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Excited, inspired, passionate, compassionate; these are all words that come to mind after a recent conversation we had with Capt. Kelly J. Gordon, discussing her latest venture ‘Yachtie Minds Matter'.
Alongside guest speaker Emma Ross, Capt. Kelly will host a Yachtie Minds Matter seminar on September 28 at the Monaco Yacht Show.
Delving into pivotal conversations on confronting challenges in the yachting arena, such as sexual harassment, bullying, substance misuse, and gender bias, the talk endeavours to highlight pathways to address the industry's less-talked-about issues.
After our discussion, it was clear to us this is something we wanted to support and are proud to be a sponsor of the event.
Below, Kelly openly talks about this initiative, how it came about, and just what it means to her.
OI: What inspired you to launch "Yachtie Minds Matter”?
I am living my best life and the happiest I have ever been, but that wasn’t always the case. I went through some very low points in life, but being able to look back on that and then look at the ‘now,’ I want to share my experiences, good and bad, and how I got to where I am.
When I hear stories of bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, loneliness, and a multitude of other concerns that lead to a decline in one’s mental health I feel compelled to speak up and encourage others to do so.
We must be our own advocates in life. Ultimately, the hope is that by sharing my story that I can inspire at least one person to live their best life. If I can do that, then I have done my job.
OI: How prevalent are issues like sexual harassment, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, and gender discrimination within the yachting industry based on your experience?
Based on my experience, issues such as these are very prevalent. I am sure that they are common in other industries as well, but the yachting industry is quite possibly a better breeding ground for these issues because there isn’t much separation from work and home.
We live together, work together, play together, and share a small little box (crew quarters) together. In fact, I have even been bullied and harassed as a Captain.
OI: As one of the few female superyacht Captains, can you share how your unique perspective has influenced this initiative?
Being a female Captain has, without question, empowered my role. First, it is unfortunate, but it seems that we still live in a society that doesn’t allow men to feel that they can speak as openly and freely as I can and do about this. It is slowly changing, but not fast enough. Perhaps, biologically, I have an advantage as a woman because we tend to be a bit softer, more mothering, and society allows as such.
All of this helps give me the courage to speak up. Stepping onto a stage in a room full of people takes guts, but I feel compelled to use my position and perspective as a female Captain to foster progress and give back during my time here. It’s a responsibility I embrace fully, and I am keen to use this "advantage" to make a tangible difference.
OI: Can you tell us about the first time you felt compelled to speak up about mental health?
It came after a succession of distressing accounts from various crew members, but the final straw was experiencing a traumatic event myself. On one of the days I was treating the crew to a beach day. It happened to me, by one of my very own crew. It was then that I realised it was imperative to use my industry-given voice to advocate for change. The details are for another time, but that was the decisive moment for me.
OI: How can crew members themselves become advocates for their own mental well-being?
It sounds so simple, but just speak up. You must be your own advocate and if you need help, ask. If you don’t advocate for yourself, no one else will.
I know Captains and managers can be intimidating at times and it can be scary to take an issue to them, but if you don’t there is one thing for sure - nothing will change. So, when you’re looking to find the courage to speak up, let me be your courage, right now, you can, and you have an obligation to yourself to do so.
OI: Can you share any success stories or positive outcomes that have already emerged from Yachtie Minds Matter?
Absolutely, one story does resonate deeply with me. A former chief stew of mine reached out during a distressing situation involving her safety with a fellow crew member. I advised her to communicate clearly with her Captain, who was preoccupied with myriad responsibilities.
Taking this advice to heart, she garnered the courage to speak up, resulting in a positive transformation not just for her, but the entire crew and the yacht owners as well. She later expressed her heartfelt gratitude, underscoring the ripple effect of her empowered decision. This instance is a testament to the change we aspire to instil in the industry, one crew member at a time.
OI: How do you maintain your own mental health while spearheading such an emotionally charged initiative?
I find that the most important and impactful thing that I can do is to be kind to myself. I have a lot of conversations with myself and if I’m being hard on myself, I interject that dialogue and remind myself that if I am doing all that I possibly can, that is truly enough.
I have said a million times over that the conversations we have with ourselves are the most important conversations that we will ever have. And periodically I have to remind myself that the very reason for this initiative and creating Yachtie Minds Matter is because of my own journey.
So, to answer your question, I speak kindly to myself, I cut myself some slack when it seems to get too overwhelming, I speak openly and honestly like I am doing this very moment answering this question. Being authentic and feeling safe to do so helps in its own way, too. And to the crew that continue to be vulnerable and share their stories with me, please don’t ever stop. You are my inspiration and keep me going more than you’ll ever know.
OI: And finally - Are there plans to integrate "Yachtie Minds Matter" with existing crew training programs or educational curriculums?
To be frank, there are tons of ideas rolling around at the moment, but there are a few existing programs I am considering teaming up with. Stay tuned!
For now, social media plays a huge role in driving this initiative forward. When I started The Captain’s Classroom and later, Yachtie Minds Matter, there was considerable thought and planning that went into how I would be able to have the greatest impact and reach a majority.
I have found the best strategy is through social media with short, to the point messages. But also, strategically sprinkling in live workshops, talks, and seminars gives that extra “punch” as it allows those that thrive off the live presence to do so.
I said I wanted to take this initiative international the day that I held my seminar at the Palm Beach International Boat Show (PBIBS). Little did I know that it would ring true in just a matter of days. So, social media is paramount to driving this initiative forward.
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