Azure Ultra is a team of individuals who are passionate about what they do. It is an enterprise that encourages personal development, both individually and on the job.
The story of Luc Young, 24, from South Africa and living in Malta, demonstrates this perfectly. Discover how Luc went from cleaning the decks of the Azure Ultra fleet to attaining the Yachtmaster Offshore qualification and becoming a captain on the luxury Sunseeker motor yachts.
What is your lifelong relationship with the sea?
The sea has been a big part of my life since childhood. Growing up in South Africa, I’d spend my weekends by the sea with my family. I did plenty of scuba diving, diving, bodyboarding and surfing, which is pretty big where I’m from.
Did you have any boating experience before joining Azure Ultra?
I did, because for wreck diving, we would go out on ribs – small open boats with a fibreglass hull and inflatable rubber sides. I also went fishing in South Africa with Roger, Azure Ultra’s main skipper, because he’s my uncle and he’s always been a skipper.
What brought you to Malta and how did you become a deckhand here, first of all?
After completing a three-and-a-half-year university degree in IT systems engineering, I came to Malta on holiday to visit my aunt Peggy and uncle Roger, who had moved here. After three months, I returned to South Africa for my graduation but knew I wanted to move to Malta. In those first months, I was mainly travelling and exploring; I had no previous plans to work with Roger when I returned. When a part-time position came up with Azure Ultra, cleaning and polishing the boats, I took it and loved it. After six months, I accepted a full-time position and worked my way up.
How did that progress into studying to become a captain?
I was first employed as a ‘greenie’, gaining experience while doing maintenance at an hourly rate. Thereafter, I was a deck steward for two seasons. In the third season, I was a boson, in charge of all the deckhands and the exterior of the four boats in the fleet. Throughout this time, I felt a natural calling and became very curious about the boats and navigation. So Roger highly encouraged me to acquire the Yachtmaster Offshore qualification.
What kind of training is required to become a captain?
The Yachtmaster Offshore qualification for commercial skippers is a week-long intensive course, but it actually requires about two years of preparation. Previous knowledge and experience are essential before applying for the Yachtmaster Offshore course and there are criteria to satisfy. The theory can be learned like any other subject. However, the practical exam at sea involves 12 hours of manoeuvres, anchoring, rescue and all sorts of practical things one needs to know as a skipper.
As a deck stew, I had spent a lot of time observing, asking questions, researching, reading and studying. In addition, 1,250 tidal miles, which I logged in South Africa, and 1,250 non-tidal miles, which I logged in the Mediterranean, are mandatory before applying for the Yachtmaster Offshore qualification. These must include a minimum of five passages (a journey over 60 miles), two of which must be overnight passages and two as a skipper. These serve to become really acquainted with the navs, lights, buoys, traffic, call rates and general boating regulations. I had accumulated 6,000 miles in three years by the time I applied; until I felt completely confident that I knew all there is to know!
Describe your typical day as a skipper.
On a typical day, I’ll do an engine check, a weather check and ensure the boat is perfect to welcome guests. I make suggestions to the guests where to go, ensure they have the best experience possible and generally spoil them as much as I can. But I’ll help with the cleaning, preparing lunch and anything really. I have the qualifications and a deep understanding of both the deck steward and skipper roles and I enjoy that I can do both as required.
While, for me, the roles overlap, driving the boat is a massive step. A commercial deck steward must also possess certain qualifications. The compulsory STCW qualification is renewable every five years. It includes firefighting, first aid, sea survival, and safety and security awareness related to piracy, obstructions, etc. In addition, a VHF qualification and powerboat level II qualification are also recommended. But, as a skipper, you need to know everything, not just what is going on up here but also what is going on down there (points to engines). You must know what to do if anything went wrong.
How does it feel to be a captain?
I prefer the word 'skipper' to 'captain'. Somehow I feel that ‘captain’ conjures up images of big ships with many crew members under his direction. As a captain of a private boat under a hundred feet, I prefer to be called a skipper. In this role, I enjoy the greater responsibility and having more control over how to do things; it is more rewarding.
How does it feel to be part of the Azure Ultra team?
Each person is very good at something in particular so we're a great team. For example, Roger is great at fixing things and sorting out problems. Gary is meticulous when it comes to planning. I’m the man for anything that requires diving and I am very good with guests too!
Which is your favourite spot in the Maltese Islands?
I really like Dwejra Fungus Rock and the Crystal Lagoon off-season with its caves and cliffs. I also like this secret bay with no name that is completely secluded and located close to Anchor Bay!