19 May, 2021 Mary V

Interview with Captain Burger van der Walt

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. After school in 1997, I decided to head to Europe and experience the adventure of travelling. I worked in the south of England picking flowers and then in Scotland as a silver-service waiter. My brother sent me an article about working on yachts and we decided to pursue this dream together. I left the cold weather behind me and headed south towards Antibes, France with very little cash in my pocket. In 1997, it was a different story looking for work. There were only about 15 people walking the docks and everyone was travellers looking for a new adventure. After about two months I received a phone call offering me the job as an assistant chef on a private classic sail yacht based in Palma de Mallorca. I had no chef experience but I was dedicated to giving the yachting industry a go.

I immediately fell in love with the industry and secured a job as a race crew member on board a classic race yacht doing the classic yacht regattas through the Mediterranean. We were mostly based in Palma and during this time I fell in love with the island.

My sailing career started straight away and from there I began to focus on getting my sailing tickets and experience. Since 2001, I have been mostly based out of Palma de Mallorca. On my return to Mallorca, I got my first captain’s position onboard a yacht and we had some very memorable regattas and wins during this time.

From here I began to move between boats and started my tickets, from race yachts to the more comfortable bigger sailboats. Most of these boats were based in Palma over the winter season.

For the last seven years, I have been on a 60 meter Perini Navi. It has been a very interesting drive and has challenged me in all aspects of my career in sailing. We have been very active in the charter market and have participated in most Super Yacht regattas. We have also just finished the 5-year annual surveys and refit works in STP Palma de Mallorca which has left us ready to sail around the world.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I love working on a boat with a busy charter and race program as there is always something that we need to prepare for whether it’s a regatta or an upcoming charter. A strong team on board and working with some very interesting charter guests makes the whole experience even more rewarding.

Describe each of the Balearics Islands with one word:

Menorca: Sleepy

Ibiza: Party

Mallorca: Home

Formentera: Blue

What are your hobbies here on the islands?

Mallorca has everything from mountains to the sea and I love to get on my motorbike and explore the beautiful Tramuntana mountains. Mallorca also gets some good waves for an island in the Mediterranean and I try and go for a surf whenever I can. You have to plan the times and watch the weather to get the best waves up north, but every season has some waves.

What’s your most memorable experience in the Balearics?

Meeting my incredible wife in Palma. We have always lived in Palma and married in a beautiful villa near Puigpunyent. The weather was perfect and the setting was like a fairytale.

Which is your favourite beach in the Balearics?

Formentera has the most stunning beaches in the Balearics. The island still has a humble charm with dirt roads leading to the clear turquoise waters – it’s absolutely stunning.

What is your opinion about the future of the yachting industry in the Balearics?

Palma has become the number one hub for yacht repairs from my point of view. The wide variety of expertise and quality workmanship is good to have in such a small place. It allows you to find the best quotes from a variety of good contractors. You can plan your projects and stay on schedule and hopefully please the boss without breaking the budget.

What advantages do you think the yachting industry has in the Balearic Islands, compared to other places?

I think the location of the Balearic Islands, especially Palma with the variety of excellent contractors, plays a vital role. Having a long summer with good winter weather and lots of things to do in the area is also a vital part of keeping the crew happy.

If you were to give advice to a new captain coming to the Balearic Islands, what would it be?

As Palma is quickly becoming such a desired place to base your boat for repairs and refits before heading to the Caribbean, you have to really plan and book your stay to contract works months in advance. It is not advised to arrive a few weeks before and expect to find a berth or contractor to help you. Research and plan everything before you arrive.

Did technology change the way that you work as a captain? How?

Absolutely!. Advanced navigation systems and electronic charts are now the norm and the days of using your sextant and plotting courses on paper are disappearing. I think we live in a new age of yachting and you have to adapt to stay in the game, but always have analogue systems to fall back on if things go wrong.

Do you think Balearic ports are adapted to the new technologies?

I would say so. You can see the new developments in Club de Mar and the potential new yard extensions close to Varadero and STP shipyard.

What’s your proudest moment being a captain?

After running a successful yacht for a few years and building a great race crew, we managed to start sailing as a team and still do very well. The excitement of the same people coming back to the boat and race her to her full potential has been an incredible experience.

If you had to recommend the islands to another captain what would you say?

The islands boast some of the best anchorages and cruising areas in the Mediterranean. You can plan a fantastic itinerary for your guests that will make them want to keep coming back. Mallorca is also the ideal location to base your boat for yard works and repairs all whilst staying on schedule…and the weather helps!

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