Tell us about yourself!
I grew up in a farming family, so I'm very much like a small-town farm girl. After school, I actually studied a year in agriculture before realizing that farming actually isn't what I want to do for most of my life, as much as I love living on a farm and being out in the country, it's wasn't the career path I wanted to follow so I went to a career counsellor and that's where I found out about Stenden. Honestly, being more introverted than extroverted, I didn't think Stenden would suit me because I'm not such a people person, but studying at Stenden actually allowed me to become more extroverted, even though I'm still very much introvert. However, I realized that it was actually best for me because it got me out of my shell and taught me to not be scared of meeting new people and talking to strangers. I honestly think Stenden was the best thing to have happened in my life.
You have made the move from traditional hospitality to work on the yachts in Spain. What inspired this change?
So, in the first year of hospitality at Stenden, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I always had this idea of having my own guest houses or at least managing guest houses because it's less intense than a major hotel and it's more of who I am, it's more personal. Then, in the first year I met Barry, who is from Port Alfred, and we started dating near the end of 1st year. It was his best friend who was also from Port Alfred and who has now been working on the yachts for the past three years and actually convinced Barry to try it out. When Barry got into it, he realized that he didn't want to be earning the very low salary that he was earning in South Africa. So we decided to do the courses together and we both discussed the options and actually said, you know, ‘this is going to be the best thing for us!’. So, we did long distance for a year and then while he was away, I finished off a third-year internship at the lodge before flying over to Spain to join Barry this year. So, I would say he was the one who inspired me to come work on the yachts. I would never have done it by myself because it's quite daunting travelling to another country when you've never left South Africa before, so yeah I think it's been the best step forward towards our future together and towards our future career.
Do you feel your studies have equipped you well to make this change?
Most definitely, if I'd come straight out of school and worked on the yachts I would have been very lost and probably wouldn't have lasted even a month because in the yachting industry you really need a tough skin because you are just another number. They don't care about you. Unless you are on the right boat like Barry and I are, where the boss really cares about us and makes sure that we're okay. You are just there to do the hard work that you have to do, it definitely isn't for everybody.
So, coming from Stenden with Case Based Learning (CBL) and having to talk in front of people and answer questions, having to have discussions and debates and give presentations in front of your whole class with lecturers and industry professionals, it can be quite daunting. I mean, working at MyPond (Stenden SA’s Practical Hotel) was basically my first job and even though we weren't paid any money, it really forced me to get out of my skin, get out of my comfort zone and put myself out there, and to not be afraid of talking to people. I always thought, you know, I'm going to say the wrong thing or I'm going to make a fool of myself and embarrass myself but sometimes you just need to be yourself and people will love you for who you are. So I'm really grateful I made the decision to go to Stenden because if I hadn't gone to Stenden and hadn’t met Barry, I wouldn’t have come on the yachts. It’s the best step for me to make towards having a good future and making good money.
How do you feel the new, post-COVID world will impact yachting travel?
COVID has impacted the yachting industry quite a bit, with a lot of people having lost their jobs and being sent home. There was even a story about a South African, working on a yacht in New Zealand where the entire crew were told that they weren’t going to be able to be paid and that they were pretty much fired unless COVID ends, then they could probably be rehired. So, this South African managed to get one of the last flights to Dubai, where he could then catch a connecting flight to South Africa. However, when they got to Dubai, regulations had changed and the gentleman ended up living in the airport for what I believe was about two weeks before the government eventually said they were okay to be repatriated back to South Africa from the Doha airport.
So, it has impacted a lot of people and a lot of jobs. Lucky for me, I am working on a private yacht/charter boat for Mr Nicolas Roach from the Nicholas James Group, so when he isn’t using it he charters it for other people. Luckily, our jobs were secure even though we had our salaries cut in half and I was unable to work for a couple of weeks. Interestingly, living here in Spain, essential staff are allowed to work and for some reason, fortunately, we were considered essential staff. However, only two people were allowed on the boats and there were three of us so I ended up staying at home, trying to occupy my time doing online courses. I did a wine course, a food and safety course and a bartending course. I did as much as I could to keep myself busy because obviously being in the house for three weeks, I didn't want to just sit and do nothing and at that time I was still being paid, so I wanted to make sure my bosses time and the money I was being paid wasn’t being wasted.
So, the yachting season usually starts from May until the end of September which basically means that we have missed out on a main section of the working season. Additionally, movement is still somewhat restricted but hopefully this will be changing in Europe soon. I know of another story in which a captain flew from the UK to start work again but he had to go into quarantine for two weeks before coming onto the boat which causes major delays for any operations. Hopefully the industry can pick up quickly again when travel in Europe continues and we can carry on doing what we enjoy.