Safety at Sea: A Captain's Perspective

interviews Jan 29, 2018
What keeps you from launching your superyacht career? Well, some of you have told us you’re wondering -- or your families are wondering -- about safety at sea on while working on yachts.

Well, you can rest easy -- in today’s edition of the FreshYacht interview series, experienced Captain Vareek Breaden, reassures us about the high safety standards demanded in the superyacht industry.

A veteran of over 20 years on yachts, Captain Breaden shares his perspective on why superyachts are one of the safest places to work, the importance of trust and reliance within a crew, and how he once offended a famous supermodel.

A lot of people thinking about starting a career in yachting have questions about safety onboard. Can you talk a little bit about what they could expect, and how you keep your yacht and crew safe?

If you take a close look yachting, the reality is we’re working for the wealthiest and most successful people in the world. Safety is an absolute necessity for them. It’s not even a question.

Legislation requires yachts to maintain a certain safety standard, however, most yachts are kept above those standards as required by their owners.

The owners simply won’t travel on something that isn’t safe, and if they are paying the bills, they want to be using their yacht!

As Captain, I go above and beyond when it comes to safety training. Yachts require a certain number of safety drills each month, but we do more than what's required.

I like to remind my crew that we’re our own fire, medical, and emergency departments. We’re the safety stewards/stewardesses, just like on a plane. If there's an emergency, we are the ones to deal with it, so each crew member has the confidence that their fellow crew have been properly trained and will come to the rescue. Preparation is everything.

Also, once a year a surveyor will come aboard to make sure the yacht meets all the safety requirements.


Thanks for sharing - your perspective on safety will be really helpful to our community.
Let’s shift topics a bit -- can you tell us more about your background? How long have you been working in the yachting industry?

I started in the industry in August 1996. Like many people at that time, I fell into the industry by accident. I was backpacking around Europe and ended up in the south of France, where I found a job on a yacht. I made the decision to postpone starting university to stay onboard, thinking that I could travel to the Caribbean, get paid, and go back to university with some money saved.

I was quite driven, and within 18 months, made 2nd officer. I stayed on that boat for about three years, and then went on to be first officer on another boat, a 40m, for 3 years. Finally, I moved on to become chief officer and the junior Captain on a 60m boat for two years before becoming a bona fide captain myself.

The way I see it, the road to becoming a Captain is a personal one. My path was perhaps somewhat aggressive, although I’ve seen people achieve it with less experience. Ultimately, it depends on a person’s goal and his or her own timeline.

What was your favorite job as you worked your way up the ranks?

Definitely, Deckhand was my favorite. This was the position I worked during my formative years in the industry in my early twenties. I enjoyed the spoils of being a young man and working hard, but also being well rewarded for the work. It was truly amazing to have the opportunity to have these incredible experiences that not too many people of that age were able to have.

I’m a farmer from the middle of Ireland, and I’ve seen people work hard their whole lives without getting ahead. So for me to work hard and get somewhere, both in terms of saving money and advancing in my career while traveling, was an opportunity I couldn't let slip past.

Tell us about what you look for in a new crew member, and what advice would you give an aspiring yacht crew member.

Above all, I look for an attitude of “can do”. People coming into this industry need to be aware of the long hours and hard work. There are a lot of expectations, but along with that comes just rewards. If you put your head down and work hard, you will be successful. People notice a hard worker and a positive attitude, and reward these things.

I also look for enthusiasm. I don’t necessarily need experience in some positions. I want someone willing to listen and work hard. In my opinion, there are lots of positions for people without experience if they come with these qualities.

What's your favorite port/destination?

Well, these days, West Palm Beach, Florida, That’s where my home is. I’ve been working in this industry for 22 years and I’ve done my traveling, so now I like to come home.

When I look back and reminisce, I always happily recall the Greek Isles and also, in the South Pacific, Rangiroa Atoll. That will always be a favorite destination --it was truly spectacular. In the Bahamas, I love the Exumas - they are absolutely breathtaking.


What’s the coolest thing you’ve done, or funniest experience you've had, as a result of working in this industry?

Once, when I was working on a yacht in St. Barts in the Caribbean, a famous supermodel came off of the yacht beside us. She came onto the back of our boat and requested to speak to the principal’s girlfriend, who was also a celebrity.

Now, yachting protocol usually dictates that unless there's a previously announced guest, visitors are not allowed onboard, regardless of who they are. So I had to tell this supermodel I couldn’t let her aboard. She took tremendous offense, turned around and stormed off.

About 5 minutes later, the girlfriend came out and asked who had come by. Her jaw dropped as I told her who it was and that I’d turned her away based on protocol. The girlfriend ran after her, and they both came back about 10 minutes later. The supermodel gave me such an evil stare!

Any final words for our readers?

This may sound too good to be true, but really, it’s not. Our industry is crying out for competent, driven people.

And it’s not like the reality TV shows - these programs show both the best and the worst of yacht life and overlook the actual reality of working on yachts, which falls somewhere in between.

Some of the officer positions right now are very tough to fill, so if people start now, in 5 years they will be ready to fill those positions. We need those people, and we need them to be motivated and come with an attitude that’s positive and constructive.

If you start now, within 5-8 years, you can be making a 6 figure sum of money while working a career that brings you great happiness.  I’m still excited about my job after 22 years, and that’s a great privilege.  



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