Life After Yachting: From Chief Stew To CEO Of TAP Expeditions

How did Gemma Heyns go from being a chief stew to a CEO, and what advice does she have for you?

Gemma Heyns, former chief stew and current CEO of TAP Expeditions, an African Safari company that provides tailored and unique exploration experiences for captains, crew, and guests was in the exact same position as you. So, how do you go about planning your life after yachting?

Life after yachting: Q&A with Gemma Heyns:

Life After Yachting: From Chief Stew To CEO with Gemma Heyns


1. Tell us about your life on board, ie what made you choose a career path in yachting, how long you were a yachtie for, what your job role was.

I started yachting purely for the ability to travel, growing up in South Africa, international travel wasn’t affordable nor was our passport accepted in other countries on a working basis. Yachting seemed to be the answer to these setbacks, I set my mind to two years, the plan was to travel and explore as much as possible. I didn’t know enough about yachting to focus on climbing the ladder to Chief Stew… initially.

Time passed and I loved the adventure and yachting community, after traveling and working seasonally in the industry I was allowed to step up to a Chief Stewardess position. It was at this stage that my focus shifted from the need to explore every corner of the globe to the need to build capital for whatever my next endeavor might be. Ultimately I ended up working in the industry for a decade and looking back now a decade filled with incredible experiences, self-growth, and maturity.

2. Which yachts had you worked on previously?

So, in my early years I struggled to find a job, to be honest, I met agents and applied for jobs relentlessly but nothing came. Answering every unknown phone call with an air of hope. Finally, my first job came as a sole stewardess on a private/charter 30m motor yacht, formally known as M/Y Eagles Nest (shout out to any sole stew working on a charter boat – some of those days were my most brutal days onboard.)

From there I moved to M/Y Serque and it was here working as a 2nd stewardess under an incredible Chief Stewardess who was also a professional butler, ran top restaurants in NYC (as head chef), and served on some of the most beautiful mega superyachts. She had a hugely successful career in hospitality and an overwhelming commitment to developing my skills set. To this day I have not met a more inspiring, hardworking woman in the industry, to who I am eternally grateful for! These were the tough breakthrough years, from there I stepped up into Chief Stewardess roles on 55m – 65m motor yachts.

3. What is your current Job role now and where are you based?

My current role is one of many hats (a great skill learned in yachting) I founded a boutique safari company called TAP Expeditions creating tailored travel to Southern Africa.

I build and market itineraries personalized to each guest’s interests and needs in their quest to explore Africa’s wildlife, culture, landscapes, and history. My day to day ranges from meetings with industry professionals, social media and marketing, website development, sales, and accounts, and of course looking after guests ensuring they have the best information and preparation before, during, and after their travel. I love Africa and TAP Expeditions is a platform to share that love with others.

TAP Expeditons - Luxury Southern African Safaris

4. At what stage did you know it was the right time to consider transitioning to a land-based job? Can you explain the rationale behind your decision?

The decision to go land-based came out of a personal need to reconnect with my family and friends at home. There had been so many missed occasions and I felt as though I was living in a different world from all of it. It was an emotional decision. It was only once I was land-based, working for a safari company in Cape Town that my focus settled and my plan forward started to align. I had played with the idea of opening a safari company.

Many guests during my yachting days had asked if I would ever consider taking them to Africa (let’s face it African news can be quite intimidating) and my answer was always a huge YES! I would love to share the beauty of my continent with guests who after a ten-day charter or so thought they might never leave the boat or me behind!

Similarly, the fellow crew from around the world are always eager to explore. I found I was able to help plan their trip to Africa when they were often left with little planning time (often crew is caught in a crazy season and when it ends they jump on a plane and their leave starts). Running TAP Expeditions is purely commissioned base (the properties where you stay take the price knock). Thus crew is given expert knowledge, will be informed of ongoing specials, and not have the pressure of working and planning to deal with. All for the price they would pay had they booked the trip themselves.

I built my industry knowledge and nurtured connections within my safari job until I received a phone call from a long-time captain who I worked with for many years. “Gem,” he said, “do you want to come back and help me set up another amazing program?” A tough decision, but it was a yes; let’s face it who leaves yachting only once;) I went back, now with a clearly defined plan to utilize yachting to set up what would be my future career.

Having a rotational role meant I had time and capital to build my business. Working on a private/charter vessel gave me access to the clientele market I need while forming valuable relationships. This time around I had a goal and strategy to kick start my official life after my yachting career.

Tap Expeditions - Safari Travel Company

5. Did you have a plan for your new career before arriving on land and did you have an idea of what you wanted to do?

As per above, it took an emotional need to leave yachting before I was able to formulate a strategic exit the second time around. Having a plan ensured that I made the most out of every contact, opportunity, and cent made while still working on a yacht.

6. Can you tell us what the best part of being a CEO is, and how the skills you acquired as a yachtie have helped your career life after yachting?

It’s funny cause I have been reflecting on this recently. When I took my very first yacht job, an experienced stew who I met at a crew house said to me:

“congratulations working as a sole stew you will learn all facets of the job. And, the results obtained are a direct reflection of your hard work and commitment to succeed.”

Well, those words ring true as a CEO too, especially starting as a one-woman show, it is the commitment to succeed which can be grueling. But once you start ticking off those milestones, the reward is nothing short of empowering.

Yachting as an industry adds huge value to creating a rounded CEO.

These are the top three skills in my book:

A. Yachting develops the skill to work under immense pressure with limited time frames, high expectations, and logistical constraints.
B. Yachting truly expanded my ability to understand and work with a range of people from vastly different wealth, cultural and demographic backgrounds. The ability to create a strong team and empower individuals to share their passions and common goals are huge. It is the road to success, an old African proverb I am encouraged by says, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
C. Responsibility, learning to be accountable for yourself and your role, whether it is caring for and maintaining a billion-dollar yacht, honoring your word, or just showing up and being present, hold yourself accountable.

7. If you could go back in time, do you think you’d make any changes to the way you went about the transition from the sea to land?

Yes, the major difference would be TIME! I should have realized time is not infinite. There are many points in my yachting journey where I could have better utilized the resources available to me. I would have started planning and building my business much earlier and invested more in the maintenance of relationships over time.

8. What do you think the biggest challenges are for crew wanting to leave yachting and start something new?

There is a huge misconception about the yachting industry. A “yachtie,” is almost always immediately classified as a dropout or party starter, or just lost. My advice to anyone leaving the industry is, don’t play into these misconceptions, be proud and confident of what you have achieved!

For example, all you chief stews/stewards out there, you’re not a specialist toilet cleaner (not that this should be dismissed itself, it shows grit). You successfully managed the interior staff and functioning on-board large, privately owned motor yachts valued at $20 000 000, as well as everything below:

Controlled and managed interior budgets and supplies
Facilitated human relations, key skills development, and training of multiple expertise to a diverse workforce
Interior team recruitment and hiring
Client relations and silver service provider to an elite international clientele on expeditions starting at $350 000/week
Events management, seamlessly orchestrated a variety of successful events and showings on board for up to 150 people, often with very strict time constraints and intense pressures
Sourcing and facilitating suppliers and contractors in remote, foreign locations
Conflict resolution and problem-solving to ensure seamless efficiency and customer service
Safety, security, and medical aid duties
Food and hygiene safety

You have done a lot!!!! Don’t undermine your skillset.

9. Is there anyone who has inspired you, or helped you build this new path for yourself?

I have had some amazing friends and family worldwide who have helped to put TAP Expeditions on the map and grow my reach, thank you to them. A former employer once said to me follow your passion, often great ventures are born out of a passion project, even if you feel like you’re swimming upstream. This has been advice that kept me moving forward even when adversities hit.

10. And lastly, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

On safari! In five years, I would like to have an established confident team of safari specialists. Have more resources to empower the work taken on by my partnering charities. Maintain the personal and intimate connection between clients, staff, and suppliers. Relationships are worth more than the bottom line and I hope in five years I still know that.

TAP Expeditions - South African travel company

To finish off, please could you share with our readers your top 3 tips for preparing for life after yachting:

  • Utilize your platform, the people, the travel, the money! It is a blessing to have an abundance of these while still in the yachting industry
  • Nurture relationships, surround yourself with your biggest advocates
  • There is more to success than money, establish these goals early

Following on from our life after yachting series, make sure to read our feature with Matt redstone, former head of global services by, clicking here.

For the latest yacht crew news, click here.

The Yacht Mogul: Everything You Need To Know About Denis Suka

Who is the face behind The Yacht Mogul?

Having amassed over 855k followers on Instagram, Denis Suka, aka The Yacht Mogul has become the world’s largest yachting profile. Our latest interview reveals a little more about himself, the concept behind his latest Superyacht design, as well as his top 3 tips for aspiring yachting influencers.


1) When did you begin “The Yacht Mogul” and what inspired you to do so?

Founded in 1 May 2018 by Denis Suka, The Yacht Mogul is a well-known, fast-growing, and respected profile in the yachting world and beyond. Living on a beautiful Greek island (Rhodes),  I saw different yachts in the harbour and my interest in yachts kept growing. I wanted to learn more about this secretive world. So I thought of the best way to turn my passion for yachts into inspiration for other people, and to learn more myself. And, came up with The Yacht Mogul on Instagram.

2) What services do you provide?

In my early days, I used to advertise boats for other companies. But then I realized that there was a bigger opportunity in yacht sales and charters. So, I decided to focus on that. One month after, I made my first successful sale, then my first charter in Marbella. And after that, I made a sale in the USA where I sold a boat in one week from publication. I work closely with private collectors and brokerage houses in order to give my clients the best experience when buying a yacht, building a new one, or chartering. So, all in all, I provide boat/yacht sales, new build, and charters across Europe, the USA, and the Middle East.

3) Who is your target audience in the Superyacht industry and how do you make sure your content aligns with what they’re looking for?

My target audience in yachting is the key people in the industry, such as current yacht owners, future yacht owners, people who support me, and it also includes some celebrities/public figures. I believe I know my audience very well and always read their comments to understand what they like to see and that’s how I have been growing really fast.

4) How has the success of becoming an influencer changed your life and have there been any downfalls along your journey so far?

It has definitely changed a lot of things. From connecting with key people in yachting and other industries to getting invitations for private events and yacht shows from different companies. It also made me rank on top yachting figures in press publications and many other benefits.

Of course, all of it is built with hard work and dedication for yachting. 2 years ago I lost my profile and it took me more than a month to get it back. Everyone I asked was telling me that it was impossible, but I never gave up. There have definitely been more downfalls that people might not see, but I had to deal with everything in order to hold my profile and name high. Everything comes with a price.

4) Back in January, you teamed up with Abbasli design studio to launch the “MOGUL10”
Yacht Concept. What was the concept behind your 252ft Yacht Design?

The Yacht Mogul

The concept behind the design was to create something unique and add some features that have not been applied on a yacht before. I proposed the idea to Ucal (the designer) to launch a yacht concept collaboration. He liked the idea so it worked out really well. As we got a lot of interest from the yachting industry and media press, we believe the project will soon make its way to a shipyard. Where it will come alive after 2-3 years and be ready for a lucky owner to enjoy the lifestyle onboard with family and friends.

5) Was that the biggest achievement in your career so far? If not, what have you accomplished that is the most significant?

It’s the second yacht I launch in the last 2 years, but yes I can say it was quite an achievement to launch a 77.7-meter yacht and to get such attention and amazing feedback! I can however count several accomplishments during the 4 years in yachting and that’s the reason I keep working hard every day. To improve and achieve higher goals in yachting and life.

6) Do you have any individuals within the yachting industry who have inspired you over the last few years?

There are a few individuals that I admired for their work, especially their yacht designers. But, I always had my vision of what I wanted to achieve… As for the social media part, I always did things my own way and it has worked very well.

7) With the Superyacht Industry changing quickly, especially in regards to cryptocurrency and digital art, are there any project ideas related to this that you may have in the works?

I have been studying the crypto market and digital art (NFT) a bit, but in order to succeed in this area, it takes a lot of time to learn the market, and it’s something between what I do in the real world (Social media, new yacht projects, sales charters, etc) and the virtual world. Where you create something and wait for people to mind it. I can’t say I will not go into this world but for now, I’m focused on real-life things.

8) Lastly, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Interesting question! Short answer? I see myself on top yachting world! My yachts projects on the water, being the top broker and being the best in every aspect of the yachting world. I simply want to give my very best in yachting with all I can.

Your Top 3 tips for becoming a successful influencer within any industry worldwide:

  • 1) Be passionate about what you do whether it be yachts, cars, or real estate. And, give your best on it, never think about how long it takes, just think what is your main goal to achieve. Good things don’t happen overnight.
  • 2) Always know your audience and read their comments, even if you can’t reply. The people who follow us are the ones that keep us motivated with their support. And once you find out,  post things that they find interesting and that’s the main way to succeed in social media.
  • 3) With Instagram launching new features such as a reel, they are helping people grow way faster. But, growing from 0 is still hard work. It’s like a puzzle game- collect pieces in order to create the figure, but the main thing is to love what you do so you never get tired of doing it. Success is to keep succeeding.

For more of the latest superyacht news, click here.

Yachting, Diving and Photography – The Life Of LJ Strike

Are you are wishing to pursue more interests alongside yachting, or perhaps you’re considering your life after yachting? Lia Johnson says go for it!

Superyacht Content was lucky enough to speak to Lead Deckhand, Dive Instructor and founder of Strike & Co Photography, LJ Strike. We speak about her career in yachting and the experiences she’s faced while being a female deckhand, as well as how to become a diving instructor. Not to mention, what it’s like a run a photography company alongside all of this!

Superyacht Photograpy by Strike and Co Photography

About Lia Johnson-Strike

“My name is Lia Johnson-Strike, but people know me as LJ, I am the Lead Deckhand, Dive Instructor, and Photographer onboard M/Y Nomad. I was born in Alice Springs, a small town in the middle of the Australian outback. I have a massive passion for photography, scuba diving, and skiing. This is rather strange since Alice Springs is 1500km from the nearest beach, and there’s definitely no snow! I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt, and Japan. And, I’ve studied Indonesian, Arabic, and Japanese.”

How are you currently spending your time and where are you located? 

Actually, I’m in the shipyard! First-time Nomad has been out of the water since her launch in April 2019. So, it’s all jam-packed and exciting at the moment. We are in San Diego, California and It’s such a nice place to be, so feeling super lucky.

When did your career in yachting begin?

I’ve been a yachtie for four years now, which seems very short and very long at the same time! It was the end of 2017 when I made the leap from working ashore to being onboard a Superyacht. And, I’ve never looked back…

Which M/Ys have you worked on previously?

M/Y Domani, M/Y Unicorn, M/Y Dancing Hare, and now, M/Y Nomad.

Superyacht Nomad - The New York yachting life
Image by Strike & Co Photography

Deckhands were once stereotyped as dominant male roles. Have you faced any challenges in your yachting career as a female deckhand? 

Sadly, I have had my fair share of challenges, especially in the earlier days. When I first started looking for deckhand positions, I was often told:

you won’t get a job as a female deckhand, so I’ll put you down as a stewardess” – This was from an agency in Fort Lauderdale.

“Boys on the outside, girls on the inside” – One Captain told me.

So, I have had my share of ups and downs. But as you can see, I stayed persistent and now I get headhunted by Captains who are specifically looking for female deckhands.

You’re a Deckhand, a Dive instructor, and a Photographer… What do you consider to be your main career, and what motivated you to take on responsibility for three of them? 

As most people in yachting know, being a deckhand is the majority 90% of the job, and diving is just a bonus (depending on your boat’s program of course). But, I would love my main career to be Diving and Photography. The joy I receive from doing both of these exceeds all the careers I’ve ever had (maybe bar the ski instructor job in Japan).

When I started on Nomad I was solely employed as the Deckhand and Dive instructor. However, as time went on, the crew, captains, and owner started to see my Superyacht Photography. As a result, they realised I was probably more talented than I had led to believe. And so, it became an added role. Now I’m in charge of everything Superyacht Photography and Videography related above and below the water, and I love it. Drones, underwater cameras, GoPros, and professional cameras. We have it all!

Let’s Discuss Strike & Co photography 

How did Strike and Co start? 

Strike & Co. is run by myself and my brother who lives in Australia. We’ve both been into photography for as long as I could remember and had always had a fiery passion for going out and capturing that perfect shot. After brainstorming for a few years, we finally decided it was time to make Strike & Co a real thing, and here we are.

Which area of Photography do you specialise in?

We specialise in aerial, abstract, astro, underwater, and landscape photography.

LJ Strike in Amels Finest Moments Magazine: Issue 15


You mentioned to us before the interview that you’ve worked with companies such as Funair, Invisible, and Amels magazine. Are these all yachting brands that have approached you due to the success of Strike and Co? 

I would say most of these companies have been in touch with me through Instagram or the Nomad Instagram page. Instagram is such a useful tool for photo sharing and has a higher audience than most websites I’d say. It’s through Instagram that most people discover Strike & Co.

Which project to date has been your favourite, and why? `

Working with Amels and Invincible is always up with the best. Both Deniza and Rudy share that same passion for showcasing their commodities/products, through photos and videos. Having my photography featured in the Amels Finest Moments magazine will always be a favourite for sure!

How about if you could pick one company that you hope to work with over the next year, which would it be? 

Besides always wanting to work for Nikon or Nat Geo, I would love to work with Amels. I already have such great connections and relationships with some of the team there. And, I would love to go to Holland and see everything in the flesh!

To finish off, Please could you share with our readers:

  1.  Your Top 3 tips for aspiring female Deckhands who want to start yachting:

Do your research about yachting. Also, be persistent! Don’t get disheartened by setbacks, know your goals and stick with them, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t just because you’re a girl!

  1.  The main steps to take to become a diver instructor:

If you go through Padi, everyone had to start with Open water, to Advanced Open water, followed by Rescue, and then Dive Master. Then finally, once you’ve logged your 100 dives you can enroll in the PADI IDC.

  1.  A key point of advice for other content creators looking to succeed: 

Being consistent is key. Keep your content interesting and up to date. This will ensure you don’t get swamped by yacht life and have to keep your images and videos updated all the time

A collection of photos by Strike and Co:

Strike and Co Photography Superyacht Nomad - Yachting

To check out more of Strike co Photography, click here.

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Superyacht Training: UKSA Discuss The Rise In Female Yacht Crew

Is gender imbalance in the yachting industry improving?

UKSA is a national maritime charity, based on the Isle of Wight, with a vision to widen access to maritime training and enhance life skills and employment in the sector. We’ve been fortunate enough to speak with them and find out which Superyacht training courses they offer, and why they think they’ve seen a rise in female yacht crew applicants.

superyacht training


Q&A with James Potipher, UKSA Superyacht Cadetship Manager:

What Superyacht training courses do you offer for yachties?

We offer three main courses for our Superyacht students: 

1. Superyacht Cadetship program –  A four-year structured course, designed to help students obtain employment in the industry. And, rise up the ranks to OOW and beyond. The first phase is an intensive five-month course that equips students with their Yachtmaster and engineering qualifications. Students will gain all the qualifications needed to become a junior Deckhand.

2. Superyacht Crew Training – An intensive three-week course. This program will prepare students for their first deckhand job on a superyacht by providing skills and qualifications. Students will come out of this course with deck work skills, powerboat licenses, and basic safety training.

3. UKSA’s intensive three-week Superyacht Interior Training course – For students looking to begin their career as a steward/stewardess. It provides all the skills and qualifications required to secure that first job onboard a superyacht. Students will come out of this course with interior skills, powerboat licenses, and basic safety training.

During each course, time is spent creating CVs, applying for jobs, and outlining what to expect. All training phases are inclusive of food and accommodation, with funding opportunities available. 

What changes have you seen to course intakes since the beginning of the pandemic?

Course intakes have been steady during the pandemic. We have adapted our training to meet the rules and regulations in place. And, as an educational provider, we were able to run most of the courses as normal. A lot of our latest intakes are those who have thought about their career during the lockdowns.  And subsequently, decided on a different route. 


You’ve recently seen a 150 percent increase in female applicants for your Superyacht training cadet course. What do you think caused this?


I think the industry is changing. The number of female applicants enrolling on the Superyacht Crew Training and the Cadetship is mirrored by the way the industry is changing with time. There are a lot more opportunities available for female deckhands, providing a good entry point into the industry.


Do you think the yachting industry will be close to becoming more of a 50:50 split, rather than primarily dominated by males? Or do you think that there is still a long way to go?


Getting to a 50:50 split will take some time. However, looking at the number of female applicants we’ve received, we are moving in the right direction. Will it ever be an even split? I don’t know, but I truly believe we can make the split more even in the future.

UKSA -James Potipher


How successful have female yachtie students who have finished the cadetship course been in finding their first position? Has it been difficult? and what would you say their success rate is when compared with females completing the Superyacht interior course?


There isn’t a big difference between the percentage of male to female students getting their first job after the cadetship. One of the biggest barriers to getting the first job is the rooming onboard a vessel. Generally, male students will stay in a room together. So, this can be the difficulty females experience when finding their first role. Although many boats are specifically looking for female deckhands, there are plenty of opportunities in the industry.


There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve heard of Captain Sandy from the popular reality TV series Below Deck. Captain Sandy is a great example of a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field who has achieved incredible success. Do you think this may have had anything to do with the dramatic increase in female applicants in the Superyacht training courses?

Unfortunately, I have never watched Below Deck. But having the presence of a female captain is a positive thing. It will hopefully encourage and help more women get into the industry. Other prominent figures also show the balance is shifting. Such as Kate McCue, one of the first female captains of a mega cruise ship. And, the first all-female crew of an A380. Albeit, slowly to start with hopefully, the shift will change for the positive.

Captain Sandy - Below deck


Do you believe, that the reality TV series, Below Deck has influenced superyacht training course applications?


I personally think Below Deck has had little influence regarding our course applications. From what I hear and from my experience in the industry, what happens in the show might differ from reality. If a documentary was made showcasing my time onboard it may not match up to what occurs Below Deck. It would have been many hours scrubbing teak decks, cleaning windows, and polishing stainless steel. Which, may not be the greatest viewing. But the exposure to the Superyacht industry is always good. And, if this helps more people get into the industry, the better. 


If you are a female considering starting your Superyacht training, now is your time to shine!

Female applicants are welcome on all superyacht training courses. For more information on the courses available at UKSA click here.

For the latest Superyacht news, click here.

Q&A – Getting a Degree as Superyacht Crew

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking into getting a degree as superyacht crew and whether it is possible for crew to broaden their knowledge and employability inside the industry and on land.

You might have read our most recent article by Emma Baggett at The-OM, Reasons Why a Degree will Supercharge Your Career. If you missed this one, make sure you have a read. Emma left us wondering what the reality of doing a degree whilst working onboard is? Is it possible? And, what drives superyacht crew to sign up?

We talk to Richard, a lead deckhand on an 80m Motor Yacht, who is currently a student on the BSc Sustainable Maritime Operations program with MLA College. He is also studying for his OOW modules. Richard reveals what gaining a degree qualification at sea is like for those thinking it is a path they may like to take:

Getting a Degree as Superyacht Crew
Photo by Lewis Keegan on Unsplash

Why did you sign up? What are your career plans and goals, and why is this degree qualification part of that plan?

Personally, I signed up because I don’t see myself in the industry beyond the age of 30, if I am honest. I am 24 now, and hopefully, in the next few months, I will have my OOW. Qualifying and working as an officer is my ideal, and it would be great to achieve my Masters. So, my thinking is that a Masters qualification combined with an honours degree qualification will be crucial in finding a good opportunity down the line. By that, I mean interesting work, rather than having to go out of the industry and settle for less. I want to open up as many opportunities as possible and give myself the best chance of success. 

How long does the course last? 

It lasts 18 months, but if you need to take longer, you can. The flexibility is perfect for an industry like ours. It really does makes getting a degree possible for superyacht crew.

What is a BSc Hons Course? 

BSc stands for Batchelor of Science, and the Hons is the research project you do in the final six months. When you do this course, it is the equivalent of stepping into the last year of a three-year degree program. I used my foundation degree to gain access, but if you have your OOW/Chief Mate/Masters or engineering CoC’s, you can also enrol onto the course. 


It says the course is flexible but is it really?  Did it work around your job? 

Yes, absolutely, of course, it is flexible. It has to be, doesn’t it with the life we lead? I applied for an extension with evidence from my captain, but to be honest, they have set the course up knowing that you are a seafarer. Therefore, they understand the realities of yachting and that there will be times when you need to pause or extend your time to complete assignments. They had no problem with that, even without evidence. There are opportunities for me to stop and start or delay studies if needed at any point in the program if I feel my workload is too much. 


How did you balance your OOW module study with the degree? 

As an example, I completed my degree this summer in the allotted year, but my focus at the moment is my last qualifying modules and my OOW oral exam. So I have deferred the final six months of study until May, when I will pick it all up again and complete my research project. 


How have you fit the study time around your work, rotation, charter and boss trips?

With study time around work, I found that the best solution for me was getting up at 5.30 am and putting in an hour and a half every day during the week. I don’t do any study at weekends, so I still go out and have fun.

When I was on rotation with a module underway, I got up early and put an hour or so in each morning. This way, it didn’t affect my day, and I still felt that I could do what I wanted.

With boss trips and charter, I did absolutely nothing. I just let my tutor know I wasn’t going to do anything, and I focused on my work and didn’t try and push myself beyond that. 


Is it worth the money? 

I think so for sure. It’s so much cheaper when you consider the cost of university fees in the UK for a year, plus your only expense is the initial fee. There is no need for accommodation, food, fuel, etc., or loss of wages.  


Did you have to pay upfront for it, or can I pay as I go?

I paid for it upfront by choice, but you can pay module by module. And, in the last few months, they have two-thirds of cost student loans available now. 


What was the biggest challenge of completing the course for you? 

The biggest challenge of completing the course for me was managing it through a busy med season on the boat I am on. We are constantly on standby, and we did a lot of boss trips. I like to get into the swing of things; I like to have a solid chunk of time to get some work done and have a routine going. So, with all the boss trips going on with charters, it would ruin my flow. So the nature of the industry was a challenge, making it hard to sustain ideas and the flow of my work. 


Was the subject matter interesting and relevant? How relevant is the subject matter to the industry? 

It was certainly interesting and helped open my eyes to aspects of sustainability that I had an idea about but didn’t know anything in detail. The degree is very relevant to yachting, especially from the point of view that it focuses on the operational sustainability angle. 


Did you end up going over subject areas you had already covered in your OOW modules? 

Those who have or are studying towards their OOW/Masters will be familiar with MLS, ISPS, MARPOL, ISM and the ships SMS. Knowledge of these conventions and codes is very relevant to the course and valuable when tackling the coursework, but you certainly don’t cover the same ground all over again.

Why do you think this degree qualification will help you achieve your career goals? 

Having spoken with people who have already made the move to go shore-based, the general consensus was that a relevant degree combined with your yacht qualifications and experience makes a big difference to your employability. So, I went with that. 


What skills have you learnt during the course? 

Researching, this was not one of my strengths before; I didn’t know what I was doing really in my previous studies. I have learned how to take key information from articles and books, extract the information, and present that with my opinion. It has opened my eyes to so much more than I knew before.  I have definitely learned how to figure things out myself, as you’re not spoon-fed at this level. There is help available, but they expect you to have an enquiring mind. 


Is it hard to study via online distance learning? 

No, it’s not hard at all, in 2022, we have access to any book in any library in the UK on our PC’s. I actually found it easier, if I am honest, than when I used to have to go into libraries and study. I like that I can study when I want, and the support is there if I need it. 


Is maritime operational sustainability an important issue to you? 

Yes, I am not a tree hugger, but I do care about the environment. We have a sea bin onboard that we use, but to be honest, it is more a study of how we can develop sustainability in the everyday operation of the industry, and that is important to me and its direct implications that I can take back to my job and implement in my day-to-day role. 


The degree includes a final project. What subject are you/have you going to be tackling? 

I will be studying crew mental health, particularly crew after COVID. It is something that has impacted me personally and my friends and particularly crew like me who were working away from home for ten months at a time at the height of Covid. It certainly has had a lasting effect. It’s a big subject, and there will be lots of information to access online as well as my own research and feedback from fellow crew, so I hope that what I produce has some use. 


Did you have an academic background before coming into yachting? 

It depends on what you call academic; I had three A levels before I came into yachting and studied a foundation degree whilst I was in my yacht cadetship, but I certainly wouldn’t call myself academic. I am hardworking and focused, which has been more valuable to me than the previous study. 


 A Batchelor’s of science degree qualification? is it too maths-based? 

Not at all. I am useless at maths and have found it very manageable. I would also suggest choosing modules that play to your strengths. For example, Ocean Met is more science/maths-based than the others.                                                                                                                                                                    

Does the lack of published literature and research unique to the superyacht sector cause an issue? 

No. The reports and essays I have written asking for comparisons between sectors have allowed me to use superyacht magazine, reports from other yachties, and my own experience for my claims.

It’s not too late to apply for the SMO degree, January entry. If you are interested in finding out more, THE OM handle all advice and applications. Visit or get in touch with Emma direct to discuss your options at 


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