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On Water: Interview with Captain Christopher of Moana

On Water: Interview with Captain Christopher of Moana

Sep 3, 2021

A 86ft Monte Carlo Yacht with two 1,800 horsepower engines, Moana would be sailing the high seas grandly if not for the border restrictions due to COVID-19. This has meant that she and her four-person crew, including Captain Christopher Garrault, have been berthed at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove—Moana is owned by a Swiss family based in Singapore—since July last year. For industry veteran Captain Garrault, the circumstances are as unprecedented as they come, but he stays positive and believes in keeping calm and carrying on with a positive attitude. Here, he shares about his work, his experiences and future goals.

Tell Us a Bit About Yourself

I am from Cannes in South France, so the sea has been part of my childhood growing up. My father was a shipbroker for almost 35 years—he has since retired and my sister has taken over the business—so I have spent most of my childhood and growing years with my dad on yachts. I entered the industry in 2006 and worked my way up from a deckhand to a captain’s position by the age of 25. I upgraded my license to handle 500 tonnage vessels while working on the Ferreti 112 for an Indonesian family—and subsequently made Bali my home. I have a six-year-old daughter and a two-and-a-half-year-old son.

What Does it Take to Be in Such a Profession?

To me, it’s not work; it’s a passion. I love the sea. You have to have that to work in this kind of profession, otherwise, you tend to give up after a few years—because you are away from home and family for long periods of time. I have not seen my wife and children for more than eight months due to the COVID-19 situation. Being a captain is a dream, but not if you want family life and balance. I am 35 years old now, I hope to retire as a captain in five years time and start my own business as a manager or crew trainer.

What are Some Challenges Being a Captain?

Being a captain is not just steering the boat. In fact that’s the easy part. You have to have intrinsic knowledge about the boat, its various functions, and be on top of all maintenance and repair work. Working on a yacht is not always fun as most people believe. It involves hard work and there is always something to do—from cleaning the decks, waterside and strainer in the engine room to maintaining the oil genset and many more.

As a captain, you have to think of the owner’s yacht as your own, and the crew as your own family. It is the best, and sometimes, challenging part of the job. The safety of the yacht, the passengers and crew is 100 per cent my responsibility. Deciding when is the right time to go out to sea is an important part of the job, as weather is beyond our control. Especially in our case, we have to remember that we are not working on sturdy supply boats, but a yacht made of fibreglass. It’s like a Ferrari—it is delicate and we have to be sure that it can withstand the weather conditions. Convincing the owners is not always easy. To them, it is like a holiday, they may not realise the dangers involved. But, at the end of the day, as a captain, if I do not want to start the engine to go out, nobody can. To be a good captain, you have to be patient, fair and honest, but at the same time tough. Luckily, the owner of Moana has seafaring knowledge, so we speak the same language.

What are some adventures you and the owners have had on Moana?

Right now because of the pandemic, we have not crossed Singapore waters, but there is actually quite a lot of things to do in Singapore for yachting. We always try to do something different, such as fishing, visiting the islands, especially Pulau Hantu as well as the floating seafood restaurants by Pulau Ubin. Moana is fully equipped for such fun outings. We do not have jet skis as it can be dangerous, especially where young children are involved. When you are going at high speeds, the water surface can become like asphalt—if you do not have the right experience, that can be very dangerous. In my younger days, I used to participate in jet ski competitions and I once had a bad accident, which put me in a temporary coma. Now as a father myself, I do not recommend it. But we have four sea bobs, wet boards, snorkelling and fishing equipment and a banana boat.

Moana was also one of the first boats to organise the cleaning of the waters. We led a team of 16 boats to Hantu, Lazarus and St John’s Island. We gathered almost one and a half tons of plastic waste from the waters—a lot of which had been washed over from neighbouring countries too. People need to realise that even one object of plastic can cause immense damage to the waters. Singapore waters, I must say, are much cleaner compared to what it was when I made my last trip three years ago with different owners. It is really well maintained.

How Do You Unwind?

I find sports, walking or running, strangely relaxing. Whenever I am stressed, I go for a 10km walk or run, and I feel instantly energised. I love trying different kinds of food, Asian and Western. Due to the current situation, we are not allowed to go into the mainland, but there are ample options on Sentosa island itself. I especially like the pizza at Boaters’ Bar. I am from South France, which is close to Italy and I would say, the pizza base here is the most authentic I have had outside of Italy.