There once was a time when water toys aboard yachts consisted of snorkel gear and a windsurfer. But as yachts evolved into “mega” then “super,” the water toys were amped up as well. Now personal submarines, jet skis, flyboards and even water slides are all possible leisure activities aboard superyachts to keep guests and owners entertained.
Along with this increase in the fun factor, comes the need for crew to be trained to set up, maintain and operate the equipment safely. And they must provide the required instructions for their guests. Jet skis and waverunners have been around long enough for standardized training programs to be developed. The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) offers a day long certification course for personal watercraft (PWC) which includes “launching, handling and recovery skills, passage planning and decision making, high and low speed riding skills, essential safety information, collision avoidance and orientation at sea.” In addition, the RYA certifies personal watercraft instructors, which allows a yacht crew member to be trained as a PWC instructor and then offer the day-long certification course to the rest of the crew.
But what about submersibles? How do the builders of these vessels, competing in the rapidly expanding market sector of recreational submarines, approach training? Perusing the websites of four of the most well-known submersible manufacturers finds differing levels of detail about learning to operate and maintain the submarines they sell. While engineering, design and safety are all stressed on the web, not all the companies note the importance of training, but most do. One “has established a solid training program for submersible pilots, support crew and ship engineers,” and another offers a “three-step pilot/technician training program [that] sets the standard for excellence in the industry.” Only one luxury submersible company is mute on training, but it does mention “Just treat it like a tender!” when referring to one of their models. This, a vessel with an operational depth of 120 meters.
One of the most popular toys aboard superyachts is the Seabob. What can best be described as a water jet sled with a tip of the hat to James Bond, the Seabob propels you along the surface and under the water like a porpoise. Fun…without a doubt. Safe…with proper training. Going too deep at high speed, operating underwater in poor visibility or being dragged through the water, all present hazards and new safety issues. While maintenance is pretty simple, not following the prescribed battery charging protocol will lead to a $10,000 mistake.
Mega inflatable water slides, secured to the superstructure of a yacht, provide safe and easily monitored entertainment. But the yacht engineer tasked with setting one up or striking it on a moment’s notice may grumble a bit at the one to two hour time frame needed to get the job done.
Every new toy that comes on the market for superyachts, whether it is benign as a water slide or thrilling as a jet pack flyboard, requires a special skill set for the crew to operate. Combining training from the manufacturer, specialized schools and onboard continuing education will assure the shortest possible learning curve for the crew and a safe and enjoyable experience for the yacht owner and guest.
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