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Girl Power – Women Make Splash As Luxury Yacht Charter Skippers

It seems the commonly-used term, "Able-bodied seaman"  might need to be amended to, "seaman and seawoman"  to reflect what might become a trend in the yachting industry – the emergence of female captains on mega yacht charter vessels.

Female yacht charter captains private luxury yachts Mediterranean and Caribbean

In an industry long dominated by men, a handful of skilled women are stepping to the forefront and taking the helm, and the responsibility, of operating both sail and motor yachts for hire.

According to Jana Sheeder, President of SailAway Yacht Charters, today's yacht owners look beyond gender when hiring a skipper.  "Megayacht owners look for experience and professionalism, first and foremost," says Sheeder.  "Skippers must be experts in navigation and safety, and considering many yachts have large crew complements, they must be equally-adept at  personnel management.  A skilled captain is a multi-talented person, regardless of gender.  Hiring the best and brightest is the goal."

Three women leading the ranks of females at the helm are Captain Sandra Yawn (motor yacht DEFIANCE), Captain Danielle de Vere (motor yacht MARY JEAN), and Captain Carol Benbrook (motor yacht SEDATION).

Yawn has recently taken the helm on Mangusta motor yacht DEFIANCE, a stunning 72' speedster currently available for Bahamas and Florida yacht charters.  Yawn brings years of experience to her new position onboard DEFIANCE, and was the former captain of the 148 foot motor yachts TUSCAN SUN and 142 foot yacht, LADY J.

De Vere leads a crew of 12 onboard the 163 foot Caribbean yacht charter vessel, MARY JEAN.  De Vere earned her stripes crewing at her family's daysail business in Australia, as well as operating luxury live-aboard dive vessels on the Northern Great Barrier Reef.

Before the sale of the 143 foot Heeson motor yacht SEDATION, Benbrook was the skipper of the popular Virgin Island yacht charter vessel for three years.  In a 2010 interview with yachting journalist Kim Kavin, Benbrook was asked how it feels to be one of the only female  

Captain Carol Benbrook of Motoryacht Sedation - "The best and the brightest"

motoryacht captains.  "I think there are five or six of us now on motoryachts. I think it's fine. People respect me. I've never had any problems," she said.  

Is there added pressure on these women to be their gender's pathfinders in the yachting industry? 
Benbrook doesn't think so and says the real pressure is on the ship's mate. "It's harder, actually, as a first mate. There's more prejudice there. You have to be physically strong as a first mate to move lines and such. It's different than being a captain, where there's absolutely no strength involved. It's all about moving levers at the helm."
We wonder – will we ever see the ranks of women skippers swell and match the number of male captains at the helm of yacht charter vessels?  Are yacht owners truly open to hiring, "the best and brightest?" 
Only time will tell…  


Have you ever rented a private yacht or plane with a female captain in charge?  How was the experience?  Why do you think there are so few women to date at the helm of superyacht vessels?  Share your comments and testimonials with us at


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