Gino Battaglia: “Being a cabin boy in Loano kicked off my passion. Now I captain yachts that cross the seas of the entire world”
Gino Battaglia, chairman of Italian YachtMasters, an association of captains, shares his story and the behind the scenes of his work, which is to guarantee beautiful cruises to boaters and charters around the world
This interview concludes the “Boating in a Portrait” series. Over two years, we have interviewed and photographed 36 people of all kinds, brought together by two elements: their ties to the sea and with boating, and with Liguria.
We photographed and interviewed the greatest of Ligurian boating, sharing not only their work, but above all their personal stories, their beginnings and their ties to the sea, even after a lifetime inhaling the salty sea air. With the photos by Claudio Colombo and interviews by Giuseppe Orrù we shared the stories of ship builders, designers, master craftsmen, great entrepreneurs, journalists and sportsmen born in Liguria, or who have adopted this seafaring region as their own.
We “chased” very busy people via email and by phone, and they still managed to find a few minutes in their diaries to pose in front of Claudio Colombo’s lens and answers questions from Giuseppe Orrù. We discovered unexpected anecdotes and tasted the passion that each of these people put into their work. Without them, this project would never have been completed and we would like to thank each and every one of these people.
The last interview we are publishing, but certainly not the least important, is that with the captain, Gino Battaglia. We wanted to keep this as our concluding interview because the subject’s story encompasses the essence of the project itself. This is the story of a boy of 14 who began working as a cabin boy in Loano, until he became the captain of some of the most beautiful yachts in the world, offering fantastic cruises to boat owners and charter clients.
Gino Battaglia was born in Naples on 6 September 1961, but at the age of 5 he moved to Liguria, seeing as his father, a naval engineer, was called to work in the shipyard in Pietra Ligure. His grandfather, instead, was in the Navy.
Gino Battaglia began working on yachts at 14 and is now a captain, holding a Commercial COC (Certificate of Competence) IMO 5,000 Grt and is the chairman for Italian YachtMasters, an association for captains sharing a number of values: respect, honesty, skill, professionalism, reliability and hard work. He is also a member of the Captain Monaco Yachting Club.
His first command was on board the “Hatteras”, a 24 metre vessel, where he travelled around the Mediterranean. He sailed for 31 years in the Atlantic Ocean and for over 20 years he has been the captain of charter yachts. He speaks Italian, English, French and Spanish and since 2019 he has been captaining Plan B 74, a 74 meter long motor yacht.
Captain Battaglia, your grandfather was in the Navy and your father was a naval engineer. In addition to family imprinting, how was your early relationship with the sea and boating and how did you know that it would become such an important part of your life?
My encounter with Captain Angelo Bottaro, who gave me the opportunity to be a cabin boy on a 31 metre yacht at the port of Loano, helped ignite my passion at a time in my young life where I was very confused.
You began working on yachts at the age of 14. What did you do? What are your memories of this experience?
Times were different, but I cleaned, polished brass and steel, brought the tender; I was very interested in learning. The experienced sailors helped me a lot. I remember the engineer, who lived in Savona, Salvatore Colombo, Sicilian, who taught me everything about the engine room, he had me doing all the jobs, so much so that, when the boat was put up for sale in 1980 in Montecarlo, and he and Captain Bottaro were busy working on the construction of the new ship in Savona at the Campanella shipyard, I was alone on board doing everything.
The biggest push to do this job came from my girlfriend, who then became my wife and lifelong companion. She worked on the owner’s property and came on board during the summer, so we were together. We also then worked on Nabila, owned by Adnan Kashoggi, an 86m Benetti. We spent many years together, and she has always worked with me on vessels after that. So love has always been a strong influence.
I think that my wife’s help in managing the interior, making purchases and decorating, gave me the chance to dedicate more time to organising the boat.
When, in 2014, we were overseeing the construction a 70m boat in Germany, at Lurseen, one of the most important shipyards in the world, I had a quality team with me. We were working on understanding and studying the boat, and I was calm, because my wife, who managed the interior team, was checking everything and I knew I was in safe hands.
The Russian owner was very happy with us. For three years we worked hard and left Germany, finally reaching Antigua after 4,800 miles. It was a new boat and it wasn’t an easy trip, but the winter in the Caribbean, which I know very well, was a success, especially the cruise through the Bahamas.
I have always trusted the people I work with, they have never failed my expectations. Part of the team, now for nearly 20 years, is also my son, who is following the family footsteps.
What are your memories of your first command?
During my first command, in 1986, I was calm because, after nearly six years on the Nabila first as boatswain, then as a deck officer, I had gained a lot of experience around the world. So a boat in Sanremo was a little dream come true. Certainly, the responsibilities were different: I had to get used to the whims of the owners, and of their partners, but I didn’t have any problems. You have to be very flexible and adapt.
For years you have been captaining charter yachts. Do the passengers have a destination in mind, or do you decide where to go?
I have worked for years on charter vessels, also winning two awards for “Best Captain of the Year”. I have had charter clients rent boats where I was the captain for 15 consecutive years. I had a very friendly relationship with a number of these clients, and they trusted me. In these cases I prepared a program based on their desires and habits, which was then changed depending on the weather. With other clients, together with their trusted broker, we planned together.
Many charter clients are looking for boats with Italian captains so they can cruise the Mediterranean: our knowledge of the area plays an important role. I have over 100 reference letters from important clients, I have worked over 3 thousand days of charter and I know all the destinations in the Mediterranean, thanks to years of work.
What are your favourite stops when you plan a cruise, and what should never be missed during a charter experience?
My favourite stops are many throughout the Mediterranean: but I prefer the Italian coast. We have some of the most beautiful and singular sights in the world, like the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Ischia, Ponza and Sardinia. But there is also Corsica, the Balearic Islands, the Greek Islands, Croatia and Turkey. In addition to the destination, we must never forget to take care of the owner and the charter client, paying attention to services and excursions on shore. We have to fully serve clients.
You came to Liguria as a child. What is your relationship like with this region?
Liguria is the region that has given me everything. First and foremost, my wife, born in Savona. I have always lived between Pietra Ligure and Loano and my son was born in Genova, so my love for this region is plenty. For this reason I am working in a successful partnership with the ports and shipyards in Liguria. In addition, when I can, I live there, in the country house my wife inherited from her father, and which, with love and care, we have completely restored.
There are a number of young people who would like to work on board yachts. What advice would you give them?
For young people, we are already doing something through IYM, but young people have the advantage of listening to our experiences and our mistakes. We can help open up a very satisfying career for them, but you need to love this job, it takes you away from your loved ones, you have to learn languages, especially English. I speak English, French and Spanish.
You have to start working the season on the lower decks and learn the trade, always be modest. Owners don’t like “wonder captains” very much.
Photos by Claudio Colombo
BOATING IN A PORTRAIT A project by Liguria Nautica and Claudio Colombo showcasing a gallery of Ligurian people or those who have ties with our region, who have left their mark on Italian boating, or who have deep rooted connections with our sea. For each of them, we present a photographic portrait take by Claudio Colombo and an interview with our journalist, Giuseppe Orrù, to better know each person, in their personal lives as well.