To work for any yacht delivery company you should hold a minimum of a Yachtmaster Offshore qualification (for short coastal passages), but ideally be qualified as an Ocean Yachtmaster or higher.
What skills does a yacht delivery skipper need outside of formal qualifications?
A yacht delivery skipper must be resourceful, adaptable and multi-talented.
Firstly there is a large amount of travel involved. It’s a common misconception that a yacht delivery skipper arrives in a foreign country, steps off a plane and finds the perfect boat waiting just a short walk away! Often the vessel can be some distance from the airport, necessitating travel on buses and trains in foreign countries. Being resourceful here is often essential, making sure you meet connections and all crew arrive in good time for the vessel’s departure.
As a delivery skipper you can never be quite sure what you are going to find until you actually arrive at the marina. The vessel may not have been well maintained, or it may have been for sale for a long time and not used, so certain things may need some maintenance prior to departure. Often when a boat has just been sold, the previous owner has stripped it – we have arrived on boats before that have literally only had four fenders and four warps and nothing else! In these situations a delivery skipper may take a day or two preparing the vessel for the passage ahead.
Experience of sailing a wide variety of boats in all conditions:
Yacht delivery skippers naturally sail a wide variety of vessels, from a classic sailing vessel one week to a modern power boat the next. The variety is often what makes the job so appealing. Having a broad knowledge and understanding of a wide variety of vessels is therefore essential.
Yacht deliveries tend to happen all year round, often in conditions when most other recreational sailors would stay in the marina! So having experience of sailing in all weathers and conditions is essential.
No one is expecting a yacht delivery skipper to undertake a full engine rebuild – if that is the case the vessel is clearly not ready or safe to go to sea. However a delivery skipper should have basic knowledge of marine engines and be aware of the checks to carry out and where to start looking in the case of an issue. Unlike yacht charter skippers, there will not be an engineer on call who can be with you at short notice. Quite often issues will have to be fixed at sea, if not fully then temporarily, until you reach a port where effective repairs can be made.
A knowledge of rigging:
A delivery skipper should have a basic knowledge of rigging, both standing and running. It’s essential to be able to pick up on signs of corrosion, wear and possible failure in the future. Again there is a limit to how much a delivery skipper can inspect and there will always be failures that cannot be predicted or detected until they happen. Our guide to checking your rig can be found here.
On most yacht deliveries the skipper will run a rota, which means everyone cooks at some point including the skipper. Being creative with limited ingredients in a rough sea is certainly a skill every yacht delivery skipper needs and some ideas can be found here (although there’s a lot to be said for a Pot Noodle at 2am in the morning when it’s cold and you are on duty!)
First Aid Skills:
A yacht delivery skipper takes full responsibility for the crew including their health. You may be required to simply provide reassurance and advice in the event of sea sickness, but you should also be able to provide emergency first aid competently in the event of an accident.
Managing your crew is essential for a smooth yacht delivery.
As a delivery skipper you are quite often thrown together with two or more crew to share a confined space for days, sometimes weeks. Usually it works well as we all have a common interest, but of course there are always times when it does not. Interests may conflict, opinions differ and sometimes for no apparent reason people just do not get along. Times like this can be difficult and in extreme cases can sometimes lead to losing a crew member.
While not essential, being able to counsel your crew is a very useful skill to have. Spending a few weeks at sea away from the distractions of modern life can sometimes cause crew to reflect on their shore based lives. Often the strangest conversations can be had on that 3am watch and the ability to listen and offer impartial advice can be hugely helpful.