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A day in the life of Mel Thunderbolt - Superyacht Engineer


As a superyacht engineer all your senses need to be totally in tune with your boat.  Constantly watching out for vital signs on every dial and screen, listening for the reassuring hum of the pumps and picking up the scent of anything amiss below deck!

Imagine the scene, the sun’s just up, you’re anchored in Monaco Port. You’re one of the first to rise from your bunk and as you grab the first coffee of the day you tune in to the continuous sounds of the boat.  Water pumps running as crew take their morning showers, toilet pumps starting, air conditioning and refrigeration compressors stop and start. 

As the vessel’s engineer it’s Mel’s job to know the boat so well she can tell as soon as something’s wrong.  For example; the constant running of fresh water pumps indicating someone’s left a tap running. 

With a full quota of guests on board, all excited about the next few days cruising down through the med, it’s up to Mel to make sure everything runs smoothly and above all that the vessel is safe and so are her passengers.

Mel’s first job of the day is to head straight for the engine room and up to the bridge to check everything; water levels, power consumption, batteries, fuel tanks, oil tanks ... there’s always a never-ending list.

It’s crucial that she’s on top of it all; overseeing vitals, checking alerts and touchscreen updates.  If there’s a computerised management system onboard, that means checking all the monitors but if not, her trusty notebook means nothing slips through the net.

If the yacht is heading out to sea, Mel will do her engine checks, oil, water, filters, coolant, generators, visuals. Start up the generators, unplug the shore power, before advising the Captain the yacht is ready to start up main engines, carry out a few steering, bow thruster and gear checks, before untying the lines and heading out to sea.

Mel keeps an eye on water tanks, fuel tanks and transfers fuel if they’re going out on a day trip, monitoring closely to avoid any fuel spillages, cleaning the fuel in the fuel separator as well as overseeing how fuel and water tanks affect the boat’s ballast.  They could be carrying as much as 40,000 litres of fuel in four storage tanks and one day tank which will have an impact on the speed, performance and balance of the boat.

By staying in constant communication with the bridge via radio, she ensures the boat is manoeuvred out of port safely and smoothly.

Once out of the marina, she starts up the desalinator, to ensure fresh water tanks are always topped up and the yacht doesn’t run out, whilst simultaneously monitoring and logging all systems and machinery onboard.

Her role isn’t confined to the engine room though, she could be called up to the galley to work out why the chef’s fridge is not cooling, a guest cabin to mend an electric blind, or to the main salon to fix the AV system.

Mel told me “It’s what makes this job so interesting, the variety, you’re never quite sure what’s going to crop up from one day to the next, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

For more of Melissa’s adventures visit http://melthunderbolt.com

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