Marlies Sanders has worked as captain and chief officer in the Med, Caribbean, USA, and the Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland, Canadian Arctic, part of the NW passage, and has crossed the Atlantic 13 times. | Erica Lay


Each week Erica Lay, owner of EL CREW CO International Yacht Crew Agency talks to a crew member currently in Mallorca either seeking work or based here to learn a little more about our local yachting community. For more info on any of our stars featured here, you can contact Erica directly on

Today I’m speaking with Marlies Sanders, originally from Holland, she’s been based in Mallorca on and off after falling in love with the island in 2010. Having recently completed the Arctic season on a 72m Iceclass expedition vessel as Chief Officer she’s looking for her next challenging role!

What attracted you to the island?

The natural beauty of the mountains, the coves, the sea; all the outdoor possibilities like the hikes, the sailing, the kiteboarding, climbing…Mallorca offers so much diversity and beauty with the perfect mix of Spanish culture and an international community…and of course the amazing food and wine!

What’s your background before yachting?

I had an international corporate career in the food sector: after university I worked as an assistant Trader in an import/export company in Paris, moved to Rotterdam to set up a new office 5 years later, then worked for a famous Dutch potato/French fries company. I travelled a lot for work but never saw anything but airports, taxis, hotels and offices.

When/how did you join the yachting industry?

When I lived in Paris, an elderly solo sailor asked me to join him on his 3rd Atlantic crossing. I had only sailed small boats on lakes in Holland, so self-preservation and respect for Mother Nature made me say no to that one! But it planted the seed. After some time out travelling, I landed my first Transatlantic crossing on a 54ft sailing yacht.

Once in the Caribbean, I discovered racing and found a job in the BVI’s. I’ve been sailing ever since. I did several roles on my first boat, then moved on after a season to captain a 56ft sailing yacht. That’s when I realised I had found my new career and started courses. My first years were racing and freelance focused. I ran a Swan 51 as a race charter business with my boyfriend (now husband). I’ve worked as captain and chief officer in the Med, Caribbean, USA, and the Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland, Canadian Arctic, part of the NW passage, and I’ve crossed the Atlantic 13 times.

If you didn’t work on a yacht, what do you think you’d be doing?

Base camp manager on climbing expeditions, a pilot or managing other people’s yachts!

What yacht training did you do?

I started with Yachtmaster, then MCA Master 200 in 2011, OOW/Chief Mate in 2016, Master 500 and then last year Master 3000.

I like to keep learning, so have done further leadership training, a simulator course where they throw various emergencies at you and I’m doing an intensive program with the Crew Academy to learn about being an Owner’s representative, and new build management.

Any achievements or special things stick out?

There are a few memorable ones, but one that stands out was definitely a start on the Swan 51 Star Chaser as bow, where we took a chance and started on port tack on the pin end (unusual, as it means that you need to duck any boats you’re on a collision course with that are starboard tack); we then crossed in front of the whole fleet and were in the lead! Exhilarating (Bonus was the regatta photographer got it all on camera from the air!)!

More recently, breaking some big ice on the expedition yacht, while keeping an eye out for polar bears!

On a personal level, I’m super proud of achieving my Master 3000gt, and getting positive feedback from the crew I work with.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love nights at sea when sailing, especially mid Atlantic…it’s truly special to be out there, no land for miles, the milky way, with dolphins tracing like torpedos, leaving phosphorescence trails.

After this Arctic season: getting to see the most amazing wildlife and ice formations, and the Northern Lights.

What advice would you give to any women looking to join yachting?

Don’t let anybody tell you there’s a job you cannot do.

Think about what you want out of a life at sea, and why, and then plan how to get there, and go for it! Find a mentor to help you talk through goals, decisions, or situations that you encounter, so you have support.

What’s the most memorable guest request you’ve had?

Getting some glacier ice for the guests’ whiskeys in 2011 in East Greenland.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Still in Mallorca? Still on yachts?

Yes, I love what I do and I’m not ready to end my seagoing days yet. As the Water Rat said to the Mole: "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”