Crew Compass caught up with bosun, Alysha Coffman, about her experience in yachting. Note: For those that don’t know what a bosun is, bosuns are mid-level deck crew members who help manage the exterior equipment as well as manage junior deck crew.
Alysha shares the hardest and most rewarding parts of being a woman on deck, a story or two, and offers some great advice. Check out the interview below and follow Alysha’s experience on Instagram @alyshacoffman.boardpro:
Crew Compass: What is your position? Describe what you do.
Alysha: I am a Bosun on my current yacht. Basically, It’s my job to keep the exterior in impeccable condition and manage the deck crew.
Crew Compass: Why did you start a career on deck to eventually become a bosun/mate?
Alysha: I started my career on deck with my sights on becoming a captain. I moved to smaller yachts, and worked my way up, and became a captain in my mid-twenties. I have since turned my sights back to larger yachts. To be honest, there is definitely a draw to the rotation and a wider range of programs that comes with larger yachts.
Crew Compass: What did you do before yachting, and where are you from?
Alysha: Before yachting, I actually built yacht tenders for my fathers’ company, CF Boatworks. I am originally from Tortola but grew up in Fort Lauderdale, which definitely made it easy for me to transition into yachting.
Crew Compass: What made you want to start a career in yachting?
Alysha: Honestly, I don’t think I had ever planned to get into yachting. It was more by chance than anything. I was offered daywork on a yacht that my fathers’ company had built tenders for. At the time, I thought of it as a more short term thing I would try for a little while.
Crew Compass: How long have you been in yachting? What size yachts have you worked on?
Alysha: I have been in the industry for almost 8 years now, working on all sorts of yachts, ranging from 20m to 70m.
Crew Compass: How did you get your first job and how much has changed since then and now?
Alysha: Since I got my first job, it does feel like a lot has changed. I don’t know if I can exactly put my finger on any one particular thing. It could just be that I am getting older and view the world differently.
Crew Compass: What is the hardest part of your job?
Alysha: The hardest part of my job would be sometimes dealing with conflicting personalities that you can occasionally come across onboard, and trying to keep a professional and peaceful atmosphere.
Crew Compass: What is your favorite part of your job?
Alysha: My favorite part of my job is definitely the travel and all the amazing people that I meet along the way.
Crew Compass: What is it like being a woman on deck? Have you found it challenging?
Alysha: Being a woman on deck is great most of the time! I love working outside and am very confident in what I do. I have definitely worked for, and alongside quite a few male chauvinists, to be polite, but they have just made me want to be better, work harder, and set my sights higher.
Crew Compass: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to work on deck?
Alysha: Advice that I would give to anyone who wants to work on deck, or anyone wanting to get into yachting, period, would be to always do your best to keep a positive attitude. We work in tight quarters with a lot of personalities, and everyone has bad days and other things going on in their lives. Occasionally you get that one miserable crew member that seems to be like a black hole and bring everyone’s mood down. If you are that positive light, you will not only have a better day, but everyone around you will too. This can change the whole dynamic of a crew and make a boat more fun to work on, even make you want to stick around longer.
Crew Compass: Where are you off to next with your boat?
Alysha: I am on a world cruising yacht. We are currently cruising the south pacific islands. Next up will be New Zealand, Australia, and SE Asia.
Crew Compass: Where is your favorite place you’ve been so far on a yacht?
Alysha: My favorite place I have been to so far, I would have to say, would be Croatia. There are so many amazing places I have been to in my yachting career, but Croatia is one place that I always look forward to going back to. I just love all of the little islands and old towns. I find the people to be extremely friendly as well!
Crew Compass: Charter or private – and why?
Alysha: I am currently on a private yacht because it has an amazing program. If I were to ever leave, there would definitely be a draw to charter yachts and the tips that come along with them!
Crew Compass: They say in yachting there are 3 elements – owner, program, and crew — but it’s impossible to have all 3 be amazing (if you’ve found the unicorn, do tell!). If you could only pick 2, which 2 and why?
Alysha: I have spent my whole career looking for the ‘unicorn’. I have definitely put in my time on some ’not so great’ boats in the past, but have been lucky enough to find it twice now. Previously, before my current gig, I was hired on for a crossing on a great boat with all the above. I knew it was a great program so I continually went back to cover for the crew on holiday, for crossings, etc., and became their sort of ‘permanent temporary crew member’. Eventually, I knew I would have to find a permanent position on another boat. Amazingly, I have found the trifecta of a great owner, crew, and program a second time for a program that turned out to be better than I’d imagined. Out of a great owner, program, and crew, I’d have to say that if I could only pick 2, it would be a great crew and owner. You could be in some of the most amazing places in the world, but if you have a nightmare of an owner, and the crew doesn’t get along on top of it, you could absolutely hate life. Just the same as being in the most boring place in the world, but having a great owner, and great crew can make for one of the best experiences.
Crew Compass: If you weren’t working on yachts, what would you be doing?
Alysha: If I were not working on yachts, I honestly don’t know what else I would be doing. I don’t think I’m cut out to sit still for too long, so I know a desk job would definitely be out!
Crew Compass: Tell us a true story that happened to you —The craziest, funniest, or scariest moment so far.
Alysha: One of the craziest things that ever happened to me was a time I actually had to have a captain police escorted off of a yacht that I worked on. I had been working for the owner for a while now and we had a delivery captain come in for a trip up the east coast to the Great Lakes. I had heard that this captain was a recovered alcoholic, and he seemed like a really awesome guy once he was onboard. We were stopped in Myrtle Beach and the captain said he was running out to Napa Auto Parts for Hydraulic oil. About an hour or so later he returned with a couple plastic jugs of vodka and went on a solo drinking binge on the aft deck. The next day, while we were cruising up the ICW, I had to actually take control of the wheel at one point to keep us from running into a bridge. In the next town, I contacted the owner and explained the situation. I wanted to grab my bags and head home but didn’t want to leave the owner’s property in the hands of this guy without him knowing what was going on. The owner asked me to stay on and contacted the local police to have this now belligerent drunk removed from the vessel. It was not a fun experience and I think I am now a little more weary of people with drinking problems in the industry.
Great advice! Thanks, Alysha, for supporting Crew Compass and being an ambassador. We wish you the best of luck in the future. For all the aspiring or current yachties looking for work, check out Crew Compass JOBS for new job postings.