Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

Power House Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

Power House Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

Caterina Oliviero from Acquera Yachting is the incredibly talented, extremely passionate and driven Commercial Director. Born in Venice, she has worked in all areas of the yachting agency business, from VIP concierge services to immigration and customs. Not only that but she is also a fully licensed ship agent and highly experienced in working with Captains to deliver over and above what yacht owners require. Caterina was kind enough to give us insight into her role at Acquera and what it’s like on the management side of the fence. Oh, and did we mention she is also multi-lingual, speaking Italian, English and Greek?!

Caterina, you have been working for 18 years in the yachting industry, could you tell us about your background and how you originally got into it?

When I first started, I didn’t even know what a yacht was, and it was at a time when a 30m was about as big as they got! At the time I was working in the shipping industry in my home port of Venice and simply thought to myself that it might be fun to try out the yachting industry for a season. I never looked back and I became a licenced ship agent in Venice for yachts.

What is your main goal at Acquera Yachting?

I’m Commercial Director but I’m still involved in the Venice operational side.  We know how difficult it is for Captains and crew during the season, and our main goal is to offer a seamless experience, and take away the stress so that they can concentrate on looking after the owners and guests. We have 23 offices in 11 countries across the Med, and it’s paramount that each country offers the same top level of service that our clients expect no matter where they are.

 What are the biggest difficulties faced by yachting agents today?

I think that Captains and Charter Brokers really underestimate the complexity of local formalities and berthing logistics surrounding the yachts. You have to think that every charter yacht is different, and if we aren’t on top of European tax laws and charter legislation, it could have disastrous results. It isn’t helped by the fact that it is extremely common for local authorities to have their own interpretation of EU law and given that we operate in multiple destinations and countries, this is a huge endeavour to ensure that we are 100% on top of things.

Between concierge, immigration and customs, logistics, provisioning etc, which is your favourite and why?

That is such an easy question! I absolutely love the concierge side of the business. I’m a complete perfectionist and I just love organising experiences and events, where it all comes down to attention to detail. Even if it is just a simple restaurant reservation, I always request the best table, or one that has a particular view that I think the guests will like, I like to see if they can do a specific menu based on the guests’ preferences etc. I think the secret to my success is that I’m really flexible, and always available and I strive to always go the extra mile for our clients.

 How do you think relationships between crew and agents can be improved?

Call me old-fashioned, but I am a great believer in forging personal relationships via phone calls and personal meetings. The majority of our work nowadays is done via WhatsApp, and we are in the throes of launching our digital platform AcqueraPro which will be a game changer in regards to how crew and agents work together. I always underline to our clients that they should see us as an extension of the crew, but onshore. Just like them, we are working 24/7 towards the common goal of a successful cruise.

What is the hottest destination this summer?

After a couple of challenging seasons post-Covid, I think that the Balearics have reclaimed their position as the hottest destination once again.

What has been the most challenging request you’ve ever received?

When I get this type of question, it always takes me a while to think, because I am so used to getting challenging requests, that it has become the norm for me! So, I would say private transportation by water limo for pets, opening up a restaurant when they had closed for holidays, buying live crickets for an iguana, as well as special events organised on board. Every day is a challenge, but that is what I love about my job.

What changes do you hope to see in the yachting industry?

I really hope to see our industry become more transparent, more sophisticated from a digital standpoint and more invested in sustainability and oceanic research. The world has moved so quickly in the last couple of years, and the next generation of yacht owners have very different values, and we need to ensure that we are up to speed.

And finally, what is next for you Caterina?

To be perfectly frank my only objective at the moment is to survive the season!!!! After that, a well-deserved break to clear my mind before preparing for the 2023 season with all our country offices. I think that being a yacht agent is vocational, you have to love what you do!

Caterina Oliviero Acquera Yachting

With her skills and experience, we can safely say that Caterina will not only survive but surely thrive during the season. We are so excited to see the development of AcqueraPro and hopefully have the privilege of working alongside such an amazing individual one day!

Captain Chris Durham

M/Y Savannah’s Captain Chris Durham

M/Y Savannah’s Captain Chris Durham

Amongst safety and modern leadership techniques being of high importance to Captain Durham, he is also passionate about developing and supporting a positive, blame-free culture on board.  He believes in the power of the individual and leads by example and through effective communication and motivation to inspire each member of the crew to draw upon their own innate ability to provide an unparalleled guest experience. We were curious as to how Captain Durham arrived at his current position and he was kind enough to enlighten us!

Chris, you’ve had a career in yachting for 14 years so far with some very prestigious yachts under your name, can you tell us a bit about how you got into yachting?

Good question! After Sixth Form College I decided to go travelling and embarked on what turned out to be a two-year trip to Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Whilst living on the North Island of New Zealand, I found myself a summer job at the local shipyard in Whangarei as a painter’s labourer and joined the team involved in their main project which was a full repaint of ‘Douce France’, a large sailing catamaran. As I started to get to know a few of the crew, I realised I was very much on the wrong side of the fence. The life of a deckhand and the lure of travelling the world seemed like it would be a lot more fun and adventurous than being stuck in a paint suit longboarding the mast and hull! After six months in New Zealand, I found myself in a non-paid deck position on a small sailing vessel for 4 months which enabled me to gain some miles at sea and build some experience. I then returned home for a short time to complete my STCW before heading off to Florida to find a job on a yacht.

What has been your favourite yacht to work on far?

Apart from my current vessel, it would have to be, the 67m Damen Sea Axe yacht support vessel. We had a fantastic team and a great working environment, and the exposure to a large array of operations and equipment including a Triton submarine, high-tech and rebreather dive set up and a commercial helicopter, not to mention the large tenders, proved to be an invaluable experience. It was a great fleet to be part of.

It seems that creating a blameless culture onboard is very important for you, how do you go about achieving that?

I have worked on many yachts where speaking up has been viewed as throwing someone under the bus. In that type of working environment, it is very hard to evolve or improve. I feel it is so important to learn every day and I find the simplest way to encourage this mindset onboard is to hold regular meetings and always hold a debrief after an operation or event. I do this by encouraging the HODs to sit down with their teams and ask a few simple questions, i.e. What worked well? What didn’t work well? What do we need to change or action to ensure we do not make the same mistakes next time? I believe it is important for every member of the crew to have a voice, and to feel confident about speaking up knowing they will be listened to. This is especially crucial where safety issues are concerned.

Was it always a goal of yours to become a Captain?

Quite early on in my career, I decided I wanted to become an Officer, but the idea of becoming a Captain didn’t come to mind until I had spent some time as Chief officer. On my first yacht, I was very lucky to work with a Chief Officer who guided and mentored me. He handed me a training record book in my first week! He really encouraged and helped me to set goals and targets, which paved the way for me to become an OOW.

What advice would you give someone following the same path?

My advice to someone starting out in the industry would be to acquire as many “superpowers” as possible! The more depth of knowledge and extra skills you arrive with, the more likely you are to choose a good program that puts time and money into training and developing the people they take on. I would advise someone a bit further on in their career to never be afraid to reach out for help. I have several mentors with whom I speak regularly and am also in contact with the client manager from our management company to whom I often reach out for assistance.

What is most important for you when looking for a job?

I think one of the most important considerations for me when looking for a position as a Captain is to find a rotational partner and program which align with my own values and philosophy. Another important factor for me is the itinerary. I find it hard to sit still and love to travel and keep moving.

What changes do you hope to see in the industry in the next 10 years?

I hope to see a professional industry that is more diverse and inclusive and places more importance on the well-being and mental health of the crew. I believe these changes will help to create happier and higher performing teams and crews, which in turn can only equate to an improved guest experience.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Having recently completed the TCA Command and Leadership course I would like to continue to develop my leadership and management skills and am considering going back to school to complete a Masters in this subject.

Captain Chris Durham

With so much ambition and progressive thinking wrapped up in Captain Durham, we can see great contributions coming from him for the future of the yachting industry.

Christie Curphey

Inside Management with Christie Curphey

Inside Management with Christie Curphey

We have been fortunate enough to spend some one-on-one time with Christie Curphey in the work environment (a rare occurrence in our virtual world! ) and she is absolutely lovely! Christie works as  Senior Yacht Management Administrator at Döhle Yachts, one of the industry’s most established yacht management companies. The relationship between management and crew is a very important one as everyone is working towards the goal of making the guest and owners’ experience as smooth as possible. Forming strong, openly communicative relationships are among the best ways to do this, as Christie reveals. We were so excited to get an insight into working with yachts from a management point of view!

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you became a Senior Yacht Management Administrator?

I was born, grew up and still live on the Isle of Man, which is a little island between England and Ireland that is only 33 miles long and 13 miles wide, but I am very well-travelled, and I have lots of plans to see more of the world now that we can travel more freely again! I started my career in yachting when I left school and it was by accident; I started at a corporate service provider which provided services to yacht owners. Over time, my role grew organically, and I gradually became more involved in the yacht management side. I was then given the opportunity to join Döhle Yachts and its Yacht Finance and Administration team… now here I am!

What are the key responsibilities of a Senior Yacht Management Administrator?

I am the lead contact for the day-to-day yacht management. I spend a lot of my day doing the following:

  • Charter management – i.e. dealing with fiscal representatives, obtaining VAT registrations, charter licences (both in and out of the EU) and negotiating charters between broker and owner to ensure they fit schedules, cruising areas and most importantly at the right fee
  • Ensuring the yacht is complying with the regulations of both flag state and the place in which they are cruising
  • Assisting with the import and export formalities
  • Liaising with Flag in relation to yacht registrations, changes in yacht registrations, and renewals of certificates on board
  • Managing bank accounts and credit cards
  • Insurance claims and renewals
  • Working with owner and crew on budgets
  • And everything in between!
Could you describe what a typical day looks like for you?

Every day is different, and I have no idea what could come my way at any time! Our team process all the payments for the yachts that we manage so that is one thing that I know is certain… payment authorisations!

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The ever-changing environment that we deal with around the world. COVID was a difficult time for the charter yachts and those on board at the time had many cancellations and postponements. We now have issues with the recent conflicts. This is on top of the changes in rules and regulations that are set by each jurisdiction. It is challenging to keep on top of it all.

What is your favourite part of your role?

I love meeting and building relationships with people, whether that be captain, crew, owner, or broker – I am very much a people person, so the fact I get to spend every day interacting with the most interesting people in the world is amazing!

What kind of vessel is your ‘ideal’ client?

One with a great captain and crew who communicate well with us, so that we can all work together as a team to provide the best possible service to our respective clients.

How important is communication within your role?

Communication is key and we have contact with the majority of the yachts we have under management on a daily basis. I also feel that communication with the family office is just as essential to good management. Yacht owners engage with us for our services to relieve the stress of what owning a yacht brings, so that the owner can enjoy the yacht without any headaches. In order to achieve this, we need to have a clear understanding of where the yacht is, where they are planning to go, who is on board, are they adequately insured, do they comply with flag state and class regulations etc. It really is crucial!

How much of your role involves working with onboard yacht crew?

We are about 50/50 onshore and onboard. Since we deal with a lot of the regulatory and fiscal side of the operations, we spend a lot of time liaising with professionals in these areas, as well as insurance, bank accounts and owner. The rest of the time we spend liaising with crew to ensure operations run smoothly.

Where can you see an area for improvement between the working relationship of onboard crew and yacht management?

It essentially comes down to having a good level of communication with those on board and we try to visit as often as we can to build a personal relationship so that crew feel they are able to raise issues with us. A lot of the time we are the ‘middle-men’ between the crew and the owner, so it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone is safe and happy on board.

What advice would you give experienced crew who are keen to move shoreside and to find work with a yacht management company?

There are so many avenues that you can go down with yacht management which would suit those looking to come onshore. There is finance and administration, technical, maritime compliance, ISM/ISPS, crew employment, and recruitment. You would find that your experience would be extremely beneficial, and your skills would be transferable. There are not many people or industries that service the kind of clients that we do.

I would also say that there are many success stories of those who have come ashore and started their own businesses. If you are particularly good at something and can monetise it, then go for it! Just like the girls at VP who are doing an excellent job.

Christie Curphey

Thanks Christie for your words of wisdom, compliments and insight into the day in the life of yacht management.

Captain

Captain Khalil Bethel

Captain Khalil Bethel

Khalil Bethel recently accomplished the achievement of a lifetime – he became a Captain. Hailing from the Bahamas, he is a calm and charismatic industry professional with more than eight years of diverse experience in yachting, private, and charter. He is a confident leader and motivator with extensive knowledge of yacht and project management, safety, and financial administration. Khalil gives us insight into his career, his home, and what he hopes for the future.

Khalil, you’ve recently completed your Captaincy, which was your lifelong dream congratulations! Tell us how it feels?

The weight of this type of leadership role is definitely not for the faint of heart, this type of job is both dangerous and/or dangerous if the appropriate amount of care isn’t delivered. And it’s something that goes both ways! You have to take care of yourself as a priority, it allows you to think clearly. Captains are constantly dealing with a myriad of moving parts – navigation, owner/management, weather, crew, budgets etc.

I am grateful for the opportunity to work for and alongside some great individuals.

Give us a brief career history – from where you started to where you are now.

2011 to 2014 I worked on an 80m that did the maximum amount of miles, heli-ops and beach missions as physically possible with a live-aboard owner. I’m very appreciative that I did that because everything after seemed easy! I was fortunate to work under a knowledgeable and tactful Captain along with navigating Officers.

2014 I took a break to recoup and stay around home a bit more. I freelanced as an officer and thought it would increase my experience but sometimes the more frequent the job changes the less likely you are to land that dream job in the future. I managed to figure out that three years is the minimum commitment that I like to give. Enough longevity to be respectful but also enough time to not get settled in too much of a routine. Experience in different places with the right frequency is more valuable to me than seeing someone holding a job for 10 years.

After that, I worked on a very extensively cruising 65m which frequented the Indian Ocean, Asia, and the med for just over three years. I thought it was time to get back to my origin, the Bahamas, and settle into a program that allowed me to be closer to family and friends. There is truly no place like home, especially when you’re from one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

What has been your main driving force in achieving this goal?

My main reason for choosing this path is because I love to learn and I think every captain has a different experience, both in the command position and climbing the ranks. Any day on the water beats any day in the office.

How different do you find the yachting industry now versus when you first started?

Yachting in the 2010s is different than now, in my humble opinion because the work ethic and reasoning behind things have changed. I respect everyone has hopes and dreams but you can’t do something for money or the fairytale factor, it fades away and it doesn’t make you feel fulfilled. I decided to get involved in yachting because it afforded me to travel, meet people in different places, truly experience living in places other than my home and expand on what is valuable out there that I can bring back home.

What do you hope to bring to the yachting industry?

I hope I can pass on a bit of my love for the Bahamas, not just as a tourist destination but as a home for many of us, and as one of the world’s favourite yachting destinations.

What is your favourite destination to sail to and why?

My favourite destination to cruise would be the Bahamas. Purely because it’s a challenge due to how shallow it is and also because it’s technical when you get down to requests from the owner/guests, cellular coverage, provisions, and weather routing!

What developments do you hope to see in the next years in yachting?

I hope to see more healthy decisions in yachting. Do what’s healthy for you (the best you can) – choose the best program, choose to NOT let peer pressure put you into situations you wouldn’t normally agree with, choose to stand up for yourself in the most polite way possible when things aren’t necessarily going your way. In summary, take the good with you and find support to get through whatever life and work bring to you.

Tell us what’s next on the cards for you?

I’m involved with a few community projects in my community and I’m also a dreamer. I hope to become a successful charter captain like those before me whom I learned volumes from. I am forever in their debt and I am forever appreciative.  Thanks to all that came before me – crew agents that took the time and gave me a chance, all the yachties that took the time to hang out, listen or lend a helping hand and especially all the captains that believed I was true to my goal of becoming a part of the gang!

Captain

Kahlil’s passion for yachting is palpable, and his enthusiasm infectious, We can’t wait for another catch-up to see the development and contributions to yachting he has made. Good luck Khalil!

Daria Biriuzova

Purser Daria Biriuzova

Purser Daria Biriuzova

Daria Biriuzova is a jack of all trades and a master at them too! With her hands in training future yacht crew as well as recruitment, being a mother and a full-time Purser on board, she’s a pro at juggling all of her very full plates! Get a sneak-peek into her journey and life as a yacht Purser.

Could you tell us a little about where you’re from, and how you started in yachting?

I grew up at the seaside, in a small town on the Azov coastline, which is an internal sea with passage to the Atlantic Ocean going through the Black, Marmara,  Aegean, and Mediterranean seas. I began my yachting career working on a 52-meter busy charter yacht. I initially joined as a junior stew, but I was promoted to second stew within a week due to my vast cruise ship and land-based experience in the hospitality industry.

What kind of vessels have you worked on? And what has been your favourite? (Size-wise and why?)

After two years on my first yacht, I knew I was ready to take the next step and became the Chief Stewardess on a busy private 41-meter yacht. Since then I have been Chief Stew on yachts ranging 41-65 meters. My favourite size of the yacht was 40+ because the crew become like family, sharing the same goals and producing unforgettable experiences for owners and charter guests.

What was your journey to becoming a Purser?

Since I had my son, I used to always take seasonal jobs, so I could spend time with him. I have since completed my Purser Course and landed my first job as a Purser directly after I finished. My goal was to get a rotational position where I can utilise my skills and grow professionally but balance that with family life.

What does your daily routine look like?

My daily routine is always hectic with plans changing every minute, as everyone in yachting are all too familiar with! However, the accomplishments of successfully completing any given task drove me through the difficult times of the Covid 19 pandemic.

What is your favourite part of the role?

My favourite part of being a purser is completing a successful crew change. It’s quite challenging nowadays to obtain all necessary permits, visas etc, while crew are waiting on standby to join the vessel; it’s great to see them happy to be back on board.

The Purser role is BUSY, how do you keep your well-being and health in check?

I was quite lucky on board, regardless of busy times I always found time to do yoga and workout sessions during sunrise and sunset, which helped a lot towards maintaining my well-being. It’s difficult but you have to make time for yourself and what you enjoy.

Do you find the time for personal and professional growth or is this something you would like to improve on?

I always find time to improve my skills and knowledge. In my free time, I run courses for entry-level stewardesses in Ukraine, and I am extremely proud to see them all getting in yachting and growing professionally afterward.

Traveling the world I’m sure has been amazing! What has been your favourite destination and why?

I can’t recall how many countries I have visited, but my best yachting experience was in Exumas, Bahamas. Our crew were lucky to spend about a month without guests to enjoy beautiful uninhabited islands.

If you could ensure one positive change for the industry, what would it be?

Yachting is challenging, though absolutely rewarding place to work. Crew should not take it for granted, they should always educate themselves either by self-learning or taking courses to improve their skills.

What’s next for you?

I have now completed two years being a Purser onboard a busy private yacht that was a part of a big fleet based in UAE. I have always had a passion for the South of France, so I have decided to take a small break before moving on land where I can enhance my career and be part of a well-established company within yachting.

Daria Biriuzova

With all of her experience and skills, we see nothing but success in this incredible woman’s future, all the best to you Daria!

Kelly Gordon

Captain Kelly Gordon – Determined To Make a Difference!

Captain Kelly Gordon – Determined To Make a Difference!

Captain Kelly Gordon has been featured in many yachting publications and most recently, and impressively, Business Insider. Hailing from a small farm in Indiana US, she navigated her way from Chemistry professor at a junior college to yacht Captain, which has become her true vocation. She is one of the most positive and inspiring figures in the yachting world, determined to influence positive changes simply by doing what she loves best and setting a true example.

Could you tell us a little about where you’re from, and how you started in yachting?

Ha! The way I grew up was the FURTHEST from anything yachting! I grew up in a little town right smack in Middle America on a small farm. The largest body of water that I knew was the little lake that we would go to during the summer months where my Grandma had a tiny cottage. I have always loved the water, been a swimmer, and loved our little 16′ fish and ski that we had growing up as kids, but that was THE extent of my boat knowledge!

I quit high school when I was 15 to run the farm (where I’m from kids are meant to at that age). I quickly realized and I was determined that I was going to need to make a living another way. I had always wanted to be a veterinarian, so I decided to go to college and obtain my BS in Chemistry in order to apply to vet school. I acquired some welding credits along the way and a little before my chemistry studies, so I utilized that skill to make some extra money during my studies. I also working at the local veterinary clinic to improve my chances of getting into vet school. The first time I applied, I got accepted, that’s quite the feat!

But, young and scared of moving away from home and all that was familiar, and a fear of failure, I chose to quit on my dream. Well, it made perfect sense in my 22-year-old brain to move far away (I thought I could get away from my own disappointment). Little did I know, you are always with yourself wherever you go! So, away I went, to North Carolina! I got my MS in Chemistry and found the ocean and really big boats! Little did I know, those were yachts and this is where it all began!  Specifically, I was invited to a party on board, I was intrigued, and remarked that I could drive this thing, I didn’t even know bow from the stern!

Were you always determined to become a captain?

My journey to captain was not your typical one, by far! Again, I knew nothing about boats, but I was lucky. I was lucky to have found a mentor that recognized my drive, thirst for knowledge, grit, and determination.  And, as I say I was lucky, I sit here and ask myself if it was all luck or it was preparation. I could go on and on about this, but truly, it is preparation. It is being prepared to jump on the opportunity as it arises and, it’s having your eyes wide open as to not miss an opportunity. So, this fella, whom I call my mentor, saw that I was determined, while I saw the opportunity. He took me under his wing and insisted that I spent time in every department of the vessel-the exterior, the interior, the engine room, and obviously the wheelhouse. I did shy away from the galley though and that probably for the best. It was during this time that I was spending in as many areas of the vessel, that my focus never wavered from becoming a captain. And, I did!! And, here I am! The absolute happiest I have ever been!

Who inspires you and why?

This was a tough question, but then again it wasn’t.  Deep within my core, ingrained inspiration comes from my mom.  She has instilled in us kids since we were little bitty that we can do or be anything that we want.  Growing up with that, knowing that, and truly believing that is such an inspiration in itself.  But, now, from day to day, it’s my colleagues and crew members that inspire me.  You might think that it’s the captains that are running huge crews and Megayachts, but not always.  Yes, they are huge inspirations.  They set examples of how I want to grow as a captain and human being for me, but sometimes it’s my mate, my chef, my deck/stew, or my manager that inspires me.

Sometimes, it’s the young people that are looking to me for guidance and help wading through their life and career that inspires me.  Sometimes, they have the simplest, yet best understanding.  Their experience and lack of experience, wisdom, and lack of wisdom inspire me.  Sometimes, it’s my manager getting a little testy when he hears someone else might want to hire me that inspires me or when he sits in a meeting with me when I am exhausted and asks me if I’m ok, that inspires me.  They inspire me to keep growing, to keep chasing my dreams, to keep helping others, and to keep working to be the best damn captain, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, and human being that I possibly can be.

What motivates you?

I’d have to say myself! I can’t hide this! I am a bit of a perfectionist and competitive. But, I have worked to get this to a healthy level, too!  Results also motivate me, tangibles, data, motivate me. Remember, I was a chemist before I was a captain, so if I can attach a result or interpretation of some sort of data to it, it motivates me. Those are the extrinsic motivators though. Perhaps, more important are the intrinsic motivators. This would be growth and growth on many levels-personal, career, emotional, intellectual, etc. And, can I say that I am happy with my performance of the day, the week, the month, etc. If I can, that keeps me going. That motivates me. And, my crew are probably my biggest motivators. They look to me for guidance and to help them grow. That is a HUGE motivator.

As a female captain, have there been any significant barriers in your career?

There definitely has! It’s the obvious elephant in the room –  the fact that I am a woman.  But, I think this is only as much of a barrier as you allow it to be. Actually, this could tie back to the last question as it’s actually a motivator for me. When someone doubts me it just adds fuel to my fire. It gives me the spark that I need to succeed, to keep pushing, and it makes me determined to prove to them I can. I was such a tough little girl and this mindset hasn’t left…my mom might describe it in other ways! Haha. But, really, it’s all in how you perceive your barriers and react to them. For me, they just helped me become all that much more determined!

How do you advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion on board?

Well, I speak out and I speak out to whoever will listen, but I think it’s important to do so in a way that’s tasteful and not off-putting. Heck, the boat I am running now screams diversity!  It is a minority (African American) owned and managed, female ran (me), has a female deckhand that also doubles as a stew, and has interviewed a male steward just last week!  So, I think we advocate for diversity and inclusion by actually doing it! When it comes to equity, we are all equal on board my vessel and I love to share that approach with my colleagues.  I have always told my crew that I never want to hear, “that’s not my job.” We are a team!  My mate does the dishes at night for the girls after dinner service. I buss the tables when they are behind and put the toys away when I need to.  We all share in each other’s responsibilities. That’s how I advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion-we actually do it!

I’m sure there have been many career highlights! Could you tell us one that stands out?

This just might be the toughest question that you have asked me!  I can’t say that there is ONE particular highlight that stands out to me because I find myself having several, small highlights along the way. Actually, they’re big highlights to me and they range from navigational challenges to hearing that I have made an impact in someone else’s life. When I was a baby captain, it was my top to bottom East coast transit. Then it was my crossing and entrance into Cuba when that was allowed, then it was learning to successfully navigate The Bahamas.  After that, it was navigating the river system from top to bottom from Stuart, FL to Milwaukee, WI, a 2000 mile journey in some of the toughest rivers. But, I’d have to say the biggest highlights are when I get messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram saying that I have helped them pursue a goal that they have given up on or that I have inspired them to chase their dreams.

The one that is most recent and keeps creeping back into my mind is when I received a message from a young man on LinkedIn that had listened to one of my interviews.  He said, “You actually made me feel like I have been working with you just through listening to the video as I could understand and relate to you. You are amazing, incredible, and unique, but most importantly you are unaware that you are a true inspiration and in my book, a legend. Keep being the amazing, legendary woman and captain that you are.”  THAT!  That speaks volumes to me. I debated even sharing that comment with you, but that is huge. Moments like this, when I have made a difference in someone’s life, that is a career highlight! But, maybe the biggest highlight of my career is that I am actually doing it, I can actually say that I am a superyacht captain!

How important is personal and professional growth to you?

OMG!!!!!  I am so glad you asked and have been waiting on this question from someone!  Can we dedicate an entire article to this PLEASE!!!!!! I think you can tell just two sentences in that I am HUGE on this!  So, I have a list taped to my wall and the foot of my bed that lists the courses that I need to take in order to advance my license. It is the first thing that I see every morning when I wake up. I put it there intentionally. And, if it’s not a course that I am taking, I read the manuals on the boat when I can. I’ve got to give huge kudos to one of the most brilliant engineers that I know for insisting that I read my manuals, Kevin Dettloff.

Personal growth-that never stops and that is probably more important than professional growth. I am the absolute happiest I have ever been in life and it has taken me 40 years to get here and a load of work and dedication. It is constant work, but it is work that I really enjoy.  Yes, sometimes I encounter challenges and setbacks and they are frustrating/depressing/discouraging, but I have learned to adopt a mindset that allows me to look forward to the growth that will come after I work through that particular challenge. The conversations that we have with ourselves and the way that we treat ourselves are probably more important than any other.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female captains?

Just do it! Don’t let fear get in your way. Ask for help. Don’t hesitate in reaching out to those, man or woman, who have become successful in the industry. Ask lots of questions. Spend as much time on different boats as you can. Take every opportunity that you can and even if it doesn’t turn out as you had hoped you are certain to learn something valuable from it. Find a mentor – you will need it on the days that you feel like you have been kicked in the gut, trust me, it will happen and you will need that outside support. Support the other women in the industry because there are only a few of us at this point.  And, trust your skills, know what you know. I dealt with imposter syndrome for a while and I had to have a TON of conversations with myself to overcome that. Don’t doubt your choices and abilities. Lastly, never stop learning!

Kelly Gordon

Captain Kelly’s enthusiasm and determination are palpable, it’s no wonder she is so influential in the yachting space. She is a testament to the fact that if you follow your passion, all your dreams can come true! A true inspiration, thanks Kelly!

Diversity queen

Jenny Matthews – Diversity Queen!

Jenny Matthews – Diversity Queen!

Jenny Matthews. Need we say more?! She is at the forefront of creating diversity and inclusion within the yachting industry and not that this needs to be said but of course, the founder of She of the Sea. Which “holds the clear vision of a high performance, competency focused yachting industry, regardless of gender, race or any other factors.” Featured in Business Insider, The Guardian, Mega Yacht News and more, she has certainly been making waves (sorry I had to!) in the industry. Although she claims she hasn’t exactly had an incredible career but rather a unique one, we beg to differ! Read more about Jenny’s journey, where she is now and where she’s headed. 

Can you tell our VP tribe a little about your background that led you into yachting?

Being from NZ, I think a lot of kiwis grow up with a bit of salt in their veins and an affinity for the ocean. That is certainly the case for me and although I was never much of a sailor. I spent a huge chunk of my teens out on the water at the crack of dawn with the rowing team. Looking back, I feel it was this foundation in a highly competitive sport that led me to yachting. I’ve always been obsessed with creating an environment where a team of people can reach their highest potential, with a particular interest in the human side of it, what makes a team tick etc. As I went straight from college to yachting (stopping off on Lord Howe Island to get my Dive Master), I can really only attribute being led to yachting to that courage you have as a teenager to just jump into something that excites you and work out the details as you go!

You’ve had an incredible career; can you tell us about it and how you got to where you are today?

This is a great question and a bit challenging to be honest as I don’t really feel like I’ve had an incredible career. Unique perhaps, but it doesn’t feel any more so than anyone else! I think the challenges that have popped up have really shaped it so far, for example knowing I wanted to work in the deck department and being shuffled into the interior because ‘women don’t work on deck’ (2008). I’ve found a lot of inspiration from people of all genders along the way, though I will tip my hat to those that have faced adversity due to not fitting the ‘yachting norm’ and have paved the way for those following them up the ladder. I’ve been really fortunate to have amazingly supportive people along my journey, and equally so there have been periods with very little support which have in turn built an element of resilience and self-reliance that I am proud of and serves me well.

I feel like one of the main words to describe my career so far is eclectic. I’ve worked on both motor and sail, with such a diverse range of characters and since I’ve been sticking to temp work this past year. I’ve found so much value in seeing lots of different leadership styles, procedures, drills, training, operations etc. I can’t recommend it enough to people looking to expand their horizons and pick out the bits that resonate the most with them!

She of the Sea and LEGASEA are really extensions of Tash (my partner and co-pilot) and I’s a passion for the industry and our desire to see it be as fulfilling, professional and incredible as it is at its best. These days it feels a bit surreal to be sharing my time between being onboard, which I love, and working on programs that are making yachting a better place. 

She of the Sea is such an exciting movement, how did this come about?

She of the Sea was really born out of curiosity and in some way I really just wanted some female friends that had similar shared stories for us to connect about and learn from each other! At the time, I had just achieved the Chief Mate 3000GT and although I had amazing male peers, I was really missing that female side. I wanted to reach out and connect, and it turns out I wasn’t the only one! I asked a question on Facebook, something along the lines of ‘ is anyone else out there?’ And it blew up. From there I googled how to build a website and the rest is history!

I really think it was the right platform at the right time and has now evolved so much further than the community and is moving in real action to support and amplify women in male-dominated spaces at sea. We have such an amazing community now that is growing by the day, and I have to say, getting to know the generation of women coming up the ranks is SO inspiring, it’s what really drives us and we get a kick at each milestone they reach! We have been really amazed at the support for the conversation from all genders, from both ashore and at sea, and although it’s obvious that you’re never going to resonate with everyone, we have seen a HUGE increase in engagement from across the board.

LEGASEA is the natural evolution of She of the Sea, and while SOTS will continue to do what it does best (supporting and connecting women in the deck and engineering departments), LEGASEA is speaking to Yachting’s overall social impact. Its programs will dive into diversity, equity and inclusion, community outreach, a circular knowledge economy and further understanding who we are as an industry and the challenges we collectively face.

We would love to hear what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why they’re important?

Great question! Diversity is the mix of individuals, identities, talents, experiences and perspectives. Demographics range from factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, orientation to the socio-economical background, education, political beliefs and religion. Diversity of thought, the background is also a big part! Without inclusion, diversity is unfulfilled potential. Inclusion is how people feel and are treated within a group.

Inclusion is when people feel valued, heard, safe, able to fail while they innovate, feel they have the opportunity and a sense of belonging and will be evaluated based on their merits. It’s about equal opportunity, resources and support. For example, there’s no point pulling up an extra chair to the table if no one listens to what that person has to say, or they are intimidated into silence.

Equity is recognising that currently, different demographics face different challenges and some more than others. That doesn’t mean that those who don’t face these challenges are any less worthy, or their achievements mean less, it’s just acknowledging that they have not faced challenges that others have. Equity is recognising these unique barriers, removing them and ensuring that all our people have the appropriate support and opportunity to progress and engage.

So that’s a little “corporatey”, but in a nutshell, for me diversity, equity and inclusion are recognising that it’s our differences that make us stronger, better at our jobs and more open to new ideas. It’s really recognising that as a team, we are going to perform in a totally different way when everyone feels accepted and safe to show up as their full selves, to question, to support, to share ideas.

When I’m putting together a deck team, I make sure I’ve got a great mix, both mentally, physically and emotionally, someone tall, someone who’s super detail orientated, someone with some brawn, someone who’s had experiences totally different to myself etc. I want as many different skills, outlooks and mindsets as possible to build out a really strong, all-round team. If we all have the same strengths, we aren’t going to be able to perform anywhere near as good as a team with a good mix where everyone contributes. An analogy I use sometimes is that if you try to fix an engine with 10 of the same spanners, you’re not going to get very far.

In your opinion, what are the challenging aspects of creating a diverse working environment in the yachting industry? 

Wow.. where to start! Ha! To say there are many is an understatement but honestly, from what we have seen over the last 3 years it’s clear that as an industry, we have enough brilliant, passionate and committed individuals to know that we will get there.

There are big challenges around the basics like education on the topics, including sustainability as our industry seems to be stuck on this only being about the environment (Sustainability is in fact made up of three key areas, social, environmental and governance). Awareness and visibility are closely linked to this as well and although we are seeing this being talked about more- again, we have a long way to go!

Unconscious bias plays a big part in perpetuating the status quo and while we all have it, the deeply engrained social norms of our industry will require a lot of consistent work to unpick.

A lack of industry policy and standard practices is a big challenge. This is a big topic and when we tackle this one we will see a big jump forward in terms of professionalisation in general.

Visual and verbal representation needs a lot of work, who does our media present as an’ expert’, who gets the mic, who do we see in our photoshoots, websites and webinars.

A lack of data and real quantitative and qualitative feedback from all industry stakeholders makes identifying the REAL challenges faced tough. It’s one thing to take action on what you think might be the problem but without these insights, it’s really hard to know if your solving the problem you need to be solving.

Community outreach is MASSIVE. Right now, you only know about the industry if you know someone in it, follow someone on social media or have watched Below Deck. That means that we have some major work to do on how we connect with the next generation of talent.

A lack of accountability for discriminatory behaviour is true for a lot of area’s that need to evolve for this industry to professionalise.

I could go on and on ( and do most days) but these are a few of the big challenges currently being faced and addressed. All of our LEGASEA and She of the Sea outputs are designed to move us forward and past these barriers which you can check out here https://www.legasea.org.uk

What is your approach to understanding the perspectives of colleagues from diverse backgrounds?

Connect authentically. That means different things for different people but I always find the more I listen and am able to learn about people as WHOLE people, and not just ‘ the stew’ or ‘the captain’, the more I am able to connect and facilitate what inclusion, belonging and support means for that person, at that time. We are all complex and unique so there’s no tick box to this, but bringing in a framework of expectation and awareness that not everyone has to agree with every single thing is important. It’s also not our job to change people’s minds or cultures to fit our narrative, so acceptance is a big part.

What suggestions would you have in handling a situation where a colleague was being culturally insensitive, sexist, racist, or homophobic?

My advice for the crew in general should they not feel to be in a position of power to personally deal with the situation is to keep a log of everything, speak to your HOD or trusted colleague and if need be, follow the onboard complaints procedure. I do acknowledge though that quite often it’s potentially a HOD, or some other person in a position of power that may be the issue so this is not as easy or as straightforward as it sounds. As each scenario is so different, it’s hard to give a simple answer to this but from a personal point of view. Being clear on your boundaries is an amazing and powerful attribute, and if you find yourself in a space where they are being crossed, and don’t feel the leadership onboard is strong enough to deal with it, then my recommendation would be to leave. Again, not always as straight forward but I’m a big believer that no boat is worth impacting your mental, physical or emotional wellbeing and for every bigot out there, there is a professional, educated and open crew looking for good people.

What changes do you want to see in the yachting industry?

I would love to see the industry professionalised. It feels like it’s time, doesn’t it? It feels like as an industry ( and to be honest, as a landscape, it’s only really roughly 30ish years old) we are in our awkward teenage years. Growing quickly, becoming more visible, but haven’t really caught up with ourselves in terms of industry practice, standardising performance, all-around professionalism and at least matching global standards in some pretty important areas. The ‘Wild West’ days are disappearing into the rearview and I’m excited for what yachting’s next phase is going to look like.

What have you loved most since you started this journey?

The people. The boats are pretty cool but to be honest for me it’s all about the people.

What’s next for SOTS?

All our latest programs are here www.legasea.org.uk ! Super exciting stuff like Mentoring, the Speaker Bank, V2 of the Pledge, the Impact Academy… it’s a lot!

Diversity

Paula Imrie

Paula Imrie – Chief Stewardess Extraordinaire!

Paula Imrie – Chief Stewardess Extraordinaire!

Paula Imrie is a fiery Scottish lass that has mastered the art of running the interior. Captured by the allure of yachting through tales of the high life on board, she jumped at the chance to get involved. Through word of mouth, she was able to get her foot in the door and the rest is history! Her unbridled enthusiasm is motivation in itself and, when she puts her mind to it, there is nothing that this Chief Stewardess can’t accomplish!

You’ve had a fun and interesting career climbing the ranks from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess across the globe! Can you tell us about where you’re from and a little about your background before yachting?

I am from a little town just outside Edinburgh in Scotland called North Berwick, it’s a stunning seaside town if anyone is interested in a Scottish adventure. I was always a worker from a young age and I have worked in nearly every space on my local street from Boots & Tesco, to Nanny & Bartender, the list goes on! My first job was as a housekeeper in a local hotel in my hometown. Throughout my working life, I always had supportive managers and bosses but none more so than my last full-time position in a clothes boutique.

My last boss, Megs, was an avid traveller as an ex-flight attendant with her children both in yachting. They always came home for Christmas telling me about these insane parties and restless nights working on these massive shiny superyachts. Megs guided me to her daughter Fiona who was a Chief Stewardess at the time and took me under her wing for my first stint as a day worker. Then Sarah Plant at ReCrewt placed me in my first junior stewardess position onboard a lovely 56 m Benetti Called Galaxy and I haven’t looked back! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be where I am today.

How did your career begin and what was your path from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess? Have you had to complete any training?

I worked onboard Galaxy for a little over 3 years under three Chief Stewardesses, all with different skill sets. We were all a very tight crew and are all still in touch to this day. I’ve been to weddings, met babies and catch up regularly with my first crew. It was a really special time for me and I put that down to our Captain and First Officer who didn’t change the entire time I was on board. You guys know who you are! I then did a bit of travelling (spending my tips!). After that, I moved onto Slipstream as a Second under a Chief who had been on board for 7 years! BIG shoes! She was an absolutely fantastic Chief, I loved working with her and I can’t thank her enough for the opportunity to move into her role when she decided to leave. It was extremely challenging, Slipstream is a busy charter yacht and always on tight turnarounds. I was lucky to have a great, experienced team with me as well as fantastic Chefs. After that I decided to just temp for a little while on Cloudbreak, this is where I met the lovely Bec McKeever! I made some real friends for life on this boat which was a fantastic opportunity. We travelled around Norway, Greece, Turkey and Germany. I was employed as a Second Stew and absolutely loved it! Lucky my Chief at the time was super experienced and lovely we got on like two peas in a pod (shout out to the other P!) and we worked together really well. After the contract ended I was asked back but they only had a stew position. I said ABSOLUTELY! It was great, I loved it. I learned a lot from stepping up and down. You are never too good for any position, you always need to respect the position above and below you even if you have more experience, that is the job you accepted. Other than that it’s the usual STCW courses as well as Food Hygiene and my WSET Level 2 wine course which I completed for fun in sunny Edinburgh.

Throughout your career from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess, what challenges have you faced?

​For me, finding the right crew is always the biggest challenge. It’s challenging for all departments including the Captain and management to recruiting those that are passionate about the yacht they work on. Over my time on boats, I would say for any manager or Captain recruitment is the hardest possible thing to do on or off yachts. There was also one occasion where one of my girls dropped the whole oil and balsamic vinegar table set on a brand new white silk carpet one hour before the owners were stepping on. It was a Sunday, it was late and we were in Barbados… that was a bad day. Provisioning would also be a big one especially during COVID, my yacht was in Florida when the pandemic hit, trying to get any food on board was a nightmare. I sent two girls to Wholefoods and the shelves were nearly empty, my Second at the time said she had to hide a roast chicken up her t-shirt as things had turned feral in the supermarket.

Who do you turn to if you’re having a bad day and how do you handle that when being onboard?

As a Chief Stewardess, I lean on my second stewardess we work as a team and a problem shared is a problem halved. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic Second Stewardess on my current vessel who I completely trust with everything onboard. I also rely on my partner who I currently work with. He’s a laid back kiwi engineer so it’s safe to say I get great advice from him. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems, especially when I tell him something and he’s standing in a sweaty engine room covered in oil. When you start to spread your frustrations out on everyone who will listen, that’s when things generally go south. Chinese whispers happen and it’s made into something it’s not.

You’ve gaining leadership skills and sound knowledge over the years, all the way from Stewardess to Chief Stewardess. How would you describe your leadership style and what an ideal team environment looks like to you?

​I would definitely have to say work smarter not harder. If my team don’t know what they are doing, I learned that it’s not their fault but mine for not guiding them correctly. Before I started yachting, I was very hard on myself and it’s something that still happens to this day. For me, someone running around not taking breaks and looking super stressed doesn’t say “I’ve got this”. We all work as a team on board, I couldn’t do it without them and they couldn’t do it without me, and I like a tabletop decision, ultimately it’s up to me but I like to know what the team think. You have to weigh everything up, sometimes you have to work harder but rest is just as important. Everyone works better with that little bit of extra time/sleep/reading time or just time to chat with friends and family. I like to think I’m pretty laid back but I definitely have a fire in my heart if things are not done correctly or the way I ask, what can I say I am a Chief Stew!

You’ve been incredibly lucky to travel to some amazing destinations, where has been a highlight, and why?

My highlight was the BVI’s before the hurricane hit. We were all out and met these sailors in the “Bitter End Bar”, who invited us on a catamaran midnight cruise with them. We arrived at 11:30 in our summer dresses. We were greeted with 10 Hobie Catamarans. It’s safe to say they gave us some appropriate attire to wear as we were actually sailing around the islands. None of us has one single photo to prove it ever happened but it did and was one of the fondest memories from my time on boats! P Diddy also inviting my crew out to the Billionaires club in Monaco to hear him perform, meeting Leo… And Rhianna, oh and Lewis Hamilton… Ok, I’m done. Oh and Paris Hilton… Ok, now I really can’t say anymore!

As someone who has been in the industry for a really long time, if you could give a younger (less wise!) version of you some sound advice, what would it be?

​Listen to your senior crew, there is nothing more annoying than “on my last yacht”, I can’t stand it. Save more money, I have had an awesome experience in yachting but now being a homeowner and the “real world” starting to happen for me. I should have probably spent less money on Jager bombs and designer items. It’s safe to say I have calmed down in the past couple of years, anyone who knows me knows I was a very social yachtie in my day. I think as long as you can do your job well at the end of the day, then enjoy it! Yachting is a great experience and should be enjoyed! Work hard play hard, right?! I would also say, never give someone a job you haven’t done yourself, and appreciate all the different positions on board. Oh, and no dream is too big!

From Stewardess to Chief Stewardess, what are your thoughts about having a mentor?

I have always had a mentor in yachting, the first was my friend Fiona who brought me into the industry in 2012, then it was Captain Luke on my first yacht. The way he handled all the crew both on and off-board is simply incredible and he’s a credit to any yacht as a Captain. Even after all this time we still chat every now and then. He really did shape me to be the Chief Stewardess I am today. I always try and think “what would Luke do in this situation”.

Any hot tips for staying organised and on top of everything?

For me, when I am at work, I always get up early and have my plan for the day, then I go have a coffee to just be with the crew in the morning. I always like to be organised in my morning meetings and always have a plan the day before. I try to plan out a week at a time. I don’t usually do too much more than that as our yacht changes plans all the time so I just go with the flow on our worklists.

What’s next for you? Are you a yachtie for life or do you have plans for the future?

That’s a great question! I have definitely calmed down in the past couple of years and for me, it does have a ticking time frame now for my time on boats. I flick between so many ideas in my head of what’s next, and I still really don’t know. For me, I would love to start a family in the next couple of years with my partner (surprise Dave!) and get a dog! Where that will be, we really don’t know. Like a lot of couples in yachting, we are both from different countries and it’s hard to choose a place to stop and start all of that especially with the pandemic and the situation with New Zealand. I flick between closing the door for good on yachts to thinking I could possibly be a crew agent. I need to wait and see. It’s safe to say it’s been one hell of a ride for me on yachts and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to work with all the people I did. My 10 years have gone by pretty quickly so make the absolute most of it guys!

Paula Imrie

With an impressive career behind her and an abundance of enthusiasm, we can’t wait for Paula to conquer the next phase of her working life. We have a feeling that whatever she decides, it’ll be an awesome adventure! All the best Paula.

Jess Ayling’s Career in Yachting

Jess Ayling’s Career in Yachting

Jess Ayling is no ordinary Purser. This young lady started out as a deckhand and impressively worked her way up the ladder, gaining her OOW in the process. Her passion for her job is palpable, injecting an aspect of care into the industry that is oftentimes absent. She opens up about her career in yachting and how her journey took her from deckhand to Purser.

Did you always want to get into yachting?

Originally I considered yachting a kind of ‘stop gap’ before I went to university. I genuinely thought I would be in the industry for a couple of years. I had no idea the journey I was about to undertake. Thirteen years later I’m still here and I have no regrets.

What made you choose the deck route vs. interior when starting your yachting career?

There was no question that I would go the deckhand route when I first got into yachting. Growing up sailing, diving and driving boats,  it was a complete no brainier. Back in 2008, it was still quite uncommon to have female deckies. The yacht agents tried to convince me I should go for deck/stew roles. The best piece of advice I was given was to stick to my guns and tell them I only wanted to be considered for a full deck role. After being told I would struggle, I proved them wrong by having seven solid job offers after 2 days in Antibes, I joined my first yacht a couple of weeks later in Mexico.

What was it like working your way up on deck?

It was so much fun, I loved the comradery that comes with being on deck. I learnt to be tough and take a lot of jokes, however, at the same time I have only ever felt truly respected by the men I have worked with. Unfortunately, I know this is not always the case, and misogyny is still very prevalent in Yachting. As a female, I felt things get slightly more difficult when I wanted to start climbing the ladder and asking for more responsibility. There is a huge appeal of having a female deckhand. However, they become more sceptical when it comes to a female in a leadership role over a team of men. You certainly have to work twice as hard, study and get all your tickets before you are taken seriously.

Tell us what made you transition from a Second Officer to a Purser Role?

I was in a time of my life where I was unsure what direction I wanted to take in yachting, I loved being Second Officer however I knew I did not want to become a Captain. I had been playing with the idea of being a Purser as there are many transferable skills. I Spoke to one of the lovely ladies at Wilson Halligan for some advice, and they gave me the courage to go for it and put my CV out there.

Who has been a mentor/support for you in your yachting career?

My current Rotational Captains have been an invaluable part of my career growth as Purser and I have a great working relationship with them both, they are so encouraging. Throughout my entire career my sister, Nicki Ayling, who was also in the yachting industry for many years has always been someone I’ve looked up to as a strong female dominating in a male field.

What challenges do you face working as a Purser?

The past couple of years of ‘COVID madness’ has been extremely challenging as a Purser, I feel like I have learnt so much in a short space of time. I have learnt to prioritise and handle anything that is thrown in my direction and I simply do not sweat the small stuff anymore. Another huge thing I have to consistently work on is handling my emotions in a high-pressure role. I really care about my job, and the crew, but sometimes you have to try and detach as you can get overburdened by others’ expectations of you. When you are under pressure it’s easy to feel like this.

The only other huge challenge I face is coming down for lunch without being bombarded with questions about crew flights… but I guess that comes with the territory.

How do you feel about the future of the industry?

I am hoping to see some positive sustainable changes as we become more aware of the impact our actions have on the planet. COVID has made people evaluate what is really important.

What has been your favourite thing about yachting throughout your yachting career?

There are too many highlights for me and I have been to some unbelievable places and had unforgettable experiences. My absolute favourite thing is the people I’ve met and knowing that I now have friends all around the world to visit (when we can all travel again).

What is next in the pipeline for you?

Yachting has been my life since I was a green deckhand at the tender age of eighteen. I am currently lucky to be employed on a fantastic vessel so I’m really happy where I am right now. If and when things change I would still love to work around the industry somehow although I am not sure in which capacity.

What advice would you give young ladies looking to start their yachting career with regards to which path to take?

I would say I am a testament to the fact that if you are not sure which direction to go, you can always change your mind later on. A career in yachting is incredible and if you work hard you will reap the rewards, so go for it!

It’s clear that we can expect great things from Jess. As for her career in yachting, I doubt we’ll see the last of it for some time to come. Thanks for making the industry a better place Jess!

Luke Humphries

Captain Luke Humphries – On board Superyachts

Captain Luke Humphries – On board Superyachts

Luke is an  Australian Master Mariner with 25 years in the game (time flies when you’re having fun!). He began in 1995 as a Deck Officer cadet in the Australian Merchant Navy spending 8 years on a variety of vessels from Tankers and Container Ships to Ferries and Bulk Carriers. This lead to time in the Oil and Gas Industry which he also continued during periods of relief work in the early days of his yachting career. For the past 17 years, he has worked in the Yachting Industry on reputable Charter and Private yachts cruising extensively worldwide. Today Luke enlightens us about his experience and journey on board Superyachts.

Your career has been long and exciting, can you tell us a little about your background and where you’re from?

I’m Australian and grew up in Tasmania spending much of my youth in a little fishing town called St Helens on the East Coast. At school, I was a jack of all trades, master of none and had no idea what career I wanted to pursue. In year 11, I saw an advert in the Australian Newspaper for ‘Careers at Sea’ with a Global mining company ‘BHP Billiton’ where they were offering cadetships for Deck and Engineer Officers, and so I started looking into it. The idea of travelling the world and training as a Deck Officer caught my attention. I would be responsible for navigation, fire, safety and medical care all whilst being paid for it! At the end of year 12, I applied to a shipping company ‘ASP Ship Management’ and was accepted in their cadet intake for 1995.

Coming from the Australian Merchant Navy, what did you find appealing about making the move to on board Superyachts? 

The change was huge, I’m not going to lie. I had worked on a variety of Cargo and Passenger ships as well as spending time in the Oil and Gas industry. I worked my way up to Chief Officer but yes, yachting was a little different. Friends of mine who I studied with as Engineers found the yachting industry a few years after we graduated in the late ‘90s. They would come back to Tasmania and tell stories of Fort Lauderdale and Antibes, the money, travel and lifestyle. They were doing extremely well and some of them were working as couples with their girlfriends from college days. My girlfriend at the time (now wife and partner of 19 years) and I spoke about the idea a few times and it was really her idea to take the plunge. She was finishing University that year and so we packed up and headed to Fort Lauderdale the following February. The original plan was to spend two years working on yachts to travel and save money for a deposit to buy a house back in Australia. As you can see the rest is history!!

How would you describe your favourite part about a career on board Superyachts?

It’s the thrill of not knowing what’s going to happen next, who you will meet, where you will travel. Also the exhilaration of pulling off the most amazing and impossible plans for the guests at the drop of a hat. It’s one of the most satisfying things for me, knowing you’ve played a part in bringing it all together by providing a special experience and blowing them away! It’s amazing!

You’ve been to some incredible destinations in your time, can you tell us about your most memorable/favourite destination and experience?

One of the most memorable was diving with a previous Owner, a drift dive on a reef shelf in the Los Aves Archipelago off the Venezuelan coast. The Archipelago was amazing, totally uninhabited and the dive spectacular in itself but, as we were diving, we heard a pod of dolphins calling nearby. We didn’t see them until almost the end of the dive when they came out to see who was playing in their backyard, amazing 🙂

What challenges do you face when travelling to remote destinations on board Superyachts?

Logistics is always so key in planning successful trips in remote locations. Typically you’re on your own so you need to think of the worst-case scenario for pretty much everything, communications, provisions, medical aid, transport, stores and spares etc. The key is having an experienced team on board who can brainstorm and draw on their collective experiences to work through and mitigate the issues as best as possible. Curveballs will always come but if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be yachting now, would it!?

As a Superyacht, what additional pressures do you face for navigating during COVID?

COVID has been extremely tough on everyone and the world is no longer the same as a result. The biggest challenge has been managing the crew during long periods away from home and listening and supporting them as much as possible in dealing with the issues the pandemic has brought to each one of us. It’s easy to forget about COVID when onboard in our ‘yacht bubble’ and in many ways, we are very lucky, however, we all need to be reminded now and again not to get complacent on board or at home in order to protect our work colleagues and families, and to manage the owner’s expectations. I feel that we are not out of the woods just yet and will be feeling the after-effects of the pandemic for years to come.

What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of your career on board Superyachts?

I would say it’s being in a position to mentor and following the rise of the careers of those who have worked with me previously. Seeing them grow and develop from green crew to senior crew of the highest calibre and knowing you’ve played a part in that is the biggest reward.

What has been your drive for your career on board Superyachts? Did you have a mentor?

We all know that yachting is infectious and my experience is no exception. I never expected to be in it for the time that I have, however, 19 years after first dock walking in Fort Lauderdale, here I am! I have had a couple of mentors over the years and they know who they are. The one thing I will say though is that you never stop learning, every day is different and everyone you meet can teach you something.

Given the opportunity, what advice would you give a green deckie starting out in yachting who dreams of Captaincy?

Take your time, listen well, work hard and learn your craft. Soak up as much knowledge as you can from those around you, be respectful, stay true to yourself and enjoy the ride. Don’t rush and aspire to the dizzy heights before you’re ready because the easy part is getting the job, the hard part is keeping it!

And finally, what’s next for you?

The pandemic has meant extended periods away from home the past 18 months, so trying to balance work and family life and reconnect with family and friends is at the top of my list 🙂

Luke Humphries

Luke’s proven track record for successfully exceeding expectations is reflected in his history as a sought after Captain who is admired by all of those who know him, however, this is not something he takes for granted. Bringing enthusiasm, positivity, professionalism, and drive to the forefront, Luke takes pride in maintaining a vessel and her extended operations to the highest of standards. A plethora of in-demand qualities, a role-model to many, and a true industry leader; this is a Captain to aspire to.

It was an absolute pleasure chatting with you, we wish you the very best on the rest of your journey on board Superyachts!