Marina Ibiza
Ashore Marine
Absolute Boat Care
Marina Palma Cuarentena
IPM Group
Breaking News
Home > Industry News > Yacht and Captain feature April 2014

Yacht and Captain feature April 2014

Captain James Gilmour       Yacht YII


Captain James Gilmour was born 42 years ago, and although a born and bred South African, his nautical heritage came from his mother’s side of the family who were immersed in the Clyde and its shipping history. James recalls spending time looking out from the bay window in his grandmother’s house in Greenock watching all the passing yachts and ships on the river Clyde, and his grandmother telling him what type they were, where they were from and where they were going !


Sadly, James never knew his grandfather, as his ship was torpedoed on one of the very last voyages in WW11 bringing a ship back from Murmansk.


James’ first experience of yachts was the family owned 93 ft. Fife, “Eileen” (Now Belle Aventure), and later the 72 ft. “Eilean”, another Fife which was commissioned by the family. In recent years, long after she was sold by the family, she was found in a poor state in Antigua, and was purchased by Angelo Bonatti of Panerai who had her restored to her former glory. She is now a regular participant on the classic regatta circuit.


James applied for the South African navy (conscription was mandatory), to perform his national service, but instead of being able to serve his country and gain naval experience, they were more intent on him having a gun and shooting at people on the Mozambique border. So James, realising there was no future for him, left for Scotland and took a touch typing course and became a secretary for a few months. He wryly comments that the course has served him well as he seems to spend all his current working time completing reams of paperwork, rather than sailing!


In 1993 he decided to go to Antigua in search of work on a yacht, and was fortunate to get a job as deckhand on a Swan 65 “Evrika”, sailing from Antigua to Marmaris, Turkey, via the Azores, Gibraltar, Spain, Corfu etc. etc. he points out that this was an unpaid position, and was expected to pay for his own accommodation upon arrival, the norm in those days. He was just grateful to be given the opportunity of sailing a wonderful boat half way round the world, via some beautiful locations and learning an enormous amount about life at sea. He laments that this is not the case so much these days, as crew now expect much more from the outset, a trait he is not so impressed by!


Later in 1993, he returned to South Africa to work as a sailing instructor at a sailing academy in Durban, which he is very proud to say produced some fine sailors, many of whom are yacht Captains around the globe today. The academy managed to secure the sales dealership for South Africa for Fountaine Pajot catamarans, which resulted in many delivery trips from the factory in La Rochelle. His most memorable trip was delivering a 34 ft. cat from Villamoura in Portugal to Miami, with two other crew members. For the first few days there was a great breeze, so they sailed day and night, but omitted to run the engine to charge the single 55 amp battery. When the wind dropped after 3 days, and they went to start the engine, there wasn’t a sign of life in it! There only option at this stage, due to a large following sea after passing the canaries was to run down to the Cape Verde islands, almost 1000 miles south. Their only chart was an Atlantic passage chart where the Cape Verdes were a few tiny dots in the corner. They opted to head for the largest dot, which turned out to be one of the most undeveloped of them all (Santo Antao). As they sailed into a natural bay with a breakwater of sorts, they passed 3 guys in a dugout canoe!


They managed to anchor up, and proceeded to unwrap the new tender and outboard they had stowed on board as a means of getting ashore. Fortunately they had some petrol for the outboard! James elected to be the one to go ashore in the hope of finding a new battery. The growing crowd of locals had by this time turned silent, and were just staring at this white guy coming ashore.


James had 220 US$ on him, their entire cash supply! Needless to say nobody ashore spoke any English, however James managed to find a guy with a pencil and proceeded to draw him a battery and tried to explain that thy needed to buy one. The man directed him to get in his car, and they drove for an hour and forty minutes, basically up a huge volcanic mountain where they eventually reached a house; not before passing a man holding an AK47! Luck would have it that the owner of the house spoke English, so James was able to explain their predicament. They proceeded to go to the garage of this house, which when the doors were opened showed it to be full of batteries! James asked the man what the price of the biggest one he had, and the guy replied “how much have you got?” James replied “I have 220 $ but would like to give the driver 20$, so the guy accepted 200$ as full payment.


They managed to get the battery on board after nearly sinking the tender and set sail for Miami. After a few days they then ran out of camping gas so had to just eat tinned food for many days, and the final straw was the failure of the autopilot, which meant hand steering for 3 days. Their original route was going to be via The Bahamas, but they elected to go via the Virgin Islands where there as a Raytheon dealer who could help them with their Autopilot. The tricky navigation into the islands was performed with the help of a map which they found in a tourist leaflet! Anyway they eventually completed the delivery to Miami and handed the boat over to the owner.


James then returned briefly to South Africa to compete in the Durban to East London race of 260 miles, and returned home earlier than expected to his house in a gated community with his girlfriend. AS they got home late in the evening they just dumped their Oilskins in the bath to soak and got undressed and into bed. They were then woken up by armed robbers in the house at gunpoint. They were tied up (naked) and left, whilst the robbers cleared the house of its contents, except for the oilies in the bath! They eventually managed to break free, don the waterproofs and call the police!


James decided enough was enough, and went back to Antigua in search of work. He met up with Rupert Savage (yes, The Rupert Savage of Rolling Stock!) who gave James a job as deckhand aboard his charge, a Swan 68 “Defiance”. They sailed the 1995/6 season and competed in the last Niaolargue Regatta.


The following two years James and his girlfriend ran the Swam 65 Monsoon Jaguar and managed two more Atlantic Crossings. In January 1998 he managed to get a job running a Swan 61, Paladin, an American owned yacht, where, along with his girlfriend, they did a 12 week charter season as Captain and cook. This spell was where he says he learned very quickly how to run a boat, where rapid turnarounds between charter guests became the norm. Late 1998 they sailed all the way back to the Caribbean, without using the engine at all.


Nautor Swan by this time knew James well, and in 1999 they called him with a job to skipper a Swan 68ft Faithful Lady, here in Palma. It was a lovely boat, but with the owners living on board for 180 days, James decided after doing a year it wasn’t for him. By this time he had already decided Palma was to be his home and had bought an apartment in the old town of Palma.


Next was the Swan World’s in 2000 in Sardinia aboard Chippewa, a Swan 68, followed by the Captaincy of a Farr 72 “Hedal”, which he stayed with until October 2003. Whilst with Hedal, he got his Class 4 ticket in 2002, paying all his own fees! The owner sold Hedal in October 2003, which coincided nicely with the birth of James’s daughter in the November.


In late 2004 James managed during some time off to fit in another Atlantic Crossing from Mallorca to Antigua on “Shamoun”, a Hoek 108 ft.


In February 2005 he joined the famous “Creole” as first officer. He is still very appreciative of Chris Austin, Creole’s Captain who gave James the chance to work on this famous yacht, and also the chance to race aboard Avel, Creole’s tender. Avel is a Camper & Nicholson 59ft classic yacht, built in 1896. He stayed in this job for 3 years.


In February 2008 James joined his current Yacht, YII, which is a Bill Dixon 121 Ft Aluminium sloop, from Holland Jachtbouw in Holland. This is the owner’s third boat by the same combination, and his latest version, at 150 ft is due to launch on March 26th!


The current boat, is now for sale, and should feature at the forthcoming Palma Superyacht Show.


James’ current home is the old town of Palma having returned to the city after twelve years living in Alaro, and he has no plans to move away from Mallorca, a place he says he loves. His favourite local eateries include Marc Fosh’s restaurant Misa, The Portitxol Hotel Restaurant and Mandalas in Orient as well as Santi Taura in Llosetta. He has high praise for many of the local trade suppliers in Palma, saying that it is THE place to get any nautical work done to a high standard.




Leave a Reply