#humansofyachting – Jenny Matthews
Jenny is the first officer on a superyacht based out of Barcelona. She is also the founder of She of the Sea, a platform which helps women in superyachting to connect with each other.
“I first found out about yachting thanks to my next-door neighbours. As a captain and a chief stewardess, they were perfectly placed to tell me all about the industry. The more I learned, the more it started to resonate with me. I was about to head off to university to do a Bachelor of Commerce but suddenly I decided that I was going to change direction and train to work in the yachting world. I think my parents were a bit shocked, but the captain had assured me I could follow in his footsteps, so I didn’t have too many reservations.
Whilst I was training, I heard very strange rumours about the number of women who had followed a similar path to me and thought it just couldn’t be true. I was being told there were only ten of us in the entire industry! So I reached out to a Facebook group, Girls on Deck, and found that the numbers were much higher than I’d been told, although we still have room for improvement. I started She of the Sea as a way to connect all of the women working in the industry. Through the website, I am realizing that there are lots of us out there, we’ve just not had a community to find each other through before.
Plenty of women have inspired me along the way – but perhaps nobody more than Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, where I am from. When I set up the site, I wrote to tell her about it, and to my total shock, I actually got a personal letter of support from her, which was insane. I keep it next to my desk and I look at it every day.
I work with a female captain at the moment – I think the stars aligned as far as that is concerned. I’d finished my training and started the website when I had some downtime, and this job suddenly popped up from an old contact. I jumped at the chance to work with a highly respected female captain. We are based in Barcelona at the moment and we are just cracking on with our winter season here. It’s pretty awesome to be based in such an amazing part of the world.
I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve already covered a lot of ground through yachting – I’ve travelled everywhere from Scandinavia and Australia to Asia and South America – but for me, the most memorable experiences come from the connections you make with the rest of the crew. That is what I take away from yachting even more than the destinations.
I’ve found that the majority of the boats I’ve worked on, including the one I’m on now, are very family-focused. The time that the owners or charter guests are spending on their boats is very precious to them because they are so busy. For me, it’s a real pleasure; it makes what we’re doing have a bit more meaning. So again, I seem to care less and less about where I am and more and more about who I am with.
Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
That said, I haven’t been yachting around my home country of New Zealand yet – and I am hoping I get the chance to do that at some stage. I would love to take a vessel around the fjords in the Nelson area – and to the Bay of Islands up north. Meanwhile, Barcelona has blown me away. The Spanish culture is incredible – I’ve become an obsessed salsa dancer so I am doing that three or four nights a week while the boat is in port.
Next up for She of the Sea is an app to make us an even stronger community – and then we’ll be working hard on the mentoring side of things as that really seems to have struck a chord among the women who visit the site. There is so much on the horizon for us.