A Day in the Life Series - Captain
There are many working parts that contribute to the smooth running of a yacht. Each crew position is integral to the puzzle. In this series, Luxury Yacht Group talks to crew about how they came aboard and what keeps them there.
By Rupert Connor
“Captain of the Ship” is an expression frequently used in conversation to convey a vast degree of responsibility. Captain Chris Fagan off-sets the burdens of that level of responsibility with the pleasure he takes in every aspect of the position. He spoke enthusiastically about the appeal of west coast yachting.
LuxYachts: Chris, crew agent Danica Deans recommended I speak with you when I asked her to compare the yachting communities on the east and west coast. Are there differences?
Chris: Vast differences. First, the pure number of yachts here is less. Second, the permanently berthed boats in southern California are generally not as large as those regularly seen in southeast Florida.
LuxYachts: Have you been on the west coast long?
Chris: A few years ago I decided I wanted to travel less and have the flexibility to spend time with my wife. We had planned a move to the west coast so I began to accept positions with the end goal of being based in California. I worked up and down the east coast while I networked and watched for opportunities as a Captain on the West coast.
LuxYachts: Did you work with crew agencies?
Chris: I did and Danica, for example, did her best to assist me, but the market out here is different. Again, there are less mega yachts and crew tend to stay in their positions for long periods. All that adds up to infrequent openings.
LuxYachts: What was the magic formula that got you out west?
Chris: I made some difficult choices. Although I was willing to do day work, deliveries, freelance assignments – whatever it took, I really wanted to be part of a program. I scratched until I found it. The right opportunity came along as a first mate position on a 130 foot yacht that combines owner use with charter. In that spot I learned the west coast, and stepped in as relief captain when needed. When the owner bought another larger yacht for east coast charter and promoted the Captain to it, I was able to step into the Captain spot here.
LuxYachts: You sound so enthusiastic. What is the program on this vessel?
Chris: Winters in Newport with an active owner and his family; Alaska charters in the summer. Having a local owner is different than the vessels I was aboard on the east coast. We are on standby for family use at all times when in Newport. The family frequently uses the yacht for weekend trips - Catalina Island or coastal trips. We regularly see the owner or his family – it’s great! Between periods of family use, we are also available for Mexican/Central American winter charters.
LuxYachts: You mentioned learning the west coast. Isn’t navigating and managing a yacht the same wherever the vessel is located?
Chris: The Pacific Ocean world is huge – deep water cruising makes navigation relatively easy, but learning Alaska to service charter guests has been a magnificent experience. Also, every area has some boating culture variations. Familiarizing myself with the marinas, yards, provisioning locations is all part of the responsibility of managing a vessel.
LuxYachts: Any other cultural variations from yachting on the east coast?
Chris: This yacht is one of the largest permanently based in southern California. Yachts here tend to run with a lower head count and the crew pool is smaller than in some other yachting capitals. We do some temp hiring to meet the winter needs and then fill all spots for the charter season. We are currently working with Danica to fill an engineer position.
LuxYachts: You mention temp hiring. Do you do have any rotational positions aboard?
Chris: We do not. I think rotation makes sense for some positions. Our Alaska charter season requires the Chef cook for 19 and sometimes stand 18 hours a day. There is potential for burn out. With the right chefs, splitting the season may be a consideration. An issue is that rotational crew often seek pay for their off time as well. Less wasteful programs don’t see fit to keep crew on a retainer when they’re not onboard.
LuxYachts: Is charter different in Alaska than the Med/Caribbean?
Chris: Alaska charter is magnificent from a crew perspective. It is a great product to offer. Delivering an outstanding service experience is the baseline of any charter, but we can make it a mind blowing experience. I cannot think of a guest who got off our Alaska charter – whatever their background – who wasn’t overwhelmed by the trip. Our crew take pride in delivering that to every guest.
LuxYachts: You certainly are committed to the service concept of the industry. How did you happen to first step aboard?
Chris: After school I was working as a musician in the Charleston area and a fellow musician introduced me to the world of yachting. I found it hard to believe that could be a job! I was instilled with a sense of adventure through travel with my parents from an early age. This career answers my interest in adventure while interfacing one-on-one with people – what a combination.
LuxYachts: First job aboard and how did you get it?
Chris: My journey began aboard a 94’ expedition yacht circumnavigating the globe. Through word of mouth I heard about an immediate need to cover for a deckhand. Availability, eagerness and a creative CV got me on the flight to Japan to join the vessel. Travel to the Philippines, Palau, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Australia – all reinforced that spirit of adventure.
LuxYachts: So, at some point during that job, adventure become a career?
Chris: Yes, next I joined a 230’ yacht that I call my “deckie boot camp.” It was a busy Med-Caribbean charter boat where I learned proper operations, forms, crew dynamics, etc. amongst many talented crew. From there I worked aboard charter vessels moving on to bosun positions to mate, to first officer and on to my current Captain position. In the process, I learned each position the right way and now look for crew with a diverse CV who have shared experiences similar to mine.
LuxYachts: Are there downsides to your position as Captain?
Chris: Aside from a wonderful owner, his family and great support from his company, this program offers adventure, exploration, and the great outdoors. I was able to relocate to the same coast as my wife and I surf on days off. I’m also teaching the owner’s son my love of playing the guitar….what was your question?
MORE ABOUT CHRIS
Chris Fagan is the Captain aboard a 130 foot Westport. He achieved his personal objectives with flexible career choices and administers a program that combines owner usage and a charter season. He has not left his original career as a musician behind. He still plays guitar, writes, sings and records. His regular audience these days? Charter guests and the family of the owner are great fans of his talent.
Luxury Yacht Group leads the industry in providing professional crew for yachts. The Luxury Yacht Group website provides links to available crew for each position aboard. Crew Agents are available throughout the world to assist in your search for the perfect candidate. Contact LuxYachts via the website or at (954) 525-9959.