The founder of The Ultimate Yacht Purser Course talks about her superyachting life.
My father is a pilot for South African Airways. After university, I went through a rigorous interview process to become a pilot before realising that it wasn’t my passion. I had been considering working on superyachts for a while and in 2006, an opportunity magically presented itself via a friend of a friend who was recruiting. I landed the job, caught a flight to Barcelona and never really looked back.
I spent some years as a chief stew on board, plus a short stint in yacht management in Monaco, but I always wanted to be a purser, overseeing the logistics and administration of a superyacht. I felt like I’d be the perfect fit for it, but it was challenging to find out precisely what captains were looking for. Regardless, I felt confident that I’d be suitable, as I’d studied law as well as accounting, finance, tourism, project management and superyacht management. Eventually, I stepped into a purser position on a 90-metre yacht that had never had a purser before. Despite being thrown in at the deep end and having to carve out the role onboard, the fantastic female chief officer was instrumental in guiding me through the process.
I realised in hindsight that there were not enough purser courses out there for people like me who already had a lot of education and experience. It took me about six years to land my first purser role, and if more information or mentors had been available, I would have progressed more quickly. I launched The Ultimate Yacht Purser Course to provide theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to manage yacht administration and logistics confidently. It took me about two years to write, and it’s one of the most comprehensive courses out there. It’s not just a case of turning up to ten classes and receiving a certificate; it’s very interactive. I am constantly updating it as regulations change so quickly in this industry.
I think there is an unconscious bias that the purser role is only about filing papers and checking receipts and therefore not a highly skilled position, but it is so much more than that. On large yachts, the purser steps in to complete all the administrative tasks that the captain and officers are too busy to do anymore. Therefore, it is essential that the purser has an excellent understanding of the legal and regulatory environment and how to minimise risks accordingly.
I’m also an ambassador for She of the Sea – a platform launched by Jenny Matthews to start conversations about gender and diversity in the industry. I am always keen to get involved with organisations that support women, because it’s such a patriarchal society and I think women face many challenges in leadership roles.
I value connecting with different people and yachting has allowed me to have the most incredible friendships with people all over the world. That’s been the best thing about my career – as well as the travel, of course. One of my most memorable experiences was in the Bahamas. I had been working really hard on a busy charter yacht, and at the end of the season, the owner thanked us by letting us have the boat for a week! He even said we could invite friends and family onboard, so I flew my cousin out from Texas. It was just the most incredible holiday, cruising around the Exumas for a week like guests!
I also loved cruising Chilean Patagonia and Antarctica. They are both such surreal places. It is so, so quiet, with the most incredible landscape and wildlife. It’s this dream world where the sun doesn’t really ever set at night, so you get this pink haze every evening. I love diving too, so Cocos Island, between Costa Rica and Galapagos, was pretty spectacular.
Where is still on my bucket list? Japan, for skiing!