Case studies

Holly Barnard

With the support of Trinity House, I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime.

The UKSA Superyacht Cadetship offers an exciting alternative to university and could result in a long-term career which includes travelling all over the world. The Cadetship is designed to send graduates onto yachts with a realistic understanding of the yachting industry and our cadets are currently employed in all areas of the sector, from racing superyachts to the most high-profile motor vessels. Superyacht Cadet graduate Holly Barnard shares her experience whilst training at UKSA.

Tell us how you got your job as 2nd mate on board SV Sea Dragon?

I had been following the works of Pangaea Exploration and EXXpedition for a number of years through different social media platforms and I stumbled across the job advert through Pangaea’s instagram. I was quick to get in touch with the land-based team who were equally prompt with their response.

During the online interview, the team had a quick discussion on mute and returned to me, unconventionally offering me the position there and then. A month later, they flew me out to Victoria, British Columbia, where I started on deck maintenance that next day.

How many crew on board, and what are the different roles?

In total, there are three crew members onboard; the Captain, 1st Mate and myself as 2nd Mate. Sea Dragon is a 72ft (22m), 90,000lb displacement steel hulled sailing vessel built in the UK in 2000. Formerly known as a CB 37, she is one of 11 second-generation yachts built for the Global Challenge Race – one of the longest, most demanding ocean voyages ever made with an upwind, west-about 32,000km circumnavigation. In her new role, the boat provides a superb platform for rugged capability, capacity and efficiency with a naturally low environmental footprint – perfect for the type of remote sailing expeditions that we do.

Describe a typical day for you

0600 wake up. Coffee. Make breakfast. Engine checks. Prep the deck. Engine on. Store away down below. Hook up. Navigate out of the anchorage. Main up. Yankee unfurled. Engine off. Venture towards next anchorage. HUMPBACK WHALE! Clean down below. Teach guests knots. PORPOISES! Deep chats on deck. BALD EAGLE! Teach navigation. Bake and make lunch. ORCAS! Fix any niggles. Maybe put a reef in/shake out a reef/motor? Singing at the helm. BEARS! Giggle at the abundance of jumping salmon.  Pilotage to anchorage/night sailing. Hook down. Put boat to bed. Launch tender. Explore ashore. OTTERS! SNAKES! SEALS! BEARS! Venture up rivers. Explore rock pools. Hike trails. Back for dinner. Dinner on deck. Draw/read/swim/paddle board/play music/ukulele/games. Kettle on. Cuppa in hand. Watch the sunset. Anchor alarm on. Blog writing. Watch the sea light up bioluminescence. Night night.

Thing you love most about your job

Every day is an adventure. Exploring unknown territories, meeting new wildlife neighbours, and being able to sail to areas only accessible by boat is pretty spectacular. I’ve always loved being on and in the ocean, so living and working on it is a dream come true. I love travelling and discovering new places and cultures, plus being able to share these experiences with our guests and making their time onboard unforgettable. We at Pangaea go to sea to observe, document, learn, listen and communicate. As J.Y Cousteau believed “we must go and see for ourselves”.

Thing you like least about your job.

Spending long lengths of time away from family and friends. Not having enough time to enjoy my favourite sports and passions, like windsurfing/winging, hill walking or painting. Due to a strict itinerary and time schedule, the worst part of this job is having to sail past places that you want to go explore more of. There’s nothing more frustrating than sailing past beautiful mountain ridge line, a spectacular beach or quirky looking island and not being able to stop. Putting a twist on this, I’ve made note of the places I’d like to revisit, marked them off on Navionics and one day I’ll return to them to go explore.

Tell us what you’ve learned from working on board

Every day onboard is a school day. I’m constantly building my broad skillset, solving different problems and learning from my colleagues’ experiences. Coming from an instructor background, I’ve learnt how to effectively teach guests how to safely handle a large vessel and teach basic navigation. I’ve become a some-what savvy plumber, deck repairer and maintenance minion. I’ve understood the importance of clear communication amongst a small crew and how to stand up for myself when necessary.

Most exciting place(s) you’ve seen

Since joining onboard, we have sailed from Victoria BC Canada, through the infamous Inside Passage to Ketchikan, Alaska and back down to Vancouver. Shaped by the staggering forces of massive glaciers millions of years ago, the Inside Passage stretches 500miles along the Pacific Ocean, full of hidden and untouched inlets. We’ve explored trails only accessed by local bears and wolves, swum in natural hot water springs, waterfalls and glacier waters and eaten dinner on beaches only populated by seals, otters and seabirds.

Tell us about the wildlife!

Words actually cannot describe the sheer vastness of wildlife we’ve come across. From breaching pods of humpback whales and orcas, to pesky peckish porpoises. We’ve observed grizzly bears foraging with their cubs, gazed at bald eagles diving for fish, swum with wild salmon the length of my leg, awwwed at otters playing amongst rocks, and aaahhed at the amount of seals basking in the sun.

Most interesting people you’ve met?

Everyone who has come onboard Sea Dragon has an interesting story to tell. Each guest regardless of their sailing experience, brings something unique to the boat as a crew member. We’ve met different sailors on our passages also, one of whom was a guy circumnavigating with his Alaskan husky Shera.

Do you get any time off?

Time off onboard an explorer vessel is always limited.  When guests are onboard, the only time off you get is to sleep. When guests are off, there are quick turn arounds after each trip before the next group come onboard. Having said this, we manage to squeeze in a day off between each leg to go and explore the local area.

How do you cope being far from home and away from family and friends?

Being away from loved ones is always tough, especially when you’re living so remotely, sometimes without phone signal for weeks on end. You miss birthdays, you miss big family events, you miss holidays. You’re always the one cancelling plans and cancelling calls, because when aboard you’re always working. Thankfully, my friends and family are deeply supportive, patient and understanding, and for that they’ll never know how grateful I truly am. Without each of them, I wouldn’t be sailing the seas I am today. Traveling the world has always been a dream of mine, and as selfish as I sometimes feel, I know that if I stayed at home, I would forever be craving the experiences I am currently living. My biggest fear in life, is looking at the life I’ve lead when I’m old and weathered, and regretting not living my potential, so I’m living it!

Do you eat well on board?

Onboard Sea Dragon, our cuisine is delicious hearty vegetarian food, made my all crew members onboard. Each of us take a turn to cook up a storm in the galley, sharing recipes with our guests and sometimes vice-versa.

Do you have your own cabin or are you sharing?

I currently have my own cabin, cosy, simple and quiet. Perfect for some down time at the end of a full on day.

Your working towards your OOW modules, how will you fit this in with jobs on board?

At the minute, I’m working towards them by gaining invaluable real-life experience, exploring different waters, expanding my navigation, maintenance, and engine skills. When I’m settled in a more permanent role or between different gigs, I’ll be back in the classroom gaining more qualifications and putting all my new skills to the test.

The maritime industry is still playing catch up in terms of diversity.  Have you found it a disadvantage to be female?  Can you see this being a barrier in the future?

How many times do you hear the phrase “Male Captain” or “Male Deckhand”, vs the amount of times you hear “Female Captain” or “Female Deckhand”?

The maritime world remains to be a male dominated industry. Traditional mindsets and patriarchal norms are the biggest hurdles to accepting women on-deck. The representation of women in the sector is so meagre, but times are definitely changing. Personally, I’ve never considered my gender to be a disadvantage to me, however I’ve had moments where being a woman has been a disadvantage. For instance, I’ve applied for several jobs that turned out were only considering male candidates. Truth is, to be considered and respected, you have to be better than a man, and potentially working up the career ladder will take longer than if you were male. Currently, only 2% of yacht captains are Female. Slowly, more and more women are being encouraged to seek careers on deck. What we need is the right support networks, and to be given the same opportunities as men.  We do not need special privileges; we need to be given a chance.

How I see it is, those who cannot see your potential beyond your gender, are simply not worth your time – it’s their loss and your gain. I would never consider mine or anyone’s gender to be an excuse not to succeed.  Success is achieved with perseverance.

The day the gender distinction of deckhands and captains would be no longer necessary, we would have finally reached gender equality.

What’s your long-term goal/aspiration in the maritime industry?

My long-term goal within the maritime industry is to Captain an exploration vessel, forever exploring new waters with fellow Thalassophiles.

Are you in touch with any of your fellow UKSA alumni?

I am very much still in touch with my crew and sister crew, with the powers of social media we’ve been able to stay on top of each other’s endeavours from all corners of the world. I’m beyond happy and proud of each of them with what they’ve accomplished so far and cannot wait to catch up with them all at some point. Big love lads.

What’s next for you?

That’s the million-dollar question, I usually just roll with the waves and go with the flow, you never know who you’re going to meet and what opportunities may present themselves. My position onboard Sea Dragon comes to an end mid-October, so I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for upcoming positions. The maritime industry is fast-paced, and you’ve got to be ready to ride the tide.

Should mention here that the recruitment team at UKSA, have and continue to support me in finding positions. Their personable approach offers a unique ability to cater to your job preferences. They know you, know how you work and what kind of boat/crew would suit you. I truly appreciate their continuous efforts to support me in my career.

When are we going to see you again?!

Hopefully not in the near/too distant future! I plan to come back to complete some new courses, gain more qualifications, and catch up with friends – so stay tuned!

The UKSA Professional Yachtmaster course and the Superyacht Cadetship both offer an exciting alternative to university and could result in a long-term career which includes travelling all over the world. Both programmes designed to send graduates onto yachts with a realistic understanding of the yachting industry and UKSA cadets are currently employed in all areas of the sector, from racing superyachts to the most high-profile motor vessels.  

Holly was funded through the Trinity House Superyacht Cadetship Bursary which supports the training of young people at UKSA who do not have the financial means to afford the training programme, helping them to access careers in the yachting industry.

Share your #SeaChangeStories

You can share your #SeaChangeStories across social media, please email us with your story and remember to send us your photos too.