Beyond the sea – meet ORIGIN’s Captain Gerardo Duran

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

With our fleet currently at anchor, we spent some time getting to know some of the Ecoventura family better

Whilst our fleet is temporarily moored up with the coronavirus pandemic bringing much of the globe to a momentary standstill, one member of the Ecoventura team has a little more time on his hands than usual – Captain Gerardo Duran. Captain Gerardo has been an integral member of the Ecoventura family for many years, first as Captain of one of our now-decommissioned yachts, the Flamingo, and now as Captain of our Relais & Chateaux luxury yacht the Origin, with a spell overseeing the shipyard in between.

We decided to use this down-time to reflect on the human side of our organisation, getting to know some of our team better and introduce them to our readers.

Our highest ranking Captain, and well liked and respected by crew and guests alike, we spent a while with Captain Gerardo to learn more about his background growing up in Ecuador, how he came to work with us at Ecoventura, and what life is like as the Captain of a luxury Galapagos yacht.

Captain Gerardo was born in Machala in Southern Ecuador, before moving as a young boy with his family to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and, fittingly, home to its principal port.

Destined to work on the open seas since he was a young lad, Gerardo graduated from the merchant marine before landing his first job in the Galapagos. Looking to expand his experience and skill set, he started sailing tanker ships internationally which took him around the globe, before he made the decision to settle back in his native Ecuador, and more specifically the Galapagos.

Hearing word of a new company operating around the archipelago called Ecoventura, Gerardo made enquiries through his maritime contacts to get an introduction – and so began the start of a long and happy relationship. As Gerardo says, “this gave me the opportunity to start working with Ecoventura and start the adventure!”.

Gerardo’s first role was helping oversee the construction of the Flamingo, one of our first-class expedition yachts that has since been retired. After six months managing the construction of the vessel at the dry dock in Guayaquil, Gerardo soon found himself sailing her, being appointed Captain soon after her launch.

Given his tenure with us at Ecoventura, we asked him how the organisation has changed over the time he has been with us.

“Ecoventura through the years has increased its fleet but more than anything, improved its service on board. When I started there was the Eric (another first-class expedition yacht and sister ship to the Flamingo), and then the Flamingo. Following that, I was involved in the construction of the Galapagos Sky, which allowed us to start offering diving experiences in the Galapagos marine reserve. So Ecoventura not only offered expedition cruising with islands visits and activities, but it also then had a new diving liveaboard option too.

With the introduction of the new luxury yachts Origin and Theory, the level of service has only continued to improve. It is a company that has been evolving, that has always been striving to improve, move forward and get better every day. With the introduction of Evolve next year this will only continue”.

How was the move from being a Captain on board a vessel to overseeing the shipyard? What were the biggest differences between the two roles, and how did the change come about?

“Whilst the roles obviously were very different, interestingly they actually require similar skill sets. The experience that I have gained both aboard the Ecoventura yachts, as well as previously as Captain of tanker ships, gave me the administrative and operational knowledge to know how to oversee and support activities in the shipyard. Both demand strong interpersonal and managerial skills, and these roles helped me understand how personnel contribute, help and assist with everything needed in the on-board operation of a luxury vessel – having worked both on land and as a Captain on board has helped me understand everything involved in the wider maritime sector.”

After some time away from Ecoventura, you then became captain of the Origin – what is it like captaining the Origin?

“I have spent so much of my career with Ecoventura, this company really has given me a lot of satisfaction. It was very rewarding for me to return to the fold, not just to Ecoventura but to have the honour of captaining a new ship, with a new set of challenges – a new adventure. It was very exciting!

Now as Captain of the Origin, the big changes in the organisation really are apparent – in terms of service, as we have an extremely high standard and also on the operational side with the incredible itineraries and excursions available to our guests.

Being Captain of the Origin brings me a lot of fulfilment. I am very happy to be there and to have an excellent team as a crew, and of course to be able to work in a stunning environment.”

For those landlubbers amongst us, tell us a bit about life on board a vessel. What are the challenges about life at sea? Does it create a special camaraderie amongst the crew?

“On any ship, the life of the crew on board can be challenging, especially as people spend so long away from their families. We are all human – we face personal problems, concerns and sometimes we may go through hard times, so it is important to create a healthy environment where my crew knows than they can count on me.

There is also a balance between forming a sense of camaraderie amongst the crew whilst maintaining the hierarchy typical of any vessel, in order to respect each other and each one of the functions and roles that all the crew have on board – it is a matter of balance.”

So you run a tight ship?

“We all carry out tasks in which we have to fulfil obligations and responsibilities and we all know each position is important – it is crucial to maintain that to ensure everything runs smoothly.

On board a passenger ship, like Origin, I think that the activity of life on board should be taken a little more responsibly since we have guests on board. We mustn’t forget that we are providing once-in-a-lifetime experiences to our passengers and offering a series of honed and luxurious services.”

What is your favourite place to visit in the itineraries that we sail and why?

“Well, this is a tricky question because for me, everything in the Galapagos is beautiful. Each site we visit is different – each island, each stop-off and location we visit is special. Personally, I really enjoy the activity in the water, so I love the places where you can snorkel. Among my favourites, I would say, are Devil’s Crown, Bartolome, Punta Vicente Roca and Punta Espinosa – they are all beautiful with amazing opportunities to snorkel with sealions, fishes and even sometimes sharks.”

What are the best things about your job?

“I love my profession, but sailing in Galapagos makes it even more special. Being able to enjoy the islands, their beauty, their landscape, sometimes being able to enjoy the sunsets, the sunrise! I really enjoy sailing in Galapagos, it is the most beautiful office in this world!

Working with Ecoventura is also very fulfilling. I remember one of the years working with Ecoventura they named me “best worker”. This helped me realize how appreciated my work was and I felt really grateful to be a part of a company that I started to see as a family.”

And what would you say is the worst thing about it?

I think that for everyone who sails, being away from their family for long periods of time can be challenging. But likewise, it is comforting to return and enjoy long spells with the family disconnected from work.”

What tips would you give passengers coming on an Ecoventura voyage?

The main recommendation I would give to passengers is to come with a desire to learn about and enjoy the Galapagos. They will find on board the Ecoventura yachts an incredible level of service from a highly professional crew, with many years of experience working on the islands. My team is always ready to attend their needs, to give you the best of us, so guests just need to embrace the experience and enjoy the islands.

Lastly, I would also recommend they come ready to take home many beautiful memories, not only of Galapagos but also of the Origin.”

And finally, if you weren’t a Captain, what would you be?

“In addition to being a captain, I am also a lawyer. If, for any reason, I were to stop sailing, I would dedicate myself to the law, although being honest I would always lean towards the maritime area. I would also spend more time teaching – in my spare time I am a professor in Ecuador’s merchant marine giving lectures and courses to officers, captains, and crew – and it is very rewarding to help train up the next generation of captains and crew to give them the opportunities that I had working in such a rewarding profession.

All my years I have loved maritime life, so if I were not captain, I would never be able to walk away from it completely!”