Woman power on the high seas

Woman power on the high seas

Two female boat captains at Sandals Royal Caribbean

Friday, December 04, 2020

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SANDALS Resorts continues in its bid to empower women in the organisation with its Royal Caribbean resort now possessing two female boat captains in their fleet of drivers.

Simone Simpson-Adams and Patrice Stern are the women who ensure guests are safely transported on the high seas from the island to the mainland on a daily basis, stamping their mark on what was previously a male-dominated domain.

“We are blazing a trail for women and it's an incredible feeling to have not just one, but two women piloting our boats here at the resort,” Stern said. “I always get kudos from guests when they see a woman driving the boat, but I always point out that there is not one, but two of us and when they see Simone as well their eyes just light up.”

Dawn Smith, acting general manager at the resort, was effusive in her praise for both female captains. “Here at Sandals Royal Caribbean we are extremely happy at the strides women are making in the field of watersports. These ladies have shown that with commitment and drive you can make it to the top of what many consider a man's world.”

For Stern the water has always been a part of her life, as her mother is employed to the Montego Bay Marine Park and used to take her to work when she was just a young girl, where she would volunteer her services as well as travel on the boats.

“I always had a passion for watersports,” said Stern who has been employed to Sandals for the past eight years, starting out as a lifeguard at sister property, Sandals Montego Bay, before moving over to Sandals Royal Caribbean. It was her own initiative, she noted, that enabled her transition, as being very interested in piloting boats she enquired about a training programme within the watersports department, was accepted and after being rigorously trained by her counterparts, she was officially licensed to drive boats. The rest, she said, is history.

“The guys were all rooting for me and they were the ones who started teaching me to drive a boat and telling me that I can do it. I must confess I have a very supportive team behind me,” she said. “And look at me today, I am skilled at my profession and take great pride in my work.”

Stern said she enjoys the challenge of driving the boats as well as interacting with people from various nationalities who she encounters on the job daily and who always marvel at her skills as a woman pilot. “They get a big kick out of having a woman driving them on a boat,” she noted.

Stern wants to excel even further in her chosen profession by moving up to driving larger boats than her current coxswain licence allows and she is willing to put in the hard work and practice it will need to take her to the next level.

Simpson-Adams has a much different story. Although she has been working with Sandals for the past 12 years, when she was first encouraged to take up a career in watersports she balked at the idea as she could not swim and was scared of the water, but with encouragement she conquered her fear, learned to swim, and eventually gained employment in watersports as a shop attendant.

The confident young woman attributed her rise to become a boat captain to the encouragement of her team members and her hard work and dedication. She was approached by her then watersports manager who saw the potential in her. At first, she said she was slightly apprehensive, but decided to enter the training programme and with the official guidance of her manger became a licensed boat captain.

One of her initial challenges was driving the Dragon, the boat that ferries guests to the private offshore island. “It was tough at first because it's not as simple as people think. You have to navigate heavy winds, tricky currents and reefs, but with practice and support I gain confidence and I am now a pro at it.”

“My mindset is that I can do anything,” she noted. “It was a big step becoming a female boat captain in what was normally a man's world, but I set out to prove myself that I could be just as good as any one of the guys in the profession.”

Simpson-Adam's motivation comes from within and the reactions from her guests who keep encouraging her and giving her pats on the back for a job well done.

Both women are proud of the role as trailblazers and promised to keep the Sandals watersports flag flying high.

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