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Hotseat - Max Laubser

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Young Sailor - Big Ambitions

Every year, the marinas in St. Maarten fill up with multimillion-dollar yachts, bringing rich customers to our shores and hardworking international crew with them – well, mostly international. Max Loubser is one of few St. Maarteners working on the luxurious boats and determined to be successful in the yacht industry. At 24 years old, he is only a few steps away from being able to call himself captain aboard a 500-ton vessel. But his successful career in yachts was put on hold for now when the opportunity to fulfil another dream arose. Through a good family friend, Max now is captain aboard the Corina IV, a 52-foot Beneteau sailing around the world with friends. They will be completing the circumnavigation in two years, crossing thousands of miles, seeing more than 60 countries and four continents. Growing up on boats, crossing the Atlantic 17 times, on his way to a captain's license, and now sailing around the world, Max Loubser is the definition of a seaman!

Where were you born? Tell me a little about where you grew up.

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa. But I didn't stay long. At just six months old, my parents decided to embark on their own world trip sailing to Namibia, Brazil, and eventually St. Maarten when I turned three. My sister was born in St. Maarten. We lived on a 29-foot boat until Hurricane Luis. Afterwards, my parents bought a 44-foot boat, giving me and my sister a bit more space. I must say that I still think St. Maarten was a great place to grow up!

Where did you go to school?

Gwen's Playschool in Cole Bay, Tamarind, Montessori and International School on Naked Boy Hill.

How was it growing up on a boat?

It was small, tight and there was no personal space, but it was very wholesome. I had a lot of issues with it when I was a kid, but now I respect what I learned. It made me a very active person and forced me to get connected with my surroundings. There was a time I would feel more at home on the ocean than on land. I learned so much about the ocean, besides sailing and living on a boat. I got my diving PADI at 11 years old; I can wakeboard, kite surf and surf. Basically, I feel as comfortable in the water as on land. This is also an asset working in the marine industry. I started working on boats at a very young age; for example, I crossed the Atlantic for the second time at 12, working for a delivery. I have now crossed that ocean 17 times. I'd say growing up on a boat had its hardships, but now I know the benefits outweighed them greatly!

What are your favourite childhood memories of St. Maarten?

One of my favourites was when about 20 other boat kids and I, ages six to 16, built a harbour. The break-wall was made out of conch-shells; there was a house with solar panels and VHF. The Daily Herald actually published an article about it in 1996!

Why did you decide to start working on mega-yachts?

Growing up on boats in St. Maarten, it made sense to use the advantages I had to gain a foothold into the industry the young age of 17. The more I got into the industry, the more I loved it and realized it would be a great choice for a career, which encompassed many of my interests and skills.

What is the hardest part of working in the marine industry?

The hardest part is the lack of having a personal life. You are always on the move and constantly on call. There is very little time to do things that you personally enjoy, but at the same time, you appreciate the time off to do your own things even more.

What is the best part of working in the marine industry?

The best part is actually, partly, why I dislike it; which is moving around. You see amazing places and do amazing things. It's great being part of a world that is normally open to only a select few people. For example, I drove a Maserati around Monaco, took Beyonce for a spin on a jet ski, hopped off the boat docked in Venice for a weekend out, and have been part of many world events, including our own St. Barths bucket, and dogged other yachts during the Fourth of July chaos on the Hudson River in New York.

What do you think about the marine industry on St. Maarten compared to all the places you have been?

On a personal level, it is obviously great to have one of the major stops in the yachting-circuit being home; most people don't get to see their family and friends as often as I do. St. Maarten is a very easy place to be on a boat because there is a lot of fun to be had; and at the same time, you have all the facilities to get the necessary work done on the vessel.

It sounds like you love travelling. Tell us something about your previous travels.

Besides travelling on the job, travelling for a year in South America was definitely a highlight, especially because I finished it with a couple of weeks in Antarctica. I started in Mexico, where I hitchhiked all the way down to the bottom, with a couple of sneaky bus rides in between. I dove on the atolls in Belize, drove through the mountains in Honduras, Machu Pichu and the Inca Trails, though touristy, were not any less stunning; the huge salt plains and deserts of Bolivia and Chile. Southern Chile and Argentina are full of mountains and lakes that blew my mind. But all of this beauty could not compare to Antarctica, which was completely untouched by civilization. It was just nature at its purest. It was just extremely beautiful. I loved the vast desolation. It was perfection.

Tell us about the world trip?

I would not have thought that when I was a kid, this would be a dream of mine; but it has been growing on me for the past years. I am very grateful to have such an amazing opportunity, to be in such a great situation with a beautiful boat and great people to experience this adventure with. I couldn't imagine a better way to do this trip besides owning a private helicopter or submarine.

After being on the road for eight months now, I am just as excited as I was in the beginning, if not more, due to the increased confidence that all our amazing times have brought. I am very excited for our second leg. The next six months are centred around Southeast Asia. This is by far one of the most favourite destinations of travellers we know or have met.

I am especially looking forward to sailing into Hanoi Bay in Vietnam, to see the unique geography, the exotic culture and taste the even more exotic food (and drink one of the world's cheapest beers).

You can follow our adventure on www.readysetsailnow.com or facebook.com/readysetsail

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

As captain of a mega yacht or expedition vessel heading towards either the North or South Pole. It is important to me to complete my dream professionally but, ideally, that would go hand in hand with having more adventures as well. In the future, I also definitely see myself owning land or property in St. Maarten; investing more time and money in the island as I still consider the island home. It would also be great to have found the time to develop a few product ideas I have for the marine industry.

If you could invite three people (dead or alive) for dinner; who would they be, what would be the one question you would ask, and what would you serve them to eat?

Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson and Kate Bekinsale. Question to all three: How many drinks will you need so we can skip dinner and get on with it?