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Cook Islander finds dream job on luxury yachts

Monday 13 May 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Go Local

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Cook Islander finds dream job on luxury yachts
Toshio “Tosh” Anguna Karika-Wilmott sails the globe on a superyacht. He is pictured with his dad Ian Karika at the Ve’eve’e Aroa farewell ceremony for Vaka Marumaru Atua. MELINA ETCHES/24050210

Inspired by his family’s maritime heritage, a Cook Islander, who works on a luxurious superyacht sailing the world, encourages others to pursue a similar career.

Seafaring is deeply ingrained in Cook Islanders’ culture, making them naturally drawn to becoming sailors.

There are many Cook Islanders sailing in the vast expanse of the world’s oceans aboard luxurious superyachts, exploring the globe.

One of them is Toshio Anguna Karika-Wilmott, better known as “Tosh”, who hopes to inspire the next generation of Cook Islanders to dream big and pursue their passions.

Ingrained in his seafaring aspirations is the influence of his family’s maritime heritage.

His father, Ian Karika Wilmott, is a vaka voyaging sailor with a deep connection to Polynesian navigation and cultural connection to the sea. He sailed on and helped build Vaka Te Au o Tonga in 1994, and continues to be involved with Marumaru Atua, carrying on these traditions.

Tosh’s paternal grandfather, Captain William Wilmott, had a career as a captain in the New Zealand merchant navy ships, bringing a legacy of professionalism and maritime expertise.

“I always wanted to travel on the sea,” says Tosh. “Our people have a longstanding seafaring tradition, it’s our heritage.”

Shortly after completing his final year at Tereora College, Tosh left Rarotonga to join the New Zealand Navy at 18.

After five years there, he took a break.

Through the connection of a cousin, Tosh got work on a luxurious superyacht, beginning his journey of sailing to exotic locations.

Eventually, he was offered a full-time position in the deck department, and for over 10 years he has sailed on the same yacht.

“I’m fortunate to have been with a good employer,” he says, “and blessed to be on a yacht that is well-organised.”

In earlier days, they sailed throughout the Pacific, including to the Cook Islands like Aitutaki.

They have also sailed from Australia to Europe through the Suez Canal, the Middle East, ending up in Malta.

Tosh has seen many places like Miami, Port Lauderdale, Ibiza, and Sydney, and in January this year, he was fortunate to meet the Maritime Cook Islands team in Monaco.

Tosh explains that in luxury cruising, they sail out on charters to the hot spots in the Mediterranean, and in the off-season, they go across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and sail around there.

“Unfortunately, we don’t come down here anymore.”

Onboard these luxury boats, there is state-of-the-art technology so there is ample time to avoid bad weather like cyclones and they avoid big swells and head for places of safety.

Some of the highlights Tosh says are experiencing the culture of exotic places, top sporting events like Formula 1 car races, and meeting high-profile actors and iconic people on board.

There are water sports activities on board, the best state-of-the-art boats, and jet skis.

“So, there’s a fun side, you’re taking guests wakeboarding, kiteboarding, diving, fishing, spearfishing which many of our people are natural at,” Tosh says.

“One of the downsides is that you are away for long periods from your family, the challenge for me is being away from my family.”

Depending on the season, sometimes sailors can be away at sea for up to two months.

“It’s definitely a job where you have to have an eye for detail, you have to keep the vessel immaculate and pristinely clean … it’s not cut out for some people,” shares Tosh.

“To get your foot in on working on these yachts you will need to complete the standard safety course which is not that expensive to do, and can be done in Auckland at Maritime College or Manukau Institute.

“It’s a standard safety course so that you can apply to become a crew member, it’s compulsory.”

Specific courses are available depending on where you want to focus your skills like the deck department, service, engineering, and chefs.

For young people who work in hospitality, Tosh believes they can use those skills to go and see the world.

“I encourage anyone wanting to get into working on a superyacht to do it, and I’m happy to offer some guidance

“There is an industry there to tap into – it’s a vaka to the world and you will meet a lot of cultures.”

A superyacht or megayacht is a large and luxurious pleasure vessel. They are professionally crewed motor or sailing yachts, ranging from 40 metres (130 ft) to more than 180 metres (590 ft) in length.

Superyachts are often available for charter with a staff that caters to guests at a high standard of comfort. Depending on the season, superyachts may be most frequently found in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean.