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Bridget Shear - Meet The Crew

Meet The Crew – Bridget Shear

Bridget ShearTell me a little bit about yourself?

I have always worked and played on the water.  I grew up in San Diego, where I started sailing at age 8.  Both my grandfather and my father built and raced one design dinghies called Snipes, and my mom was the yacht club Commodore.  I competed through my teens, and then moved on to coaching and running programs.  For the past 5 years I have been based on Mallorca and traveling for work.

What did you do before yachting?

When I was 25, I moved to Hawaii and started working in the sailing tourism industry on large catamarans.  After a couple of years, I sat for my US 100 tonn ticket, and started running whale watching tours.  Maui is gorgeous, but the opportunities are limited.  Staring driving tourists back in forth in the face for the next 40 years I decided to make a change.  In 2010 I relocated to the US Virgin Islands and continued working in a similar industry, but with an eye on private yachting.  I built up my miles on the cheap (read for free) and then landed my first Atlantic crossing.  We left St. Maarten, stopping in the Azores and ending up in Palma.  This was the first time I had been to Mallorca and set the hook for basing myself here later in life.  As I came into the industry a bit sideways, I then took mate positions on sailing yachts until landing my first drive in 2015.

How did your yachting career first begin?

It’s hard to pinpoint when my yachting career began.  Do I count standing on the bow of a catamaran talking about whales for two hours?  Shuttling tourists from St John to Foxy’s?  My first big delivery was on a Shipman 72 in 2011.  We sailed from Turkey to Croatia, taking the obligatory Corinth canal photos on the way.  I remember stepping on board and thinking she was HUGE.  Now I see a 72 in Palma and she’s one of the daintier yachts around.

What has been your favourite boat you’ve worked on and why?

Every boat has its pros and cons.  I have a soft spot for my first drive, a Gunboat 66.  It was such a huge learning curve not only as a Captain but because it was such a technical divergence from my previous sailing background.  It’s also an incredibly helpful crew community, always willing to lend advice.  I cried when she sold.

What are the best and worst parts about working on-board?

I love the ever-changing problem solving.  It can be frustrating, but I also think it’s what attracts most of us to these roles.  The constant challenge is a great way to implement creative thinking, and I couldn’t imagine now working in a more monotonous environment.  Ironically, this constant change also keeps us from living any sort of regular life.  What am I doing next February?  I don’t know where I’ll be next week!

How do you keep sane on charter/trips?

Having a sense of humour is so important.  Sometimes it’s laugh, cry, or rage.  Best to try and laugh.  I think a lot of us roll our eyes a bit when we hear how to de-stress on board.  When your choice is sleep or meditation I know what I’m choosing.  It IS important to try and carve out a few minutes for yourself each day, for example try multitasking and write in your journal when you are on the loo.

What are your best strategies for spoiling charter guests?

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that one guest’s spoiling is another guest’s irritant.  You have to know the level of service expected.  As a sailing captain, most of my guests just want to kick back and enjoy their boat.  They are usually pretty down to earth and like getting involved and feeling like part of the team.  I had been told to relax so many times before I realized if I was relaxed, so were they.

What’s the coolest thing you have done for guests?

I think this is where the interior shines.  Throw an amazing cocktail theme party?  Remember it forever.  Change a black water pump in the middle of the night at sea?  Why was it broken in the first place!

What is your favourite yachting destination?

I absolutely adored the Marquesas and Society Islands.  The scenery is just so stunning, and the people so genuine.  The Marquesas can be a difficult place to anchor, so they get less traffic.  We went for a hike and were invited to lunch by a local family.  They prepared a huge spread and welcomed us into their home.  You hear these stories from cruisers, but nobody has fed me in Antibes.

If you owned a superyacht, what would you do differently?

I am in fact a yacht owner.  As a proud member of the RPRCYC, I race a DF65 in both inshore and offshore events.  And I indeed spend on average 15% of the purchase price per year in maintenance, maybe more when you add in beverages.

What career achievement are you most proud of?

I’m proud of it all, it takes a lot of hard work to get where we are.  Passing my OOW was definitely an academic milestone.  There are many of us on deck that don’t fit the typical mould, and more every year.  If you are determined enough you can carve out your place in this industry, and I’ve tried to be an example and mentor to those coming up.

Tell us about your funniest / embarrassing moment on board.

I don’t do embarrassing things.  Kidding, but it’s all about the recovery!  Once we lost our folding bikes overboard due to underestimating the power of the Bora in Montenegro.  After dredging with the dinghy anchor for half an hour I gave in and made a fairly ego-checking call to the divers.

What’s your favourite adventure in Mallorca?

 I’ve been really into kiting this year, but the wind on Mallorca isn’t ideal.  One of my favorite things I’ve done is the GR221 trail from Valdemossa to Pollenca.  I took a running backpack and stayed in the refugios along the way.  It was an amazing way to hike parts of the island that we don’t get to see often.

If you could give your 20-year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I could try, but she wouldn’t listen.

What’s your plans for the future?

This year I have taken a break from yachting.  I feel like due to the nature of our work our identities are very wrapped up in what we do.  When we meet others in the industry, we exchange the “yachtie handshake.”  Hi, I’m Bridget.  I run boats, sailing yachts, small ones.  When I left my position last fall, I was left asking myself who am I if I’m not running a boat?  Am I still “Bridget, Captain, small sailing yachts?”  Palma was in lockdown again and I decided to go find out.  I travelled to Mexico and California to focus on kiting and see family.  When I returned, I packed my tent and gear and have been chasing the wind in Europe ever since.  As I am writing this I am in Fuerteventura, with an aim to hit France on my way home to Palma.  When I get back, it will be time to refocus on my career with a fresh new perspective and renewed energy.


Interview by Melanie Winters

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