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The adventures of Captain Kelly Gordon, the rare female yacht captain

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Captain Kelly J. Gordon, 39, is the captain of Freddy, a 106-foot luxury yacht based in South Florida and The Bahamas. I had no intention, whatsoever, of becoming a yacht captain. It was a complete accident. I saw an interesting and unique opportunity and jumped on it. I was working as a chemistry professor at a community college in North Carolina in 2009 when a student invited me to a party on an 80-foot yacht. Immediately, I was hooked. I knew I could drive that thing. Little did I know, I was about to embark on a career path in which I became “one of the few” — one of the few women, that is.

Very early on I realized how unusual it was for a woman to be a captain. I was surrounded by men on the vessel from the start. I cringe now looking back on it, but, at the time, it almost seemed like being a captain — especially of a yacht — was a “man’s job.” I had always thought, along with so many others, that men and women had inherent aptitudes for different types of careers and lifestyles over others and that being a boat captain was one of those jobs that might be a more natural fit for men.


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