Q&A with Chief Officer Cynthia Sopata

13 January 2022 By Erica Lay

Owner of international crew agency EL CREW CO in Mallorca, Spain, Erica has been a freelance writer since 2008. She loves engaging with the projects she works on, diving headfirst into the research, investigation, and production of the stories she feels are newsworthy. A curious and proactive journalist, she draws on her own life experiences, her studies, and her work with crew all over the globe.

Chief Officer Cynthia Sopata

Name: Cynthia Sopata
Position: Chief Officer
Yacht: Private
Length: 40M/131'3"
Builder: Westport
Years in current position: 1 month
Years in industry: 5 as a licensed professional, much longer sailing
Nationality: American

I came from the Great Lakes to Fort Lauderdale to take some courses for SOLAS-classed education at Sea Student Tall Ship programs, and ... moved there a year later, and the rest is history.

My immediate goal? I’m living it! I’m a chief officer so I can serve the boat, owners, and crew well. I want to finish learning local waters and some finer points of larger yacht programs. My long-term goal is to captain a 42-meter or larger program with a world-wide itinerary.

If I weren’t on a yacht, I would be involved in education that brings boating, sailing, and swimming to all demographics.

The toughest part of the job is maintaining relationships and roots on shore so the job is not your whole world. A balanced life makes you better at the job and happier overall, which is contagious in the best of ways to your crewmates.

My advice for those looking to get started is to remember that it took a long while for the people above you to learn what they know. [Honor] the time they take to teach you. Listen, take notes, do some YouTubing to follow up, read a manual, and say thank you.

My advice for those looking to impress on the job: Ears and eyes open, mouth shut. Pay attention to veteran crew, read the crew manual, learn how THIS boat runs before you try to impose your way upon it.

Sharing a passion with the guests is always helpful. If you are looking to get hired, look at what you bring to the team. If you have hobbies and skills that allow you to release stress in a positive way that doesn’t damage your body and leaves you ready for work at 0700, that is awesome also.

The most important thing I’ve learned on board is that if your predecessor marks something mysteriously “no touch,” “do not open,” then ask questions … lots and lots of questions. Reference: the great poo explosion of 2016.

My most significant achievement is earning my USCG Auxiliary Quartermaster of the Watch, USCG Cutter EAGLE, and Trans-Atlantic passage under full-rigger sailing ship.

I absolutely love solving new puzzles that yachting throws at me. And the personalities of the crew that are a part of those solutions are some of the best in the world.

This article originally ran in the September 2021 issue of Dockwalk.


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