I met Captain Katie when I was living in Maui working for Trilogy Sailing Excursions. From the first time we worked together I knew that she was a total badass. She hopped on the boat, asked us to throw the lines and expertly navigated out of the harbor, squeezing between a giant ferry boat and a rock wall – totally unfazed; halfway through the trip I found out she was silently dealing with broken ribs.

Even more badass than her captaining skills and her pain threshold was the way that she treated me as a new member of the crew. Of course, she regarded me with some caution (as you do with crew you don’t know) but when I explained my experience, she recognized that I was capable. While it takes some captains months to warm up to new crew, Katie embraced me right away. She’s the type of female captain that makes a good name for the rest of us: supportive, encouraging and a total team player. I can’t think of anyone better to start off the new series of interviews for Moxie & Epoxy…

–>Women Making Waves: Female Captain Interviews<–

While I love sharing my personal journeys with you all, I have decided that this blog is no longer just about me! In the coming months I hope to share many inspiring stories of incredible women who work on the water. So, without further adieu, here’s my interview with Captain Katie:

Hard at work.

Another day in the “office”.

1. WHere are you from?

I was born and raised in Pleasanton California, went to school at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, spent time in Bangkok, Thailand and have now been living in Maui for almost 7 years.

2. What is your current position and work history?

I currently am working as a Captain for Trilogy excursions driving their 50-65 foot catamarans and also working as crew. When I first moved to Maui I worked as crew for Lahaina cruise company doing dinner sails and whale watches. I left there after two years to work a summer season in Seward Alaska. Up there I worked for Kenai Fjords Tours as a senior deckhand and naturalist. But before all that, I was in sales and marketing in Silicon Valley. I hated it. So, I made a change.

Life looks pretty tough out there in Hawaii.

Tough life.

3. When and where did you first learn about sailing?

My first two boat jobs were all power boats, so although I learned a lot of deck basics and some engine room basics, the world of sailing was completely unknown to me until I came to Trilogy four years ago. I still laugh thinking about me on my first day, looking like a deer in headlights when they asked me to get the halyard ready. No idea what the captain was talking about. I felt like sailing was a whole sub language of the greater maritime language, except that no one had told me about it yet. Needless to say, I have learned a lot since then!

4. What events led you to seek a position working on a sailboat?

I moved to Maui thinking I would probably end up working at a hotel. That was what I was hoping for anyway. But my first offer was for Lahaina cruise company. The economy was bad and it was a job, I didn’t have a lot of room to get picky when I had no other income. I was expecting more of a waitress style position hoping that I could work at a restaurant later on. It was nothing like I expected but I really did like the difficulty of it. You moved around a lot, and lifted heavy things, and learned about why boats work, and how. It was something I had never thought about before but I liked learning and going to dry docks. It was different than what anyone I knew was doing and in a beautiful place. To me it felt exciting. But the thing that hooked me was Maui’s whale season. I have so many amazing encounters and so many incredible moments that I have been lucky enough to witness. Even if I started hating everything else about my job, the whales would keep me here.

female captain fishing

Days off are for fishing…

5. Describe an average workday in the life of Katie Kretzinger.

Schedules in my world aren’t ever really “regular” but I guess the principles are the same. My day could start as early as 5:30am or as late as 9am. We usually come in an hour early and get the boat set up. I do engine checks and make sure everything is operating properly. Sometimes we will pump out and fuel the boats depending on how much use it has gotten in the days prior. I bring the boat into the harbor and check in the guests. Once we load passengers the crew takes over. They provide most of the customer service and food service for the day. They’ll pass out equipment for snorkeling and explain how to use it. I will give safety briefings: explain the area we are at, safety concerns to be aware of, no touching or taking anything you see, timing for snorkeling, etc. While guests are enjoying themselves I’ll begin cooking and prepping lunch while the crew lifeguards. Once we serve lunch, I will let everyone know what the plan is for sailing based on what I have observed so far in the trip and what the forecasts are calling for. Hopefully there is a nice wind to sail, and we set and enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with sailing. The crew serves dessert and cocktails and then we go home. Not to mention on other days we do maintenance projects, work dry docks, and babysit the boats through storms.

Generally, my job is to see everything. See that the boat is safe and in a good working condition. See any passengers that are potentially at risk (health concerns, over drinking, not listening, etc). See that my crew is doing their jobs correctly. And to help everyone have a good time. That is why we’re here after all, right?

6. What’s the best part about working on a boat?

Being outside and having a connection to our world is a pretty big perk of working on a boat. Getting to intimately know reefs, how they change through the seasons, seeing whales every year, observing dolphins, watching massive swells come in, having hurricanes pass us by…I feel like I see the bigger picture of our oceans and planet more clearly. I would also say that having a more casual work environment is very nice as well. I work with my friends, and as long as I have a hat and sunglasses I never have to worry about my hair or makeup being perfect.

Hiking in Maui on her days off..

Hiking is just one of her many active hobbies outside of work.

7. What are some of the challenges?

Down sides would be that this job wears me out. Working outside, in the elements, physically exhausts me. If there is a stormy, windy week, I will be asleep everyday within thirty minutes of getting off work. It’s just what it does to me. Another tough part is continuing to smile and be nice to people if they are being extremely demanding or high maintenance or have a bad attitude. This is suppose to be fun. If you came on a boat prepared to be in a bad mood, why did you come at all?

8. What have you learned about yourself through working on boats?

From this job I have found a lot more confidence, public speaking skills, leadership skills, and management skills. If you’re the one in charge and everyone is looking to you to solve a problem, you better know what you’re doing. If you don’t, fake the confidence until it becomes real. For me, one day it clicked, and I knew that I was in charge, I am the one in control, and most importantly, I got this. Talking about whales and giving my safety briefings has completely gotten rid of my fear of speaking in public. It’s probably because of the repetition involved, but either way I don’t stutter and sweat anymore like I used to haha. I feel I have learned as much from watching other captains as I have from being one myself. I imagine it is something like being a parent. Before you are in that role, it is easy to say “I would do this” or “I wouldn’t do that,” but all that goes out the window once it is real and actually happening. I try to be a captain that is relaxed and trusts my crew to do what they do best.

Scuba diving for fun - sure beats scrubbing the bottom!

Scuba diving for fun – sure beats scrubbing the bottom!

9. What are some of your hobbies outside of work, and how (if in any way) has your job helped you to develop these interests?

I love to travel. That started when i was 18 and did a trip to the Dominican Republic to build houses and enjoy some adventure tourism afterwards. I like being outside, hiking, jumping off waterfalls, swimming, beaching it, but I love relaxing too. Watching movies and enjoying the free AC during the hot Lahaina summers, or wine and a book sounds good to me. The people I have been surrounded by since working on boats are very adventurous and inspiring. People that I work with just do cool things. It keeps you thinking about what adventure you want to go on next and what experiences are a priority to you. 

10. What’s the best advice you could give to people interested in getting a job in this field?

If you’re considering leaving an office job or just something that is comfortable, just do it. Make the change. You can always go back. But experiences are valuable and always worth it. This job is great, but it’s not for everyone. Ladies especially, just know that you’re getting into a field that is physically demanding. It is possible to keep up with the boys, but you will do things differently, and that’s ok. Be tough, be strong, and be the most badass gal you can be. Make other ladies proud and inspire little girls to think outside the box of ways they can spend their lives. Trust me, it feels good when you know you’ve done that for someone else. 

Did you enjoy Katie’s story? You can keep up with her by following her instagram. Leave a comment and share with your friends!