Ayumi is a wellness practitioner on board Dardanella. From teaching Pilates to giving post-dive massages – she offers a totally bespoke service, focused on wellbeing.
“I grew up in Scotland but travelled around New Zealand as a backpacker about ten years ago and fell in love with it. I was running a yoga studio there when I was contacted by a yachting agent looking for a wellness therapist; they found me through the grapevine, and I joined Dardanella a month later. Now, I also teach the owners when they are on land – so my life is more or less split between teaching on the boat in the Pacific and teaching the owners in Europe.
Teaching on a yacht is always unpredictable. You are going to be in total harmony with the environment, there’s no way you’re getting out of that! You might start in blazing sunshine, then suddenly a storm comes through and you’re teaching in the rain. One day you might be looking at huge mountains, the next you’re out on the open ocean. It really shifts and changes a lot but I find that sense of quietness and the connection to nature generally complements the practice a lot.
I wasn’t instantly connected to this world, in fact, I am quite the sceptical spiritual practitioner – but I always seem to come back to a spiritual environment. I lived in a zen temple in Japan, then in a Tibetan refugee camp in the Himalayas. Later, I went to India to train in yoga. Eventually, it felt very natural to combine my love of movement and body with the spiritual aspect. I very much enjoy the psychology of it too, and I think my attitude works well in this industry; I always say if I can get the captain of this boat meditating, I can get anybody meditating!
The owners of the yacht has a great energy; they love really connecting with the places we go to and they’re always first on land finding local people and getting involved in community events. We were just on an island in the Australs [in French Polynesia] and they found out there was a local dance competition. We all went along and it was amazing. It’s not just about looking at destinations, or diving and surfing – it’s wanting to be part of it all.
My favourite place so far has been the Solomon Islands. We had a couple of marine biologists on board and I remember they were going crazy with excitement underwater. I could really sense that excitement and it made me realise how rare this experience was. It was the first time I had seen corals and underwater life like it. The Solomons are still relatively unexplored too – you go to the villages and they are very open and they have a traditional way of life which is beautiful to see. Papua New Guinea was wonderful too. I’ve always wanted to go. We took the boat up the Sepik river for seven days and went to the local crocodile festivals – I don’t think many superyachts have got up that far.
Back on board and I’m quite lucky in that the captain has always been very healthy and into promoting exercise. We have a thing called the Ten to Tens – so at 9.50am every morning the whole crew works out together. One day they’ll do abs and the next they’ll do chin ups; he’s always set this real focus on health. I think it filters down from the owners, too. They are keen on a healthy diet and so that affects what the chefs cook on board. They also learn local dishes from wherever we are in the world – so that keeps things interesting.
I have the opposite of sea legs when I get back to land – I am a bit off balance for a while; my friends sometimes think I’ve been drinking! I try to go hiking to reconnect with the earth. That is good to help ground me – it’s a nice process. I live in a tiny house in the New Zealand mountains for the short time that I am home, so my lifestyle is totally different and off-grid. It makes for a nice contrast.
On Dardanella, I still have Antarctica on my bucket list – and luckily it is next up on the itinerary!”