SAILING VS MOTOR YACHTS
Tue May 12 2015
" I cannot wait for the oil wells to run dry, for the last gob of black, sticky muck to come oozing out of some remote well. Then the glory of sail will return."
Triston Jones, Sailor and Writer
A Small Ships Manual on my bookshelf defines motor or sail as "the preferred method by which a vessel travels whilst underway", which is of course correct. However, the thing I have more often heard is that a preference for sailing or motor yachts defines a person, which is perhaps not so correct.
Certainly there is an element of romance and freedom associated with sailing: the wind in your hair as you slice through the ocean, the taste of salt on your lips, the feel of sun against your skin, and the only sound that of waves lapping against the bow as you become one with nature, both in command of it and at its mercy. Sailors are seen as rugged and courageous adventurers, and sailing as both graceful and challenging. But, just as motor yachts have their fair share of true seamen onboard, sailing yachts are not the exclusive domain of old salty dogs.
In fact, I have known sailing yacht crew who refer to the ocean as "a necessary evil" and count down the seconds until they reach their next port, just as I have worked with motor yacht crew who spend every possible moment relishing the beauty and volatility of the ocean, even when it is at its most volatile. And though many sailors routinely call motor yachts "stinkboats" and many motor crew regard sailors as just plain stinkie, it is mostly in jest, especially considering that a great many crew have worked on both types of yachts. After all, a crewmember is a crewmember no matter what their preferred mode of transport is. And though some duties may differ between sailing and motor vessels (and from vessel to vessel for that matter), other things, like crew hierarchies and job titles, are identical.
What is more, with some modern motor yacht owners embracing informality and some new sailing yachts being built to motor yacht specifications, the lines between sail and motor are increasingly becoming blurred. Whereas motor yachts were once considered formal to the point of stuffy, today it is not out of the ordinary to see motor yacht crew wearing casual uniforms and interacting with owners and guests in a manner so relaxed that they are hard to distinguish from the very guests they are paid to look after. Likewise, I have worked on a sailing boat that never once set sail, despite the fact that it had four masts and the wind direction and speed made for ideal conditions, because the owner only wanted the sails hoisted when there was an audience to impress.
However, despite these emerging trends, there are still distinct pros and cons inherent to both sailing and motor vessels which are outlined in depth in Get a Job on a Luxury Yacht: the Definitive Guide and it is these that a potential crewmember must consider closely when deciding what type of yacht best fits them.
Personally, in my yachting career, I followed the majority and chose private yachts. But my choice is not without some small regret that I did not get to fully experience the adventure and challenge and pure exhilaration of life on a sailing vessel. Certainly I had my "sailing" moments - rigging sails as the late summer sun set beyond a distant island, laying face down on a boom net watching packs of dolphins ride the bow, lying face up on a transom staring at the stars and listening to the mellow lapping of waves against the hull - but these experiences were limited to a season working sunset charters in the Great Barrier Reef and a couple of short trips around the Caribbean.
That is not to say that motor yachting lacked rewards, and these are not solely financial. In my time on motor yachts I enjoyed the extraordinary travel and diving, the gala parties and private tours, and the friendships and memories made. In fact, there were so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I sometimes feel spoilt by my good fortune. And the truth is, whichever mode of transport you choose, sailing or motor, it is not the choice that will define your experience but rather that you have made the choice at all.