Dedicated to women in yachting, the Pearls of Wisdom network once again demonstrated its commitment to creating a supportive community during its fourth event, Rèsilience Voyage in Antibes on September 22 and 23. The spotlight was on nurturing mental health and was attended by a mix of current and former crew.
Hosted and moderated by Pearls of Wisdom founder Cherise Reedman, the first day featured a panel discussion. Industry experts, including Reguina Elsass of Yacht Crew Help (ISWAN), Cheryl McCann of Nautilus, Rachel Bradley of MedAire, Emma Ross of Seas The Mind, and Peter Vogel of Luxury Hospitality delved into support mechanisms for mental health challenges.
Reedman presented real-life case studies to the panelists for their practical insights and ways they could support. The first case study discussed how a junior stew suffered bullying on board and unearthed topics associated with loneliness, isolation, and lack of support from HODs. ISWAN’s Yacht Crew 24/7 Helpline can provide immediate emotional support and guidance. “If you are going through something like this, the first thing is not to internalize it and not to look for evidence to blame yourself; the second is to call ISWAN,” Ross said.
Preventative measures were discussed regarding leadership. “We should all be responsible for preventing such incidents; prevention is so important. As a leader, you are responsible for growing the people around you,” Vogel explained.
Reedman presented a tragic incident where a lead deckhand passed away on a guest trip. MedAire explained the importance of the initial medical response and prolonged support. The company can bring professional counselors on board, provide full support to the ongoing psychological impact, and services to family members. Nautilus focuses on the boat’s contractual obligations and rights, offering support to the deceased’s family while handling legal liabilities. Aside from the boat coverage, Tim Reedman raised the importance of the crew looking into their personal protection.
The final case study highlighted the issue of sexual harassment and assault within the industry, whereby a stew was subject to sexual harassment and attempted rape from the bosun. In this situation, the captain removed the stew from the vessel.
Panelists unanimously agreed ensuring the immediate safety of the crewmember was paramount, but larger questions were raised surrounding the industry’s responsibility. “Your boat is your home and employer; the industry must look at why the boat is sometimes not a safe place for crew,” Reedman commented.
“The big thing here in these situations is communication, making sure everyone knows what’s happening and why; we cannot be hiding this in the shadows and protecting the wrong people,” said Ross. She emphasized that crew should “trust your gut” and get advice from multiple organizations if anything on board makes them uncomfortable.
The discussion provided a road map for women, offering resources for addressing incidents and complex challenges. The panelists emphasized recognizing behaviors before they occurred and the value of collaboration to ensure crew well-being. The second day introduced more speakers drawing from experiences in and out of the industry, including workshops on resilience.
The event served as a reminder of the importance of education and preparation, both for keeping women safe on board and for building skills and resilience that will help them in the industry and when transitioning to shore.