A Conversation With Charlie Wroe - Captain Of The Superyacht Mariette

Pendennis Shipyard recently completed the restoration and repair of the stunning Mariette superyacht, built in 1915, this 42 metre, twin-masted schooner sailing yacht is one of the world’s most historic yachts. We asked the Captain, Charlie Wroe, what life is like on a luxury superyacht.
How long have you been the Captain on the Mariette?
Since 2005
What was your career background/ history before coming on board as Captain?
I went to Antibes in 1996 and it took me ages to get a decent job which eventually turned out to be a deckhand on the Mariette. I spent three years onboard racing and cruising in the Med and Caribbean. Then it was time for a change and I joined Mari-Cha in the south of France and spent the next four years charging around the world on MCIII and MCIV. During which time I took a sabbatical and passed my Master’s exam. In the autumn of 2003, after the transatlantic record, I joined the Perini Navi Squall as Mate and spent the next year with her. At which point I started looking for a captains job. I went back to Antibes, which was home from home, and caught up with my old captain Chris Gartner. One thing lead to another and I rejoined Mariette as captain in Feb 2005.
Can you give us more of an overview on what it takes to become a Captain?
Probably being slightly competitive helps! Personally I’ve always enjoyed sailing and especially racing – I’d say that early on in your career you have to be committed to sacrificing holiday time and incurring the cost of getting the RYA and then MCA tickets. Ideally you should work on fast and good looking boats, sailing as many miles as possible in as many different places as possible.
Since you have been Captain, what has been your favourite memories of working on board the 42m twin-masted schooner?
2015 was a great year, we had the centenary to plan and look forward to and over the course of the year we took the boat into the Pacific and cruised the west coast of Panama, then raced in the NYYC Transatlantic Race during which we had a smokingly fast crossing, wrapping it up with a memorable black tie party in Pendennis Castle, Falmouth with 200 friends of the boat joining us.
You have regularly competed in the annual Pendennis Cup, can you tell us a little about your experiences taking part?
Falmouth is a great place, so much so that I’ve made it home, so a regatta in Falmouth means sailing with a bunch of Cornish onboard which is always a great laugh. Pendennis Shipyard always put on an excellent event with some of the best parties. Although you cannot always guarantee the sunshine, it is a great place to race a yacht, there is always a breeze of some sort to go sailing in, flat water in the lee of the Lizard, a bit of tide to play with and the yachts look amazing set against the backdrop of green fields. In the past we’ve raced under the IRC rule, which I think does a good job rating classics against their more modern sisters.
What have been your greatest challenges and achievements since becoming Captain of the Mariette?
Although the refits are hard work and take a lot of planning, it’s very satisfying being able to improve the boat - whether that is in terms of material repairs or improvements or simply lightening her and making her faster. In this last refit I finally ticked off several things that had been on a “to do” list for over a decade! Winning races is always satisfying too as there are so many different aspects involved to get the boat around the race course as fast as possible.
What do you love most about working on the water?
I’m very grateful for the fact that a lot of my work is outside in the open air. Arriving in a new port is always fun and I enjoy fishing, swimming and everything else to do with the water.
When not working, where would be your top recommended place to visit in Cornwall?
I’d say the Lizard, its got some of the best beaches going, especially on the west side, to the north is the Helford River and in the middle is Goonhilly downs which, if you like solitude and nature, is a great secluded spot.
Following the fourth refit of the Mariette by Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth back in 2017, what changes have you seen and what makes the refit stand out?
The new infrastructure is impressive, with space for seven large superyachts undercover in the halls, the wet basin with a maintained depth of 6m means that there is always a berth available and we are not limited to lifting or launching the boat at spring tides. This refit was made a lot easier since the project manager and I saw things the same way so I’d say that the people you work with is crucial.
What essential qualities do you look for when recruiting your crew?
Enthusiasm is probably the most important quality. Previous yachting experience is not as important as a willingness to learn and work hard. It is a big plus if they have a prior connection with the water whether that be sailing in dinghies, fishing, surfing etc etc.
In a couple of sentences, can you describe your average day as Captain of the Mariette?
When cruising with the owner onboard we will aim to sail for three or four hours a day – usually in the afternoon. Usually the crew spend the morning catching up on boat business – the chef runs ashore for bread, salad and whatever looks good in the fish market and the guys on deck get on with preparing the boat for sailing and other various jobs. The guests take it easy, a leisurely breakfast, catching up on emails or take a turn ashore. Depending how far we have to go determines whether it’s a light sit down lunch or a sandwich on the hoof. Then it’s sails up. sailing a schooner is fun because there are up to eight sails to set and play with including the deckhands running up the ratlines to set the topsails. Ideally we’ll reach the anchorage by five or six o’clock in the evening - since it takes an hour and a half for the guys to tidy away the deck. At the same time the chef and stewardess are getting organised inside. Dinner at eight, then bed, get up the next morning and repeat! It’s a nice rhythm.