EYOS is lucky to work with some of the most accomplished and capable captains in the industry. This includes Andriy Bratash, one of the men at the helm of Hanse Explorer. Join us for a conversation with this intrepid captain about sailing a world class expedition yacht, charting exploratory courses in the polar regions, and sharing the world’s most remote destinations with guests.
Can you introduce yourself and explain in a few words your journey to captaining Hanse Explorer? How did you get your start on yachts and what drew you to the responsibility of being a captain?
My name is Andriy Bratash. I was born in Ukraine in a small port town near Odessa. Growing up on the coast of the Black Sea gave me a love for the sea and exploration. My father was also a captain on commercial vessels and taught me how to snorkel at the age of 7, which later evolved into diving when I was 12 years old, though dive equipment in the 90s Ukraine was old or absent. So, loving the ocean and hearing all the stories from my father about seeing the world, I applied to the Odessa National Maritime Academy.
I started my career on the container carriers, which was not exactly what I envisioned from this profession. In my last semester before final exams, I was offered to join the Hanse Explorer as a deckhand in 2009. I was not entirely sure what I was doing, I had never heard of someone working on the yacht but decided to try and see it for myself and joined the ship in Papeete in the middle of a busy dive charter. After 2 weeks of the very first expedition, it was an eye-opening moment – this is it. This is what I was dreaming about – the expedition world! After my first assignment on Hanse Explorer, I obtained my Officer license and rejoined as 3rd Officer. Over those years I was fortunate to work under the command of one of the most experienced captains from the expedition industry, Jens Kothen, Martin Graser, Bernd Buchner, and Uli Demel. I was amazed by the amount of knowledge, experience, and skill they had to share. I can say that I was mentored by the best! Then, in 2016 I had a chance to step up as Captain. Captain Jens was the one to promote me. Stepping up was not easy, but my desire and support from the crew gave me confidence. Once you are Captain you realize an amount of responsibility that is much different than the Chief Mate. On every expedition, I learn and experience something new.
What, in your opinion, makes for the ideal expedition yacht explorer? How does Hanse fit into this category for you and what sets her apart from other expedition yachts on the water today?
My definition of the expedition yacht is – a ship that can travel safely and be comfortable for the persons on board in all waters around the globe. I would start with safety – a ship must be designed in such a way that you have enough confidence to sail her through challenging conditions and rough seas. Comfort is also a huge factor – stabilizers are a must, preferably retractable in order to have ice class like we have on Hanse. Autonomy – to be able to stay away from ports comfortably for extended periods of time. And of course, be suitable for both warm and cold waters. Of course, just to lightly touch on this subject, I can talk for hours about expedition yacht design.
Hanse fits into this category – she was one of the first purpose-built expedition yachts, designed to travel from the Arctic to Antarctica and this is what we are doing today.
How many years have you been with Hanse and where have you taken her?
I joined for the first time in 2009 as a deckhand, and since 2016 I have served as one of the captains. Over the years we have traveled a lot. We did expedition trips in the Pacific Ocean Southern and Northern Line Islands, Fiji islands, French Polynesia, Antarctic Peninsula, Svalbard, Norway, South America and Central America, the Caribbean, Greenland, Northern Canada, and Newfoundland.
Hanse is well suited for expedition operations in both the tropics and the polar regions, so you have seen the entire spectrum of conditions and challenges at sea. What were some of your most challenging conditions? Have there been any particular expeditions that stand out among all the others?
For me personally, the most challenging body of water is the Drake Passage. I very closely follow the weather forecast days before crossing. Second on my list is French Polynesia and the lagoon passages at the Tuamotus with currents reaching up to 8 knots. You need to be extra careful and consult every source of information you have before attempting to enter the lagoons.
In what ways does your expertise affect the guest experience? How do you work with the EYOS team to decide things like landing sites and itineraries?
It is always a pleasure to work with the EYOS team on board. I truly believe that the EYOS team is the most experienced group of people in the world in their field of operations. During our expeditions, just the onboard team alone usually has over 30+ years of experience.
Our decisions are always based on the best interest of our guests. Usually, we brainstorm “privately” on the bridge to be ready for every question which may arise from the guests, and we “trial” all possible options. Then we present options to our guests with the considerations of the conditions and the location.
At the end of the trip, I am always amazed how well the trip was planned and how great it all works out. This is a great partnership and it’s a great pleasure to work with such professionals. From this collaboration, some of the best and most authentic experiences are created for our guests – the memories we create will last a lifetime for them. Roughly every 3rd client is booking another expedition with us. We have clients who did 3 and more trips with us!
You’ve already broken boundaries and pushed the limits more than most in yachting. What’s next? What expeditions are you looking forward to with EYOS and Hanse Explorer?
Yes, we’ve done so much in so many places! Some of my colleagues are amazed when I tell them about our itineraries and our past adventures. These are the moments when I realize how fortunate I am to be a part of what we are doing as a team. I am hoping to explore the West Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean – those are areas I have never been to before. And we are very much looking forward to our season in Melanesia next year!