Yachtmaster to Ocean Star – Martin’s story

As a group of new UKSA Professional Yachtmaster students, we often wondered and discussed what exactly we had all signed up for and our personal motives behind it. Many of us spoke of how family and friends had told us we were crazy sailing through the British winter but for us the hardships of winter sailing not only made us better sailors, with our developing skill sets being pressurised under mother natures more forceful scrutiny, but it also brought us closer together as friends. The diversity of educational and professional backgrounds, ages, upbringing and experience always fuelled our conversations, providing answers but more importantly more questions. It helped to shape the Yachtmaster course for each of us as individuals as we considered our future plans and utilised the careers guidance team, highly experienced UKSA instructors, as well as each other to figure out what to do with our growing list of maritime certifications. This community of sharing and learning that we had all created made the UKSA experience for me and my time there became much more than just completing an instructional based course.

It soon became clear to me that I wanted to instruct sailing, using my previous experiences and knowledge to help others learn what I was already thoroughly enjoying. The feedback loop through each instructor, the careers team and yachting management helped to shape the whole process of making this happen and as soon as I was certified I was put forward by UKSA for a position aboard Hummingbird, a 60ft round the world racing yacht. The boat, now owned and run by two former UKSA instructors Bruce and Rachael, was about to set sail from London, England to St. Petersburg, Russia under the Rubicon 3 Sailing ethos of Sail, Train, Explore. As second mate the role was developmental for me, almost an apprenticeship, gaining valuable bigger boat experience and leading some instruction for the customers who had joined us on board. Although I had “successfully completed my driving test” becoming a Commercially Endorsed Yachtmaster Offshore as one client eloquently put it, the Rubicon 3 journey took me into many unfamiliar waters and into the maritime industry, where everything I had been taught at UKSA was truly being put into a practical use.

The final stage of this first year of sailing as a career choice was with ActionQuest, a company recommended to me during my Yachtmaster course at UKSA by a fellow student who had previously worked there as a diving instructor. The position of yacht skipper at ActionQuest’s experiential education program in the British Virgin Islands had me placed in a position of command and responsibility of 2 other staff members and 12 teenage shipmates.

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As the 15 of us shared our 50ft mono-hull, our group of complete strangers would become close friends, sharing all the live aboard duties, while also gaining sailing and scuba diving certifications and enjoying their “best summer ever” as many described. After impressing here, gaining many new friends and extending my maritime network, I am writing this as the interim Captain of Ocean Star, an 88ft two masted schooner launched in 1991. Run by American based Sea|mester, a sister company of ActionQuest, my role here is to carry out maintenance and repairs in preparation for the vessels next 80 day Caribbean adventure as a working school ship for college students. A journey and experience that has seen over 700 student-sailors live, sail and study aboard the vessel.

What my next step holds is currently unknown but with UKSA’s continued guidance, help through yachtcareers.com and my growing web of networks I am safe in the knowledge that between UKSA and I, we will find another sailing adventure just around the corner.

Martin is on Twitter @MartinSmudge13