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Any female captains out there?
Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 1:52 PM
Joined: 10/09/2013
Posts: 4

Hi there!  I would like to hear from any female captains (or the guys if they have any advice).  I am a mate on a SY at the moment, but alas the yacht is for sale and I am looking.  I know it is tough for anyone, male or female, to break into a captain's position.  Unfortunately, I have run into some resistance from agents who say it is hard to place women in deck roles, let alone a captain's position.  I feel I will do well once in for an interview, but I am having trouble getting there.  Is there anything you did to your CV's that you feel helped you get in the door?  For instance, did you showcase your engineering skills, take an AEC course, etc?  Should I work towards the OOW and take a mate position on a larger boat, or stick with my YM and keep hoping for a break on smaller?   My goal is to run a smaller sporty sailing yacht.  I know this industry is tough on everyone, and I am not trying to play the "girl card."  I would just like some advice from female captains who are out there working, not just that you've heard of a female captain who's a friend of a friend somewhere.  I would also be interested in hearing from any captains who would/would not hire a female first mate, and what I can do to stand out. Thanks!
Garry H
Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 5:44 PM
Joined: 05/02/2009
Posts: 9

I am not a female captain, but I know a few and have been able to observe their careers and I would like to make a few comments. All of the female captains that I know have a weakness in engineering that has caused them trouble over the years, doing some short course will not fix this you actually need real knowledge the kind gained from crawling in bilges and is paid for in sweat and blood. Part of being a good captain is having the respect of the crew, to gain this respect every member of the crew has to be able to talk about issues and believe that they are talking with someone with a good grounding and understanding in the subject.
Good jobs don't come through crew agents they come through recommendations of your peers and that goes for any position.
So I put it to you would your current captain recommend you for a position as mate or captain ? how about the owner ?
How well do you know the systems on your current boat, can you operate everything onboard in a proficient manner ?
Have you read all the manuals, studied all the drawings ?
If your current captain asked you to do a 1000 mile delivery are you ready to do it ? would the owner be comfortable with this ?
At the end of the day the person doing the employing has to believe that you can and will, but because there are less female captains out there they will look more intently and you have to prove to them that you have done the hard yards. 

Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:00 PM
Joined: 26/06/2013
Posts: 15

I'm from AYC Superyacht Recruitment and we have always accepted and supported female captains, I believe that presenting a female to an owner has always been a welcome surprise. Most of the responses we receive are "I didnt even think about employing a female" or "what a great idea" .

I recall placing a Female Captain & Male Engineer couple team onto a 45m yacht and the owner was thrilled with having them onboard, he felt the whole dynamic of the boat was different and provided a much more friendly, family atmosphere.

Every situation is different through and not all owners would consider this. The industry is changing though with a strong focus on professionalism and qualifications - if a female meets the requirements then we are very pleased to represent them.

Maternity leave is a topic worth debating though - I have never come across a contract that has this provision and it is the greatest concern to owners seeking longevity in their crew.


joe feder
Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:01 PM
Joined: 27/02/2013
Posts: 7

I would put it a little bit of the same way Garry has put it with some nuance. Most incompetent captains I came across, had some job culture, meaning they knew who was who in the industry and who does what . most of them - the incompetent ones - where bitching ( and still do ) about every one and yet they get the jobs. Now we are not here the evaluate those types but find a way to get you with your competence , through to a captains asssignment. If you actually work on job culture, like knowing who designed what boat, who won Sydney Hobart in 1986, and can explain some tactics done on race fields, by Kolius Conner or J. Bertrand . If your address book has the phone number of most serious freight forwarders ( most serious race boat are followed by their containers and the captain takes care of that part ), you have a great chance to impress and get a job as captain on a race boat and gender will be totally unimportant. So the other advise would be to keep hammering, something will come loose.... best of luck from some one who has been 45 years in yachting...
Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:08 PM
Joined: 21/10/2011
Posts: 1

I am  a female with my YM and had a year as Captain of a 70 ft Sailing cat, now back to being a chef so i can work with my partner. I understand what you're going through.  I know a few great  female captains and I've had many of the same comments from agents and owners unwilling to hire purely based on gender.  They are few and far between an not worth your time worrying about it. The above post has it's points, you have to prove yourself, not just to get the job but continuously throughout your career.  I've also had a stew that kept on taking stew jobs cause they were easier than mate gigs but was a far better sailor than she was a stew, and that reflected negatively on her performance.

 If the deck is what you want  go for it all the way, don't get stuck in the interior, but always be willing to lend a hand in any department. The more you know about every aspect of the yacht the more of an asset you'll be. Take the courses, do the leg  work to get the engineering and systems down.  Also consider a smaller boat, or charter company ie moorings, to get the experience a skipper, once you have " Captain" on your cv more people are likely to take you seriously.   A good female captain is a force to be reckoned with, all the best to you!

Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:59 PM
Joined: 10/09/2013
Posts: 4

Thanks for all the advice!  I have left plenty of skin in engine rooms and bilges so gaining experience there, I find you can figure out just about anything with the proper manuals.  I also like to write down things I don't completely understand and google them later.  The systems on the boat I am currently first mate on are pretty extensive, and while I'm not likely to crack open the engine just yet (injectors aside), I have a good grasp of what is going on.  My current captain has recommended me for a captain's position.  I guess my weak spot is networking and self promotion.
Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 7:11 PM
Joined: 28/10/2008
Posts: 26

Dear Brishear, 

   I feel your concern and as a veteran female yacht captain (20+ years at it), I may just have some good advice for you. Alot if this advice goes for anyone who wants to be a good professional yacht captain anyway, so guys, listen up as well! 


   Believe me, it has not been easy for me as an American female to get jobs as a yacht captain, most certainly a glass ceiling exists. But I did it and I am still here decades later. Years ago it was easier for females, but the industry was much different 25 years ago. 


   Brishear, I do not know your experience or qualifications or what kind of references you have, which all do count for a lot, but here are a few words of realistic advice. You will, as a female, in the majority of cases, be at the bottom of the large list of available candidates out there applying for deck, officer or captain jobs no matter how qualified or experienced you are. This is mainly due to the misinformed yacht owners and those who suggest captains to owners, like many brokers and yacht managers and many crew agents who do not understand that a female can do as good a job as a male on deck and in the bridge - sort of a dinosauric attitude but it is reality in this industry big time and the yachting industry is way behind the norm of other industries on this count. The ole boys network and the mindset to go along with it is alive and well in our industry. A bit silly but it is reality. Also be aware that there may also be a tad bit of insecurity or lack of leadership qualities sometimes on the part of the males if they do not give you the opportunity for a position, lets say to graduate from deckhand to bosun to mate or if the mate does not share their knowledge with you because you are a female deckhand. In any event, you have to shine above and excel and try not to let rejection get you down and always be a pro-active team player.


   Don't let anyone tell you you are not physically strong enough to do the job either, I am not a big person and could do everything the guys could do on sailing yachts, working on a yacht does not require a body building Hercules, especially a sailing yacht where you have so many ways in which lines and winches can creatively help you out, however you must be fit. 


   All of that said, if you really want to succeed at your particular goal you must have a lot of perseverance. The industry is so diverse so stay within the sector in which your goal is - for you ONLY on sailing yachts and on ones that are not too big but big enough that they have a lead deck or mate who is in charge of at least 1-2 other deckhands. Start by being a deckhand on the larger sailing yachts, yes, be willing to go down from mate to deckhand and stick with it until you become a mate on this size of sailing yacht. I have heard about a few gals who get hired in deck positions on yachts because the captains of these yachts have had the experience with women who tend to have much more attention to details and better innate organizational skills than the guys and they want these types of skills on deck. So be excellent with details, especially with, seamanship and cleaning and be very organized and find the yachts with gals already on deck and find out who the captain is and who his captain friends are - they will most likely think the same way and then network with them. 


   DO NOT rush into trying to be a captain like so many in the industry try to do. I had 8 years of experience on both private and charter yachts (at that time it was sail yachts) and 6 ocean crossings before I applied for captain positions. 5-6 years is not enough to really truly know what you are doing and feel confident at it - that goes for EVERYONE!!!! So stick to the deck positions for at least 6-7 years first. The fact that you would have served in a "leader" role as a mate for at least 4-5 years is essential to become a captain of a 25mtr+ yacht with other crew. Our industry has found out that a few years ago way too many people rushed to get the easily obtained MCA Yacht Rated tickets way too fast and now we have a huge incompetence factor problem in the industry with captains and officers not having enough experience and thus not training their crew properly (being a good leader/teacher and in other respects), and a ping pong effect has occurred with incompetence. That is why the ticketing requirements have stiffen up and will continue to do so. 


   Yes, educated yourself on as much as you can but also understand that having the courses and "tickets" and "certifications", as so many crew unfortunately believe is the end all, is not the solution either. You must also show that you have "applied" and "used" what you have learned in a classroom in your experience, ie. tender driving, medical first aid, hospitality, seamanship and navigation, engineering etc. All of that takes many years to do - not just a couple of years or a few seasons. For sure work toward the OOW. That is an absolute necessity but being and OOW is just a very small part of the package of what you have to be.


   ***For sure get as savvy as you can with engineering - this is a MUST! Too many deck crew think that they can be a captain but know little to nothing about the engine room or yacht systems - this is ridiculous. A good captain knows a great deal about yacht systems and thus will in turn know if their engineer is doing a good job or when in a yard if the yard is doing a good job or ripping you off or not. Also on the smaller yachts you would have to be a captain/engineer so this sort of experience is very valuable. Work side by side with an on board engineer if you can and ask lots of questions - get dirty and know how to use tools correctly and how to do some repairs yourself. Captains should not always be picking up the phone for a contractor and always rely on them to repair. They must be problem solvers in all respects thus know how to solve as many repair problems as they can. You may not know it all but take a pro-active approach to engineering and you will be the better for it. Even ask the contractors questions, you'd be surprised how many will share their knowledge with you. You learn a lot when things break down so help out as an assistant with repairs and troubleshooting. You will be respected more if you are engineering savvy for sure - especially as a female. That has been my experience anyway. 


   Take leadership courses and read about it, in fact, read, read, read as much as you can about subjects that pertain to yachting, ie. regulations, new technologies, hospitality and leadership strategies, customs issues etc. and stay on top of the changing issues. One of the biggest hats you will wear as a captain is that of a leader, to a much less extent is navigation so concentrate on your people and leadership skills. This means knowing the psychology of creating a team on board and being a respected supervisor. Work hard on knowing how to do this.  


   Connect with other professionals, older and wiser, who are good role models and mentors and stay in touch with them. Be a pro-active team player with the willingness to go the xtra mile. When you hold a mate position, be a good role model and leader yourself. Stay out of the party crown for sure - going to the bars to network does not get you the connections you need. Go to as many "professional" related events and meet other captains and the movers and shakers of our industry and network, network, network with them, not with the party crowd, stay away from them.


   Stand out from the crowd by not only by being a female in a traditionally male dominated occupation, but also find a cause and volunteer at it. Go above and beyond the norm. I, for instance, promote environmental awareness and good eco conservation practices on board. My website is an educational site with lots of info about this. Join others is a cause and GIVE BACK! Your efforts will be recognized. Use social media to promote it as well.


   Make sure your CV is very well written. I have critiqued many crew CVs and am willing to help you with this. So contact me if you want help. I know the do's and don'ts to CV writing. You can find me on LinkedIn and FB - Captain Denise Fox so send me a message.


   Be organized and an excellent communicator and problem solver. These are very essential qualities as well.


   As a female you have to excel in all respects above and beyond the guys. Due to the present mentality of the yachting industry it most likely will take you longer than the guys to climb the ladder to captaindom but you have to be willing to accept this and stick to your goal. People will see this in your spirit. It took me 3 times longer than most of my male counterparts to get the Master Oceans 3000gt, USCG, MCA, Marshall and Cayman Islands. But I did it. I may not have had as financially lucrative of jobs as the majority of my counterparts either, so this is part of the reality check as well. Don't pursue this for the $$. That is the wrong reason.


   In conclusion - A lot of this is truly advice for any deck crew male or female aspiring to be a captain but as a female, you will have to work harder at it and persevere longer and be more patient than the guys, it may not be fair , but life is often not fair. You will need to know how to pick yourself up and brush yourself off and start over again time and time again but this will build character and someone WILL recognize it and you will be successful.


"Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds". - Orison Swett Marden


   BTW, FYI - There are numerous studies that have been done concerning women in leadership positions in all walks of professions and in every study women excel in almost all of the points of leadership. Maybe if this info gets around to more of the persons who hire in yachting their eyes may open a bit more. A link to one study is below but there are many of them out there so keep your head up and share this info with others. Your time will come! 


Study link: 


Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 7:49 PM
Joined: 09/09/2008
Posts: 78

I am not a female, or a sailboater, but I will give my advice anyway, and not just for you, but guys who post about looking for work as well. First, when you post items like this, saying that you are a mate on a sailboat at this time, means nothing, nobody knows what size of sailboat, or any of your qualifications at being a mate, other than the title. Second, I believe most crew move up too quickly and have not done the time, or gotten the experience, guy or gal, unless you grew up working as crew on a boat that travels a lot, or commercially in a position to get that experience. I have had cooks with 100 ton licenses that have never docked a tender, let alone a yacht. By the time you get to be a first mate, the captain should not have to explain how to do something, but assign duties and let you do your job, if he has to hold your hand, and do anything other than give you a task, and maybe the manner of how he wants it done, you are not ready for the job. As to the glass ceiling, unfortunately it is a cross you will have to bear, I think it has gotten better, but my observations are that it is not just a stereotype that has to be overcome, but an insecurity of the owners wife of having other females around, just a personal observation on my part. Do everything you can to make you stand out from the crowd, and hopefully you will  get the job and position you seek.
Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 8:08 PM
Joined: 10/09/2013
Posts: 4

To clarify, I am currently first mate on a 92' PJ ketch.  Prior to that I was first mate on a Shipman 72.  Before then, I was delivery crew, day charter captain, day charter crew, sailing coach, racing competitor, continuing on all the way back to 25 years ago to when I was 8 and hopped into my first dinghy.  I hold my USCG 100 ton and RYA YM Offshore.
Capt. Patty
Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 3:35 PM
Joined: 21/07/2014
Posts: 1

I just happened upon this forum and thought I would add in my own two cents. I am a female captain and although it is a difficult world to break into, it can be done. I started as a chef/deckhand and have been a licensed captain since 2005. As someone pointed out earlier, it is essential to be able to perform all the duties essential on the vessel; I myself am able to repair and maintain the engine, trouble shoot and install electrical systems (simple systems, mind you) and am able to maintain the other systems required to keep the vessel running efficiently. I feel that my experience as a nurse, helped me immensely in learning the various systems of a boat, as I have found they are very similar to that of the human body. Additionally, after a fire aboard my Pacific Seacraft I was forced to learn the systems in order to repair them, (I had no insurance.) This included utilizing West Systems to rebuild the fiberglass on the interior of my vessel, wood working and electrical installation. Although, I don't work on mega yachts, I do own my own vessel delivery service and deliver (mostly sailboats) world wide. As far as physical strength, I may not be as strong as most men, but I am strong enough to get the job done, but most importantly I use my brain more than my brawn, as there is always a way to accomplish a goal no matter your actual physical strength. I think the most difficult part of life in this world is to be taken seriously, it has taken me a long time to accomplish this. Just keep with it and keep your eye on the prize. I started at the bottom and put up with many naysayers along the way, don't allow others to place limitations on your personal growth or interfere with the accomplishment of your dreams. I am now a solo sailor and run my own crew. So it can be done!
Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 5:54 PM
Joined: 02/12/2013
Posts: 4

Another guy chiming in - sorry.

My wife and I are a team on smaller sailboats and she just started studying for her USCG Master exam.  I have always said that women are great with details and I feel they make great Captains.  She is on the route to become a Captain and I would work for her any time.  I think you are on the right track and I would agree with most of the things posted above, but would add that your racing experience should be highlighted on your CV to get the attention of the "sporty sailboat" owners that you are targeting.

Make the CV look nice and stand out, make sure you have no grammar or spelling errors, use some graphics and action photos if you have them - those get peoples attention.  Keep it professional though, it is a balance between being catchy and professional.

Best of luck!

Capt. Stephan

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 3:16 PM
As a lady engineer- currently AEC studying for my Y4- I would add that it's important to take the time to upgrade your ticket as soon as you're able until you reach your desired license level- an ocean rated ticket (500 ton?) really stands out. And while you may not want to channel your sea time towards an engineer's license I would consider investing in some Y4 study guides and mastering that material. 
I recently had some fantastic advice from a woman on the chief mate level on large sailing yachts (who holds an MCA chief mate ticket, for the guy who needs to know your entire CV before he can bless you with his wonderful advice). she said take your time, don't rush the next step in your career. Become a master of the level you're on, e.g. mate of a 92' ketch, and then enjoy being really good at your job for a while before you push on. It can be frustrating as women to see men advance so much faster, but don't let it make you feel like you need to rush through the learning stages of your career. Being really impressive at your level, mate, will make you stand out as one of the best. I know one woman running a 100'+ sailing yacht- she was mate for 10+ years and had the reputation as one of the strongest, most knowledgeable sailing mates in the business. 

Kristianna Evans
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2016 10:28 PM
Joined: 29/07/2008
Posts: 1

Hi Brishear,

Great question and comments that were posted. Would enjoy discussing your journey offline with you further as I am in the process of upgrading my 100ton license. Please reach out to me via email @

Kindest regards, 

Kristianna Evans
Posted: Friday, February 19, 2016 5:29 PM
In my opinion don't think of yourself as a "female" Captain just a Captain. It depends on what kind of sailing you want to do. Sailing a 60' cruising yacht is not that physical.  Racing an 80'-100' Maxi is extremely physical.  There is a reason that the SCA Volvo Team had an extra crew member. It has nothing to do with a lack of ability it is purely physics. Play to your strengths and don't try to pretend to be something your not. I have had the misfortune of taking over a boat from one of the above "captains" who in my humble opinion should spend less time with the facade and more time with the "work".  I have come across some awesome female captains and officers. When you are good at your job your gender doesn't matter. You absolutely can be a Captain or anything else you want to be in this industry. Pretending leadership ability and potential have anything to do with whether you stand or sit to pee is a joke. If your current Captain thinks your ready and you trust his judgement I would think he would be in the best position to comment on your ability. Just as some have had bad experiences with people with MCA tickets the same can be said for any flag, certainly the US. (I am an American with an MCA 3000) Based on my experience I am more comfortable leaving someone with an OOW on watch in the bridge than a USCG 200. It has always seemed like a weak argument to me the US is commercial as if that makes those that hold it a higher caliber. My personal believe is that you could be a good multiple choice test taker and good student and achieve any license you wanted in the US system. It would be much more difficult to get through 2 or 3 oral exams on the MCA route.
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