TALKING WITH WESLEY KRUGER, PERCHERON'S CAPTAIN

Wesley Kruger - Captain of M/Y Percheron

CANTIERE DELLE MARCHE,
ANCONA, 29 NOVEMBER 2012

FOCUS ON: PEOPLE

Hello, I am Wesley Kruger from Durban, South Africa. I have been yachting in the Caribbean and Mediterranean for most of my career. I received my Captains license in 2008 and Oceans’s Navigation in 2009. I have been cruising Caribbean waters for the past 3years and look forward to world cruising on the beautiful and impeccably constructed Darwin 86. A surfer, free diver and scuba diver at heart, my love of the Ocean and commitment to service and safety allows me to continue pursue my goals, happily, as a world cruising captain.

You are a very young captain of an over engineered and very special Explorer Vessel Darwin Class 86, which you have followed all along its construction: can you tell us about your experience at Cantiere Delle Marche? I am a very young Captain and admit that one year ago I was very nervous for the challenge that lay ahead of me. I knew there was a lot to learn and I would need to put a large effort in following the construction of the vessel. I had to get very involved in every small detail of the construction, learning as much as possible from the experienced engineers and technical staff of Cantiere Delle Marche. This was large task that lay ahead of me and if not for the family at Cantiere Delle Marche and their constant assistance and guidance, I would have definitely had a more difficult time. Everyday from seven in the morning to seven at night my mind was like a sponge, listening and learning as much as possible. Cantiere Delle Marche gave me my own private office in the yard, where I could study manuals and schematics. Above my office was the technical department where I visited frequently asking questions and seeking guidance. I was always welcome and no matter how busy Massimo, Domenico, Danielle, Michele or Vasco were, they would always take the time to answer my questions or go on board with me and discuss the current technical issue. I had a fantastic time at CDM and I am forever grateful for the experience. I learnt more than I could have ever learnt at any marine school. I miss the CDM family and truly hope I will be back one day to follow another of their constructions.

Taking command of a brand new Yacht of 86 feet is always an exciting experience indeed, but taking delivery of her and immediately after crossing the Atlantic Ocean on her bottom makes it even more special: can you please summarize for us your translatlantic crossing focusing on the technical side of it? Yes, it was a very exciting experience and due to the tight schedule we had after delivery, there was serious planning and time management to carry out. By the time we had reached Gibraltar we had 250hrs on the main engines and reached the 300hr service on the generators. This was nice timing as we could perform the necessary services on the engines to make sure they were in prime condition right before the Atlantic crossing. During our week in Gibraltar I had to make sure all spare parts, oils and equipment was on board. I received great assistance from Captain Marco Covre during this time. As Marco had crossed the Atlantic twenty two times before and this was my first, who better to have on board to assist myself and my crew. I had Marco go over all my passage planning, spares purchasing lists and provisioning lists. After Marco’s input and the final purchasing of supplies, we were ready to for the cruise to the Canary Islands. We had a few days in the Canaries after arrival to refuel and inspect all the engineering equipment. Marco and I went through our planning and discussed how we would handle the engineering inspections while under way. Then, there we went: the water maker, air conditioning, steering and stabilizers did a fantastic job. We experienced no problems with this machinery. However the steering oil temperatures seemed slightly high for our comfort at times. Due to the constant following seas along the entire crossing, the rudders were working overtime to keep us on course. Therefore each day for thirty minutes or so, we would steer by hand, only to give the automatic pilot a rest. Towards the end of the passage we experienced a low flow while using the fuel polisher. We first noticed this as we were burning the same amount of fuel as the fuel polisher was producing. Therefore as to not damage any equipment we decided not to use the fuel polisher, but instead use the fuel transfer pump to supply the daily tanks with fuel. Thanks to the CDM’s detailed user manual, it was a only a matter of turning three valves into the right position to redirect the fuel past the polisher and into the daily tanks. After the crossing all the fuel polisher needed was a cleaning and after we had good flow again. We had a few glitches in the navigational equipment. A rare loss in heading which meant we had to restart the system and a few incorrect parameters all of which Arimar is ready to fix and adjust for us. Seeing as this was my first crossing, at the end I asked Marco the obvious question on how he felt the yacht and its machinery handled it. He was very impressed and said it could have not been an easier time more successful crossing, seeing as the only “serious” problem was the low flow rate through the fuel polisher. Overall, this means I am very happy with the yacht and it’s equipments performance.

Now that we have heard about the ‘cold facts’: how was this experience overall? Is there a special anecdote/event which you would like to remember with us? To be honest it was such an overwhelming experience that I don’t know how to pick one special event to note. The entire experience was one I and I’m sure the crew too, will never forget. It was a challenge and one I can not take credit for. It was a team effort which involved the entire crew, Captain Marco and the team at CDM. Every individual involved contributed to the successful crossing and the arrival in Fort Lauderdale, in time for the boat show. We did it and that’s all I have to say really. I think if you had to follow our blog, you would get a good understanding of the daily experiences and emotions we encountered. I think for me the major events were the existence of Hurricane Rafael and after Hurricane Sandy. Thanks to Maxsea and the program it offers to download up to date weather conditions constantly, we were able to accurately track these systems and navigate safely pass them.

We are sure that the crew dynamics during such a long non-stop cruise are delicate to manage for a captain on a Yacht of this size: how did you organize the daily routine and how did you plan the shifts? This is absolutely correct and I feel is just as important as managing the passage plans and inspections of your equipment and machinery. Firstly we tried to create a normal as possible life on board, by attempting to eat every meal together. We decided to have Alex cook every meal, while not having to sit on navigational watch. This allowed us to have normal meals on board and not skip a meal or have quick snacks instead. Therefore all the crew felt healthily and well fed for every meal. Secondly with the four remaining crew, besides Alex, we decided to rotate the watch schedules. We felt if one person would constantly do the early morning watch, 1am-4am for example, it would have been more demanding on that individual. So by rotating the schedule everyone had the same amount of rest and experienced the less or more tiring watches equally. During the light hours, every one would usually be awake. We would have duties of cleaning the interior and rinsing the exterior and well not on watch and after duties were finished we would either listen to music on the flybridge, sunbath, man the fishing lines, etc. Lastly seeing as we had fantastic weather conditions, we had a very easy and enjoyable crossing. I can only imagine having bad conditions for 14days and how uncomfortable the experience could have been, but thanks to weather monitoring and good planning we avoided those bad conditions.

Please describe the Darwin Class 86 M/Y Percheron with five adjectives after such an experience. Powerful, Tough, Reliable, Stable and Majestic.

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