the countryside. Once I got to Antibes, met some people that were already in the industry and they showed me where to go for the crew agencies and all that sort of stuff. Everyone was so friendly and so helpful. Within the first two weeks I’d made some really good friends. I started to go out partying with them more and at bars and stuff at night which was a really, really good way to do some networking.
The first five weeks was just such an incredible experience. The friends I made there I still talk to. It felt like I actually fitted in and I basically never looked back from the first week of being in the south of France. I knew that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
It got a little bit nerve-racking at the end because on the fifth week I was down to about 600 euros which would’ve lasted me maybe another week and a half if I didn’t work. I was getting day work so I could kind of extend that. Then I got a job. I replied to an ad that I found on Facebook. Every hub that the super yachts go to: Antibe, Monaco and then there’s ones in Italy and ones in Spain. They all have their Facebook groups. People post ads and stuff like that, and you can just reply, send them the CV and all that. I got this job from an ad which was on a boat in Germany. It was a new build. They were doing some work in the yard. They rang me up and they were like, “Yeah, we’re looking for someone that hasn’t had much experience, just needs a good attitude and prepared to work.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s me. I’m really keen.” They said, “When are you available?” and I said “As soon as possible. Whenever. I’m not really doing anything.” They said, “Cool can you catch a flight tomorrow?” I was like, “Ohhhh yeah I can do that.” So yeah, I got a job.
Ended up flying from Nice to Bremen which is in Germany – north of Germany. It was only supposed to be a 10-week temporary job while they were working in the yard but when I got on there I started really enjoying it and all that.
LINDSAY: And you got on well with the crew.
HAMISH: Yep. Got on really well with the crew. I was the youngest by about four years, so I was kind of like the baby of the crew but everyone there was really nice and it was a really good learning curve for me. It gave me a really good start to the industry.
LINDSAY: So, you got your lucky break and started work onboard the brand-new superyacht in Germany. Now the industry has a culture of protecting the owners and guest’s privacy, so without getting yourself in trouble, tell us what your first regular job was like on that boat.
HAMISH: It was called Cloudbreak. It’s just actually won a lot of awards. It’s a really cool boat. It was fully kitted out for…Basically it’s designed as an explorer yacht so going to go around the world. When I got there, I was just blown away by it. It just looked so cool.
LINDSAY: How long was it?
HAMISH: 72 metres.
LINDSAY: Woah. Big boat.
HAMISH: Yeah. It was pretty big. Had heaps of toys on it and it was really, really good fun. Basically, I worked from eight o’clock in the morning to five o’clock in the night. Sometimes a bit longer if there was extra work to do. Sometimes we’d get the weekends off and we could go out and explore Germany a bit. I really enjoyed it that’s for sure.
LINDSAY: I remember getting some photos at the Oktoberfest coming down through Facebook. What was that like?
HAMISH: That was awesome. It was really, really cool. We were there for the opening ceremony. The first day we started lining up at the front gate at 7 o’clock in the morning and the gates didn’t open until 9:30 but then the beer tents didn’t open until 10. We went and lined up at a beer tent for another hour. Being the youngest I got sent on the food mission for breakfast. Spent about 40 minutes looking for food and ended up having to go to McDonald’s. Then came back and still had about 40 minutes to wait in line. Then the tents opened. We sat down at our table which was near the middle. It was next to the band and we had a view of where they tap the first keg. That was awesome. Then by the time our first round came in we were so excited. There was a small German girl carrying I think she had 8 steins which is 8 x 1 litre jugs of beer. From then on it just became like a big party and we just had so much fun. That was awesome.
LINDSAY: Yeah. That’s something you wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t of started down this track and chosen a career in super yachts.
HAMISH: Yeah definitely. I never would have been able to get there. If I didn’t get that job on Cloudbreak I wouldn’t have probably done that anyway. I had such a great experience on that boat.
LINDSAY: You stayed there longer than the 10 weeks. What happened then?
HAMISH: Got along really well with the crew and they liked the way I was working, so I ended up staying on for the crossing from Germany to the Caribbean. That was an awesome experience as well. We went from Germany to Dominican Republic but we stopped off at Guernsey and The Azores. The Azores was really cool. The marina that we stayed in had a whole bunch of boat logos painted onto the dock. The whole dock was just covered in them. It was awesome because I think it’s one of the stops that most people would take shelter in if there’s a storm, or wait for weather gaps and stuff. They would go there and then go across to the Caribbean. Our weather was perfect for our crossing. We had flat water, no wind, sunshine – it was great.
You’re home on paid leave from your latest job and it’s good to see you by the way. Where has your latest job taken you so far?
HAMISH: After I left Cloudbreak in the Dominican Republic I flew to Antigua. In Antigua, I spent about six or seven week there and mainly just relaxing and spending too much money partying and stuff.
I eventually got a job on this new boat and I joined the boat in the Cayman Islands and it has taken me to Panama.
LINDSAY: I’ll just take you back a little bit though – you had work on other boats before that happened, didn’t you?
HAMISH: Yeah, I had a 12 day charter on a 101 metre. It was called Symphony and I just did the Christmas, New Year charter.
LINDSAY: What was that like? Full on?
HAMISH: Yeah it was full on sort of. I was on night shift so I didn’t have to do much during the day. I was just rinsing the boat every night and drying it pretty much. Occasionally I’d do tender runs to take the guests to other boats or ashore and stuff.
LINDSAY: When you say tender runs – what sort of boat are you driving as a tender driver?
HAMISH: We had a few but the main tender was a 12 metre – we called it the limo tender. It’s just a luxury kind of super yacht tender I guess is the best way to describe it. It was very nice.
LINDSAY: Was it jet propulsion?
HAMISH: No. Just a twin screw
LINDSAY: Just a twin screw. Plenty of power. What sort of speed did it do?
HAMISH: I never saw it above 30 knots.
HAMISH: Yeah, and I think it can go faster than that.
LINDSAY: Woah. 30 is pretty quick. Awesome. You also did a bit of babysitting on a few other classic yachts?
HAMISH: Not so much babysitting. Just day work and I covered a watch on one of the J classes which was really cool.
LINDSAY: The J classes are the original America’s Cup boats.
HAMISH: Yeah. They’re awesome boats. One of my dreams was to work on one of those and I got to do three days. We went out testing new sails and that was awesome. Such a great day.
LINDSAY: Thanks Jane Midson, [Jane’s Yacht Services (JYS), Antibes] for helping Hamish find that job.
HAMISH: Yeah thank you.
LINDSAY: Awesome. So, carry on then. What happened? You got your first regular job after Cloudbreak. What was that?
HAMISH: The boat I’m on at the moment – I joined it in Cayman Islands. We stayed there for a few days and then we went to islands around Panama. One of them was Bokist Eltora and I really like that place. It was like kind of a beachy, backpackers’ vibe to it. It was absolutely stunning.
We went to a couple of other islands and then we went through the Panama Canal which was really impressive. Going through those locks was such a cool feat of engineering – how they’re still going. You drive in, they fill it up, they open up the next gate and you drive into that one and then you go up again. When you’re up the top one looking down it’s just like…It’s incredible. It’s amazing really.
Stayed in Panama for a while and did some more cruising around the islands in the Pacific side of Panama. Then up to Costa Rica. Did some cruising around the islands in Costa Rica and went across to Cocos islands. That was unreal. You’d have to be there to really appreciate it but it was completely untouched land, giant vines going down cliff faces and big waterfalls that would just drop into the ocean. Absolutely incredible.
LINDSAY: Sort of things you’d see in a movie or something?
HAMISH: In a movie or something. It didn’t seem real. It was just insane. There was so much life and such big fish as well.
It was my first-time swimming with a shark and it was a dream come true. Swimming with sharks has been number one on my so-called bucket list for so long. We were just snorkelling on this big drop off and I was just off to the side of the group. Then I saw this shark swim through the middle of them and then it came up and it was about two metres away from me and it would’ve been probably about a 2 and a half metre tiger shark. It was so chilled out. It was just cruising along.
At first when I first saw it, I didn’t panic I was just like, “Oh my god. That’s a shark. That’s a shark.” Then I was like, “Oh my god it’s a tiger shark,” and got really, really excited. Then started to swim next to it and it looked like it was just cruising, not really doing much effort and I’m just sitting there kicking as hard as I can, trying to keep up with it. It was just incredible.
LINDSAY: So obviously the sharks are pretty well fed around that area.
LINDSAY: I don’t think I want to swim with sharks.
HAMISH: Oh it’s such a surreal experience swimming with sharks. The media makes them seem so much worse than what they actually are. When you’re in the water and they can see what you are they don’t go for you at all.
LINDSAY: Most shark attacks on humans are mistaken identity, is that what you’re saying?
HAMISH: Yeah. Definitely.
Then after we went to Cocos Islands we motored across to Galapagos Islands which would be number one on my places to go since I was about 10 years old and I was watching David Attenborough and BBC documentaries on it. It’s just been crazy. I’ve always wanted to go there. Then ended up going there and it’s just such an incredible experience. It left me speechless so many times. We went around the whole park and all that. Got to see some incredible things. Probably my favourite thing was swimming. We went snorkelling where there was known to hammerhead sharks. Ever since I saw a hammerhead shark in New Caledonia when we did our Pacific trip on our family yacht, I’ve been obsessed with hammerhead sharks.
So, we were snorkelling in this area which was known for them. I was in the tender at the start driving, and me and the other deckhand were swapping in and out. Taking turns. I was in the tender for the first 15 minutes and all I could hear was, “Oh my god there’s a hammerhead shark!” and I’m just running around the tender super excited. Couldn’t wait to get in. I just wanted to jump in but knew I had to be responsible for the tender so I couldn’t.
When he eventually swapped in with me and I jumped in, I looked down and there would’ve been 50 to 70 hammerhead sharks about 12 metres deep just cruising in this giant school. I’ve done a lot of free diving and normally I can get down to about 10 metres quite easily but because I was so excited and my heart was just racing, I could only get three or four metres before I needed to take another breath. That would’ve been the highlight of my trip.
There was a lot of other cool things we got to see like lava fields and big sun fish, and the scenery there was just unreal.
I left the boat there for my month off.
LINDSAY: So, you work four months on, one month off?
HAMISH: Four months on, one month off yeah.
LINDSAY: And you get paid while you’re off?
HAMISH: Yeah but it’s a lesser salary than when I’m actually working.
LINDSAY: Have you got any living expenses?
HAMISH: No. I don’t have to pay for anything unless I want to go out for lunch or something, then buy something, ashore.
LINDSAY: So, all the money you’ve earned you could theoretically just put it straight in the bank?
HAMISH: Yeah. Pretty much. It’s such a good job. There’s not much that I could say that’s bad about it.
LINDSAY: Well that’s my next question actually. You know, you’re working for wages and there’s no such thing as the perfect job. What are some of the bad things about working in the superyacht industry? Maybe not something that you’ve experienced but what other people talk about that they’re not happy with.
HAMISH: The only thing that I guess you could kind of consider as bad is that you don’t get a lot of time off. When you’re working a standard day is between eight and twelve hours. That’s seven days a week and especially when the guests are onboard or the boss is onboard then you’re working easily twelve hours sometimes more a day for seven days a week, for however long the guests are onboard. I’m in quite a unique boat where the boss actually lives on board, so I’m doing twelve hours a day, seven days a week for four months and we might get one day off a month. That’s kind of bad, but the positives like what I get to see and all that just completely outweigh that for me anyway.
LINDSAY: What’s a normal day’s routine for you when you’re on that boat?
HAMISH: It depends on what shift I’m on. We’ve got three different shifts: five o’clock to seven o’clock day where you get a two-hour break, then there’s a seven o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon and then you have a four-hour break and then start work at eight o’clock and then work until eleven o’clock at night. The last shift is you start work at two o’clock in the afternoon and then work until eight o’clock, have a three-hour break and work from eleven o’clock to five o’clock in the morning.
The last shift I was on was the seven o’clock to four o’clock then eight o’clock to eleven, which was a good shift but you don’t get a lot of sleep in that one. You’d start off by normally rinsing the boat and doing some detailing, polishing, all that sort of stuff and then depending on what the kids were doing we’d normally do water sports in the afternoon or something like that.
LINDSAY: So, you get to play water sports in the afternoon.
HAMISH: You do and you normally do between one and four hours of water sports which is fun, but you get very tired because you’re in the saltwater and the sun for four hours and you come out absolutely wrecked. It’s not as easy as a lot of people think but you just get through it and enjoy every moment you can.
LINDSAY: I’ve just got a couple more questions I want to ask you.
What are some of the best things that happened since you started your super yacht career? Can you put your finger on any one thing or it sounds like you’ve had a whole heap of them, but what’s the best thing that’s happened to you?
HAMISH: Best thing is the people I’ve met. I’ve made some friends that I know will be lifelong friends. I get along with them so well. I plan to be in the industry a lot longer and I know that I’m going to meet up with them again and that’s going to be so exciting to see them all. The people are definitely number one.
Even the experiences. The things that I’ve got to see and do. Without being in this industry I never would have been able to do what I have done. That is definitely the best thing I guess you could say about the superyacht career, is that you get to do things that you would never be able to do in a normal everyday job. I get to travel the world and not have to pay for it, and I get to enjoy pretty much every moment of it. It is pretty much my perfect job.
LINDSAY: Well that’s really good to hear. We’re so happy for you.
If our listeners and readers want to start a career in the superyacht industry what advice can you give them? Is there an age group that they target, or what do they have to do to get a foot in the door?
HAMISH: There is a bit of an age group. If you haven’t had any experience in the industry then they normally look for people between the age of 19…Like I know people that have been in the industry that are 18, but they did struggle to find jobs at first. The main age group is between 20 years old and 30 years old for just the low position of either a stewardess or deckhand or engineering. The lowest level.
Once you’ve had a few years’ experience and you do your courses, like work your way up from yacht master to Yachtmaster ocean, then you go up to office of watch, and then you get your 300-gross tonne. Kind of like you can work your way up to the top sort of thing.
LINDSAY: You’ve got to get the qualifications…
HAMISH: But you need the qualifications.
LINDSAY: The formal qualifications. Most of that’s done through Royal Yachting Association?
HAMISH: Yeah. RYA Yacht Master Scheme, but then there’s also…You can have a commercial background and do the same…Have those sort of tickets as well.
The best way to do it – to get into the industry is just to have your STCW and your ENG1 which is the medical, then it always helps if you’ve had experience in something like hospitality or personal training or some sort of second skill. A lot of the boats will have either a deckhand or a stewardess that will have a second skill such as yoga instructor, personal trainer, a nurse or something like that. Something that they can use onboard the boat.
The best way to do it – get into the industry is just going to one of the hubs. So in the European summer we call it Med-Season. The main hubs in the Med- Season are: Antibes, Monaco which is in the south of France, I’m not too sure about Italy. The one I know about in Spain is Palma that’s where most of the sailing superyachts go. Antibes is more motor yacht orientated but it also has the sailing yachts. But yeah, the best way to get into the industry is go to one of those places, go have some drinks in the bar, meet people, enjoy your time there and then people will see that you’re enjoying your time and they’ll stop offering you jobs. Quite often you’ll get day work from talking to people in the bar and then you rock up the next day and they’re like, “Oh yeah come on board. Do this.” If they like how you work sometimes they’ll have a position available and they’ll offer you the job. Or you can just go on the Facebook pages and they’ll often put jobs up there. Then you can just send them CV’s if they’ve given you an email address and stuff like that. That’s basically how I got my first job.
LINDSAY: Well thank you very much for sharing all that with us Hamish. I’m sure there’s a lot of people in your age group that are keen to hear your story and how you manage to live this awesome life – start this awesome career down the superyacht path.
What are your plans for the next 10 years?
HAMISH: I want to stay in the superyacht side of things for…Well I know I’m going to be in some sort of mariners’ career but super yacht seems to be the perfect lifestyle for me anyway. I want to try and work my way up the rank. In 10 years’ time, I hope to be either a first officer or a captain of a smaller sailing yacht – by smaller I mean between 20 and 40 metres sailing yacht. That would be my goal is to be a skipper of something between 20 and 40 metre sailing yacht.
LINDSAY: Yeah that sounds pretty awesome. I wouldn’t mind doing that myself but I think I might have missed that boat.
Awesome. I actually learned a few things myself there. It’s good chatting with you like this.
You’re home for another few weeks. We’ll get this out and put it on the net and see how many people follow you.
LINDSAY: Thanks very much.
HAMISH: You’re welcome.
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