“This boat became my home,” says Capt. Mascia Poma of the 72-meter M/Y Bleu de Nimes. Capt. Poma has lived and worked on the explorer yacht for 15 years and she has been witness to Bleu de Nime’s major transformations over the years. The first rebuild saw the retired British Royal Navy ship (ex-Lodestone) become a private expedition vessel that has traveled to the farthest-flung reaches of the world. Now Bleu de Nimes is fresh off her second owner-led rebuild, which has catapulted the yacht to an amenity-packed charter queen.
Capt. Poma is fully ensconced in life aboard Bleu de Nimes — in fact, she calls the yacht her home and lives on board with her husband, Chief Mate Oguz Aybek, as well as their son and his tutor. “The owner allowed me to bring my husband and baby on board,” she says. It’s a rare thing when crew’s children are invited to live on board, and in gratitude, Poma named her son after the yacht’s owner.
The Italian captain originally hails from the village of Calasetta on the small island of Sant’Antioco, set off of southwest Sardinia. Now, she only goes back to Sardinia for vacations. “My father was a fisherman, he owned a small 15-meter boat, and in the summer, me and my mother used to go with him for fun to fish or for a beach trip on holiday days,” says Capt. Poma.
She started working with her father as a fisherman during summer holidays when she was 14 years old. “I did it with pleasure for seven years,” she says. “It was my dream and was not easy to convince him to let me work on his boat, as he said that he’d never seen a woman working on board. My mother understood perfectly what my dream was and [she] pushed him to take me on board with him.”
Capt. Poma went on to work on a boatbuilding project, then she worked in admin at a marina. It was there at the marina that she saw her first real yacht, Lady May. “When I went on board Lady May, I realized that yachting will be my life.” She began work as a stewardess on board M/Y New Master in 2001. She hoped to find a boat where she could work in a deck position, finally finding a stew/deckhand combined role, then went on to work on various superyachts as a deckhand, chief mate, and eventually captain.
In 2007, she came aboard Bleu de Nimes. “I love this boat because the owner travels a lot and we never get bored. Every trip is a new adventure,” says the captain. The owner prefers off-the-beaten-path places, and his favorite destinations include Papua New Guinea, Greenland, and the Aldabra islands off the Seychelles. “The first sight of land after long trips is always very emotional to me and my crew. Our first day in a new country is one the best of the trip, all the crew together on the aft main deck, everybody’s happy, we look each other just smiling like to say, ‘We did it!’”
Capt. Poma served as build captain during the latest rebuild, in which the owner set up his own yard in Italy to complete. This rebuild saw the yacht extended by 16 meters in total, with length added in the amidships and at the stern. This brought her new LOA to 72.25 meters and increased her volume by nearly 600 GT. The extensions have given Bleu de Nimes a more elegant silhouette. She also received a full mechanical rebuild, which included overhauling all the pumps, generators, and sewage systems and upgrading the insulation and communication systems. And she was upgraded to Passenger Yacht Code (PYC), so she can now charter with 28 guests, 23 crew, and four staff on board.
As far as charter amenities, Bleu de Nimes has them in spades. She now has a larger salon, private owner’s deck, and an expansive upper deck that is a grand space for entertaining. There’s also a large gym and wellness area on the bridge deck and two spa pools on the sun deck. This is purely for the charter clientele, as Bleu de Nimes owner much prefers a dip in the sea. The lower deck is dedicated to crew and includes two crew messes and a rec room.
Despite her opulent glow-up, Bleu de Nimes is still an explorer at her core. She has autonomous systems, carries four big tenders, has a dive center, boasts a range of 20,000 nautical miles at 12 knots, and she is extremely seakindly. “As a previous Navy ship, she is tough and trustworthy,” says Capt. Poma. “She is more ship than yacht in this way. Comfortable and quiet, she sails well in rough sea conditions, with a bulb that improves her performance. When we are in the tropics, we spend most of the time at anchor and that is possible because she is really stable.”
Capt. Poma says she and Bleu de Nimes’ owner have an excellent working relationship filled with respect. And she credits the owner with being a great teacher, imparting his wide breadth of yachting knowledge. It’s apparent that Bleu de Nimes owner is proud to have a woman at the helm, too. “She has been with me since the beginning,” the owner says of his captain. “In principle, when women do what is normally a man’s job, they do it with more passion and attention to detail.”
Capt. Poma admits that it’s not easy being a female captain. “I have to put a ‘captain’ logo on my shirts, else people think I am one of the stewardesses,” she says. “I find it really funny when they realize the captain is a woman. But I think there will be more female captains in the future and I’m proud of that.”
This article originally ran in the May 2022 issue of Dockwalk.