Who is Captain Kelly Gordon?
Well, I'm a yacht captain, 500 ton USCG Master, to be specific, and couldn't be more proud. But, before that, I was a chemistry professor, and before that, I was a veterinary assistant, and before that, I was a welder, and before that, I was a farm girl. And, really, all of these are still a part of who I am, especially the farm girl part, but as I thought about how I was going to describe myself and I started listing career titles, my thoughts came to a screeching halt. That's not who we are as individuals. Yes, our career and past careers help shape us into who we are and who we want to become as we spend so many hours of the day trying to perfect our careers, but is that who we are? This is what and who I am-I'm kind, caring, loving, confident, authentic, genuine, loyal, and very driven. I'm a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I'm also a little bit stubborn, sometimes unsure of myself, but most of all, this is all that makes me who I am. So, when someone asks who you are, stop and think about it next time. Yes, I'm a captain, but it's all the other that got me to here, and here is the happiest I've ever been
I'm from two places- a small farm in North-central Indiana and a small, seaside town in North Carolina. Both of these places hold what is dear to me, my family, our animals, and the sea.
Why did you decide to enter the world of yachting?
Entering the yachting world was entirely accidental for me! But, once I discovered it, I knew it was for me. It offers me a daily opportunity to learn and grow, challenges me, allows me to travel to some of the most beautiful places on the planet and meet some of the most amazing humans you never would've known otherwise. So, it really checks a lot of boxes for me!
What steps did you need to take to become a yachtie?
My path into yachting was probably a bit different than most, but the steps to becoming a yachtie are probably the same as most. I needed that first job on a boat! Once I got that job, I made sure to do anything that was asked of me-interior, exterior, engineering, etc. Then, I took my basic safety training course, which most refer to as STCW. This opened the doors for me to work on more boats considering most yachts require that you have this course completed. If you were to ask me now, what is the best way to get into the industry, I would say, go to Florida, take the STCW course and start day working. If you are a hard worker, you will get picked up for a full-time position in a heartbeat. It really is as simple as that.
How would you describe your progression from the beginning of your yachting career to your current position?
Yikes! Wow! I didn't know a thing back then! Seriously, I didn't know bow from stern or port from starboard. But, just last evening, I was docking a 106' Sanlorenzo in 30-knot winds solely on the communication of my mate and deckhand. But, it took me a lot of hard work to get here. I took every job that came my way for many years and worked in various departments onboard. To be more specific, though, I went from green deck/stew to mate to captain to senior captain (I think I can call myself a senior captain now😊). It takes time, though, and lots of persistence. Be a sponge, learn as much as you can, and don't give up. You will get there!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your yachting career so far?
Wow! Good question! I am going to answer this two ways.
Personally, I had a hard time with imposter syndrome for quite some time. I didn't always trust my ability and sometimes felt like I wasn't really doing it, being a "real" captain, that is. I would look at all of the other captains in awe and just say to myself, "you are nowhere near their ability." I finally overcame that, though, and it was just after a period of time spent proving to myself that I could do it and was also extremely capable and good at it.
On another level, it was tough early on and sometimes is, being a female at the helm. Sometimes the guys want to "mansplain" to me or just go straight to the men on the boat as if they must be the captain. Although, I must say, in the last few years, that hasn't really been the case. I have proved my ability, and the guys see that I work just as hard as them at being good at what I do. So, it's really the internal struggle that was the more significant challenge for me because the men have really been nothing but supportive.
What are the perks of being a yacht captain?
There are 2 that stand out to me-the the fact that I have a job that I absolutely love and that my travels have allowed me to cultivate some of the most meaningful relationships like no other. The people I have met and the friendships I have made along the way are indescribable. The people are what make this job worth it. And, I roll out of bed ready to go to work every day and love every second of it. Of course, there's the obvious: I get to travel to some really cool places, and I have an entire crew that makes sure I never go without. We really do take extraordinary care of each other, and that just makes my heart smile.
What is your number one goal as a yacht captain, and what steps are required to successfully achieve it?
Another good question! I have 2 number one goals! One is for me, and the other is for the crew. For myself, I would like to end with my 3000 GT Master's license, and I am close! The steps required to get to that are to pass the National Exam. It would be the 500/1600 GRT USCG Master's exam in this case. Once that is passed, you are required to take a series of courses that really help you advance on a managerial level and some operational as well. Once you have completed all of those courses, you can apply for your 3000 GT STCW license, an international license. Of course, a condensed explanation, so if you have questions, please don't hesitate to reach out!
My second number one goal is to help young crew achieve their goals and dreams. Whether it is to become a Chief Stew, First Officer, Captain, or Engineer, I want to help you get there! I am passionate about encouraging people to go after what they want. I did, and I am the happiest I have ever been! As a result, this requires me to really hone in on my leadership ability, and I am always thinking, reading, and looking to learn new and better ways of being a captain/mentor/friend.
What makes a crew successful?
A good captain, no joke. When you have a good captain that genuinely cares about the program and their crew, it becomes contagious throughout the boat. It is also important to have crew members that care about their careers. When you have crew members that want to be there and are team players, that makes all the difference. I have seen boats that are divided, almost in the sense of interior vs. exterior, like opposing teams. It shouldn't and can't be that way. Once we realize we are on the same team and have the same goal, we have a successful crew, one of seamlessness and fluidity.
What advice would you give to yachties and aspiring yachties?
Don't be picky about your first couple of jobs! Just get your name, face, and work ethic out there. If you're a hard worker and pleasant to be around, the word will travel fast, and your phone will start ringing! Ask questions, all of them, lots of them! Questions help you learn and prevent mistakes. Be persistent. If you make a mistake, own it and learn from it.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Ya know, I love this question! There have been times in my life that it was very clear to me (so I thought) and times that it wasn't so clear. At any rate, I have always ended up landing in a good place, so I am looking forward to 5 years from now. So, in 5 years, I will have my 3000 GT Master's license, be running a 150' motor yacht, and have one hell of a crew beside me. Hopefully, I will get to spend a bit more time at home in hopes that my mate will become my relief by then. And, if that dream comes true, then I have done my job well over the next 5 years. 😊
Interviewed by: Alexander Haubrich
Founder of YachtieWorld
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