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Patrick O’Brien

Capt. Patrick O'Brien

 

Patrick is the captain onboard the 171-foot motoryacht Dream.

 

Capt. Patrick O'BrienCaptain, 171-foot motoryacht Dream
Date interviewed: November 2006

How did you realize you wanted to become a captain?
I started out years ago as an electrician on ships. I was 23 or 24 years old. In traveling around Europe and Northern Africa on a motorcycle, I stopped in Greece to get some work for a few months. I figured yachts might need an electrician, so that’s when I discovered that the yachting industry existed. I did day jobs for a year, a few deliveries, that sort of thing. I eventually became engineer and mate.
Working as a Maxi (sailboat) racer engineer was my first real job. Most of those boats don’t carry an engineer, but I worked on the refit and helped them rewire it. They figured I was the only one who could run the bilge pump, so I got the job. There were a lot of better sailors onboard, but I knew the boat and I could navigate, so I got to be mate.
I went from the Maxi to motorsailors as captain/engineer, and then up through the chain of command until I was on big enough boats where you have a separate engineer. Then I moved up to captain.

What training did you undergo to become a captain?
It’s been so many years, and I’m always taking some kind of a course. I started with my yachtmaster license over in England, and when MCA came about, we all moved up and got Y4s, which weren’t available then. I now have a 3,000-ton license.

What yachts did you work on before joining your current yacht?
I was one of two captains on rotation on the 70-meter (230-foot) Lurssen Skat for two years. One of the most exotic commands I held was on the 102-foot Ron Holland ketch, Gleam. Logging thousands of sea miles, the yacht travelled from New Zealand to Australia, Papua New Guinea, through Indonesia, across the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and finally to the Caribbean.

When did you join your current yacht?
May 2005. I’d been doing timeshare on Skat for a couple of years, but she was going in for a year-long refit, and you need only one captain for that. The 170-foot Feadship Dream‘s captain was quitting to take some time off, and I got the job.

What dd you think makes your yacht’s crew unique or special?
They’re young, they’re energetic, they’re keen to work toward licenses and move up. They’re natural travelers who are interested in the world.
It depends on the charter guests we have. If we get older, conservative guests who just want formal service, then that’s what we do. If we have younger people who are into more fun, we can do beach parties, theme nights, that sort of thing. We always ask if there are any birthdays, anniversaries, and we play up those.
Luckily we have a lot of the core crew who have been here a while, or have worked with me before. My engineer joined at the same time as I did, and some of the people who were onboard before I arrived have stayed.

How do you determine what itinerary you will set for a given charter?
The broker generally feels out where people want to go, what they’re looking for. We get that narrowed down, and then we try to have a conference call with them. After they’ve signed the contract, myself, my chef, my chief stewardess, we’ll be on the phone with them. Sometimes it’s a lot, if people are making changes and changing guests.
The idea is to learn what they want before they get on the boat, and then not to bother them throughout the day once they’re onboard. I let them know when they get on the boat that we can change things around, that they can change their minds. But we always have a basic itinerary in hand that we’ve put together with them beforehand.

How flexible are you about changing the itinerary on a day-to-day basis?
Mediterranean itineraries are tough, because it can be so hard to find a slip at the last minute. And you always have problems at St. Barths at Christmas in the Caribbean, too. But having said that, we’ll give peopel whatever we can.

What are some of your favorite charter destinations, and why?
I was in Croatia last year, and I really liked that. It’s protected waters, and you have a lot of places to anchor. There’s a lot of nice old towns, restaurants, everything that people want. And by day, you’re not fighting for anchorages. Even on bigger boats, you can still have a cove all to yourself.
Montenegro is lovely as well. It’s a fjord, the only one in the Mediterranean. If you’ve seen the latest James Bond movie, there’s a whole section about it.
I also liked Papua New Guinea, an out-of-the-way place. Most captains like new places like that, because we see the same places so many times.
In the Caribbean, I like to do the lower Caribbean, but a lot of guests want to do St. Maarten and St. Barths. That’s fine, too, but I personally like Bequia and places like that.

What features onboard your yacht do you particularly enjoy sharing with guests?
The master stateroom is very large. It’s got a dressing room. Plus the VIP (second-best stateroom) is quite large. It’s unusual. It’s on the bridge deck, and it’s big.
A lot of people have a problem with the really dark woods, but we have a bit of anigre, burled walnut—our boat’s interior is a lot lighter than a lot of other boat interiors.
Also, we’re just putting a second 19-foot tender onboard, so now we’ll have two 19-foot Nauticas to use with the charter guests.

Describe a typical guest’s day onboard your yacht:
I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, so it’s hard for me to say. You do breakfast, swimming, snorkeling at 5 in the morning if they want to. It’s really whatever the guest wants.

What kind of charter guests are your favorites?
We like families and kids onboard. With kids, we have all the water toys and towing toys and things like that, and you can show them a good time all day. If kids have a good time, parents have a good time. It’s easy just to have full days and rewarding days for everybody.
If the guests bring young kids, we insist that they bring a nanny, but we’ve had everything from newborns to teenagers. We’re equipped to handle kids of all ages.

What, if any, awards have you won?
I try to stay under the radar for that sort of thing.

What else should CharterWave readers know about you, your crew and your yacht?
We’re going to try to do some cruising in the Bahamas before we head back to Europe in the summer of 2007. I love it in the Bahamas in the spring, and we’re taking the boss over in March. So we’ll be there in March and April rather than rushing across to the Med this year.
Then we’re going to start summer 2007 in the Western Med before doing a trip over to Turkey. If people want to charter in Turkey, we’ll probably stick around.

Dream is part of the Fraser Yachts Worldwide fleet. She is not available for charter to U.S. residents while in U.S. waters.

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