Ship to shore: Meeting Gulf Craft’s Quality Control Manager Patricia Caswell

Ship to shore: Meeting Gulf Craft’s Quality Control Manager Patricia Caswell

By Georgia Tindale 

In our latest ‘ship to shore’ interview, Yotspot catches up with Patricia Caswell, a former yacht captain, who is now Quality Control Manager for the UAE-based shipyard Gulf Craft. Patricia speaks candidly from experience about the highs and lows of life at sea, how to successfully navigate the transition to dry land, and what it really takes to get ahead in this unusual and ever-changing industry. 

First, give us the potted history. How did you end up in yachting? 

Like many people in the industry, I fell into it! I had finished high school and was visiting my mom in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. She sent me out on an old Maxi racing yacht for a day trip, just to go sailing and experience the area. While I was on board, I just completely fell in love with it all, so I applied for a job and started the very next day. I started off as a stewardess for a few weeks and then thought, ‘this isn’t for me’, so I moved out on deck, and the rest is history! 


How was your first role as Captain? 

It was on board an old America’s Cup challenger from Australia called Southern Cross. She is a beautiful boat, but it was quite a challenging experience for my first role because there were only two crew onboard and 14 guests, so your hands are extremely full! You are learning to look after the safety of the guests while you are also sailing the vessel – so it was definitely a baptism by fire.

What are the main lessons you have learned from being a Captain?

The biggest lesson I have learned is the need to be compassionate towards everyone on board. Everybody is spending a lot of time away from their families and friends, and that is hard work. Everyone looks at it with these big rose-tinted lenses from the outside, but it can be really tough for people. Learning to be compassionate, not the hard-nosed sailor you were brought up to be, that was a really important lesson. 

Since 2020, you have been Quality Control (QC) Manager at Gulf Craft, which is a fully shoreside role. What does this entail and how was the transition for you? 

It was actually a very natural transition, as I had recently gotten married and received my first utility bill – I started to understand what it was like being shoreside. I was thinking, ‘Oh this is kind of nice, I can actually go home at the end of the day.’ In terms of what I do in my job, the quality department is involved in so many different steps of a yacht’s journey, from start to finish. 

For example, if the design and engineering team want to put a product into a boat – a variety of paint, a piece of equipment, even down to a different type of pipe – the QC team will do a lot of the in-house testing for it to ensure its safety. During a build, we will be evaluating everything and asking, ‘is everything installed and commissioned correctly?’ We will literally have our hands and eyes on every stage of the build, right up until handover and delivery – so there is plenty to do!

Do you need a yachting background to work in QC?

There are so many different positions within QC that I don’t think you do. I work with a chemical engineer who doesn’t have boating experience, but he does know how to test and work with the chemicals we are using every day in lamination, bonding all matters of procedures.

We also have another employee who was a car mechanic, but now has earned his captain’s license up to 24 metres and does sea trials with me. There are so many levels within QC which need different modes of experience that you don’t need to have come from yachting operations – although a portion of that is definitely needed on the team. 

Career highlights working in QC so far?

Definitely working on Gulf Craft’s Majesty 175, especially doing her first sea trials. This is the world’s largest composite production yacht – 54 metres and 780 GT – and so there were no class rules written for it! Nothing like this had been done before, so Gulf Craft was literally testing and writing rules with Class on fire integrity, stability and so on. There are always a lot of naysayers in the industry, so to be able to develop her and be able to go out and run successful performance tests like we did – it just blew it all out of the water! 

Would you recommend the yachting industry to those outside of it? 

Yes, 100%! Yachting has been very good to me, and I am truly thankful for it. I don’t think I’ll ever be far away from it, even though I am now working shoreside. Many of my friends’ teenagers, are asking me about it all the time, and I always recommend it to them. Yachting offers an amazing opportunity for you to see the world, gain varied skills and experience so many different lifestyles for yourself. 

To find out more about the exciting range of roles offered within the yachting industry, visit our Yotspot jobs listings here.