“I think our biggest differentiator in the industry is our honesty with our students. Working on yachts is HARD — it’s long hours, difficult guests, cramped quarters, and people need to be aware of the reality of yachting before joining the industry!” says former chief stewardess Hannah Ferrier, founder of Ocean International Training Academy (OITA).
Ferrier may also be recognizable as the chief stewardess on five seasons of the Bravo reality show Below Deck Med. “It used to frustrate me SO much when I was hiring crew and they would have a completely unrealistic view on the industry because someone over the other side of the world had sold them a dream that was nowhere near reality. We prepare our students for the industry and also continue to offer them support after they have landed a job.”
OITA was created in August 2020, which means they recently celebrated their first anniversary. “It was obviously such a strange time to launch a company that requires travel, but we wanted to give people hope in an extremely hopeless situation. Since then, we’ve trained hundreds of people and are so proud of all our students that are now working on yachts and living their dream,” she says, adding, “It’s personally been amazing for me as I am able to stay in the industry while being at home raising my little girl.”
And she has plans in mind before celebrating two years: “I’m so excited about throwing myself into OITA over the next twelve months. We have an amazing backbone to the company, and we would absolutely love to be in a position where we can do some face-to-face training with our students and potentially incorporate the STCW into our training.”
Creating Ocean International Training Academy
Ferrier, who started working on yachts in the Med 12 years ago, worked on yachts for six years before Below Deck Med. “The idea of OITA came to me because of the [number] of messages I was getting on a daily basis about how to get into the yachting industry. I feel like a lot of people know about the industry but have absolutely no idea how to get started and that’s where OITA comes in,” says Ferrier, who works from home in Sydney, Australia.
“It was obviously such a strange time to launch a company that requires travel, but we wanted to give people hope in an extremely hopeless situation."
The chief stewardess says they’re really passionate about helping students. Currently, the school offers a three-course yachting series: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The Bronze course is Beginner Superyacht Training that helps with the who, what, why, when, and how of being yacht crew. The Silver has two options that offer 14 training modules — one is an Interior Steward/ess Training course: the other Exterior Deckhand Training. Both Silver courses break down how to do the job itself and include everything from Silver Service to wine-and-cheese pairing in the interior course, and navigation and safety and security in the Silver deck course. The Gold course is called the Ultimate Yachtie Training.
But the training goes above and beyond online courses. “We do monthly training calls with all our silver students and are constantly doing one-to-one calls with people who are interviewing, looking at flying out to yachting hubs, [or] stressing about their new chief stew,” Ferrier says. “We really take our students under our wings and do everything we can to ensure they are successful in the yachting industry.”
Ferrier reveals that they’d also love to have a package together for yachts that they can purchase and give to new crew that come on board — like an onboard bible.
Advice for Superyacht Crew
For crew who want to branch out to create a new business, this is what Ferrier has to say: “PERSISTENCE! It is very rare that things work out the first time … or the second or third for that matter,” she says. “But choose something you are passionate about and go for it! I was six months pregnant when I started OITA and had everyone telling me to slow down and just relax but I knew what I wanted to do, so I did it.”
“We really take our students under our wings and do everything we can to ensure they are successful in the yachting industry.”
Time management is a factor. Ferrier, who works around her daughter’s schedule, takes advantage of those four hours a day that her little girl is sleeping. “I have to rely on [my team] to help me with everything to do with technology — I know my pitfalls! But we make it work. We all love what we do, and we work when we need to in order to ensure our students are looked after!”
This column is taken from the October 2021 issue of Dockwalk.