At 53 years old, Jerry arrived relatively late into yachting. After university, he joined the Royal Navy and then spent 15 years working in advertising and marketing. When that lost its charm, Jerry decided to leave the safety of a well-paid job to retrain as an Electrician. He then established and managed a Sheffield-based electrical contracting company for 6 years, working throughout the UK. During the winter of 2012/13, the call of the sea returned. With some good luck and advice, he was fortunate to get a job as an Engineer on a fabulous performance sailing Superyacht – and has never looked back.
Sailing has always featured in Jerry’s life as his parents met at a small sailing club in the hills around Sheffield, Yorkshire. Starting as “a nipper” on his father’s Merlin, he began sailing properly in a Mirror dinghy. Having experienced sailing on some of the most competitive small yachts, Jerry has enjoyed success in various classes. He’s also enjoyed sailing with other talented sailors from the northern areas of the UK. “I sailed all sorts of dinghies up to a 49er, racing in the UK and also at a couple of international events”, Jerry tells me.
I was interested to know if Jerry had a favourite boat he had worked on but he found choosing one impossible: “I’ve been lucky to work on many fabulous boats – all with great crew. My first yacht was one of the most successful on the Superyacht regatta circuit. That was balanced by a very busy schedule with regular mode changes from cruise to race, and vice versa. I joined my second yacht in refit at Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth. Working with the team there to finish and commission the boat was a great learning experience; the finished product and the programme were a testament to the owner, captain and crew”
Jerry says that the best aspect of his job is the continual challenge of keeping the complex systems on a boat running: “Learning how individual boats ‘tick’ and their quirks, is very satisfying. The worst aspect of the job has to be when issues arise with the black water systems. Never have I spoken to an Engineer who relishes the call that a head isn’t working correctly. Yacht plumbing certainly has its idiosyncrasies!”
I was keen to know how Jerry copes with living on board and it’s obvious that he feels totally at home in this environment but has also experienced working with unsuitable crew: “Without a doubt, the camaraderie of living on board with a group of people who become a surrogate family is tremendous. The shared experiences, stories and in-jokes are priceless. The only problem is when there is a ‘round peg in a square hole’- personality-wise or professionally. One ‘bad egg’ can create so much disharmony and grief. This wastes time in what would otherwise be a productive and tight crew.”
Jerry demonstrates commitment to his job when he explains the importance of making sure guests are happy: “Wherever possible, get to know what they are looking for from their holiday/time on board. Going the extra mile to make their time the very best it can be. I once taught an owner’s wife how to sail on one of the boat’s inflatable sailing dinghies – the pleasure of seeing people with that contented glow of happiness is very rewarding.”
There have also been fun downtimes and Jerry tells me that during lockdown in Antigua, he was part of the team that put together Sunday evening VHF quizzes. Having spoken to other participants, he was delighted to hear how the quizzes became a social highlight of their week.
As always, I was interested to know what our interviewee’s favourite yachting destination is and where else he would still like to sail. Jerry tells me, “English Harbour, Antigua during the main winter season has to be my favourite; the atmosphere and lifestyle in and around it. There is a very special camaraderie, especially within the sailing community. I would also love to make it down to New Zealand one day.”
Jerry has crammed a lot into his time on board but one of his proudest achievements was when he managed to complete a top-end engine rebuild after an issue mid-regatta – with no sleep. But the boat was on the start line the next day! He much prefers sailing smaller yachts but tells me that if he was an owner of a superyacht; “I’d be the annoying owner that had thoroughbred sailing dinghies on board and wanted to go sailing at every opportunity”.
So how does someone like Jerry spend their downtime in Mallorca? Well, amongst many other things, he likes to spend his time Radio Sailing in the Parc de la Mar with the RPRCYC. He has met many great people here and forged some lasting friendships.
I asked Jerry if he had any advice for people wanting to start out in this industry – his advice is: “Go for it, but expect to work long hours – it isn’t like the TV show, ‘Below Decks’! As yacht crew, you are a professional seafarer; first and foremost. Make an effort to understand the different roles on the boat. Don’t ever think that drills and safety are not relevant to you, no matter how junior your role on board is. But remember to let your hair down and make the most of the incredible places you are fortunate enough to visit.”
Reflecting on his earlier years, Jerry would urge other youngsters to take opportunities as they arise and to never be afraid of taking a leap into the unknown. “Take all you can from everything that you do; you never know when that knowledge or experience will be relevant”, he advises.
Jerry intends to continue working in this fantastic industry and enjoying the company of so many like-minded individuals – many of whom he has the honour of calling friends.
Interview by Melanie Winters
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