Defying The Odds - Captain Perkin's Journey From Adversity To Triumph

Defying The Odds - Captain Perkin's Journey From Adversity To Triumph

Imagine being told that your dreams are unreachable, that a life-altering accident has permanently derailed your aspirations. This was the reality for Guy Perkins, a spirited individual whose journey from a devastating paralysis to commanding superyachts is nothing short of miraculous.

At the tender age of 16, a carefree dive into the ocean transformed into a nightmare, leaving him with a broken neck and a future shrouded in uncertainty. Yet, his narrative did not end there. Today, Captain Guy stands as a towering figure of resilience, diversity, and inspirational leadership within the elite circles of the yachting industry.

In this Q & A with Captain Perkins , Our Faceless Crew takes you on an extraordinary voyage through Guy's life, showcasing his indomitable will, relentless pursuit of excellence, and his transformation into a symbol of hope and perseverance for anyone daring to dream big. His story is not just about overcoming physical limitations; it's a powerful reminder of the strength within us all to conquer adversity, break through barriers, and achieve the seemingly impossible.


Q & A With Our Faceless Crew And Captain Guy Perkins

 Q: Could you share a bit about your background and what initially drew you to the yachting industry?

 A: I'm from the UK and moved to Antigua in 2001 at the age of 18 to start an apprenticeship in luxury resort management at the St James' Club. It was whilst working in Antigua that I was first exposed to the yachting industry, as most of my friends worked either land based or onboard. Before then I had no idea yachting was a thing!


Q: What inspired you to start a career in yachting, and can you remember the moment you decided this was the path for you?"

 A: Honestly, the money and lifestyle! I was living the dream in Antigua, but salaries were very low and I wanted to get back to Europe and see my family. Also, just the idea of working on one of these yachts seemed so cool! I was between jobs in Antigua and thought I'd try my hand at dockwalking. I had no idea what to expect and kind of assumed I would just walk up to a boat and get a job. The reality was of course very different. Things were getting pretty desperate financially and then one day, by pure chance, I was out washing my car and a friends Dad, a Superyacht Captain drove passed, stopped his car and asked if I wanted to stand in for a crew member that hadn't returned from leave. I said yes immediately, and we left to do the crossing pretty much the next day.


ACREW award 2023 in Porto Montenegro. Winner Captain Guy Perkins

Q: From your first role as a deckhand to becoming a captain, can you outline some key milestones and experiences that shaped your journey?

 A: My first season was very much in at the deep end. Back to back charters from June to September. I learned a lot. Then we went into a massive yard period and went down to skeleton crew. I was tasked with being the main guy on the ground during the refit and this was my first introduction to a leadership role. I really enjoyed it and knew it was something I wanted to pursue. 

I was with that boat for 3 years, then went on to join a 55 metre yacht in the US. I was let go as soon as they saw me due to my disability, and this became a common theme. Finally an owner took pity on me and employed me as Mate on his chase boat after his Captain fired me from the big boat. After a year onboard, I went to complete my Yachtmaster, and returned the following year as Captain. 


Q: You’ve faced significant challenges, including a serious accident that has affected your mobility. How did these obstacles impact your career progression, and what strategies did you use to overcome them?

 A: My career progression has been challenging. I wasn't given opportunities and lost many jobs directly due to people's perception of my disability. This was the main catalyst for me to pursue Captain roles so early on in my career. I, of course, had to start small and work my way up in size of vessel. However, I've also been held back in tickets due to a current ticket not being big enough for me to progress, but me needing the next ticket to progress in size. It's been a bit of a 'catch 22'.

I'm still judged on a daily basis due to my disability, and I know, even at this stage of my career, it will still be a barrier to some jobs, but as far as I'm concerned, any program that wouldn't employ someone like me, is a boat I would never want to work on. It's a great litmus test for me. The only way I find of 'overcoming' the obstacles faced in this industry,  is to basically ignore them and crack on. I've had a successful 20 year career. The only way you do that is by keeping your head down and cracking on in the face of adversity.


Q: In light of your experiences, how do you view failure and adversity? Do you see them as setbacks or opportunities for growth?

 A: I don't know any highly successful people that wish they'd failed more, but I do know people with many failures who wish they'd succeeded more. Hopefully you learn from failure, but that's not always the case. The important thing is to challenge adversity. I truly believe we are all created equal and I can achieve just as much as the next guy. Failure is fine, but use it as a learning tool to grow and build on. Don't let it hold you back, because we will all fail - it's part of life. It's how you respond to failure that is the most important factor. 


Q: As a representative of diversity in yachting, what are your thoughts on inclusion within the industry? How important is it to give people from different backgrounds a chance?

 A: How long have we got?? (chuckles). Inclusion in this industry is shocking. We've all heard the stories and see it on a daily basis; certain height/weight requirements; Uniform 'sizes' requested at interviews, boats only hiring blond stewardesses etc etc. I think it would be a fascinating experiment to go a year without CV photos on green crew CV's and see how that would change the face of the industry.

Do I see this changing dramatically? Unfortunately, no. It's undeniable that more diversity would benefit the industry and everyone should have the opportunity to do this job if they can. There are fantastic candidates out there that have missed out on jobs due to appearance and may have given up, and this is a huge loss for the industry. 


Q: Can you share a story or example where embracing diversity led to a positive outcome on your vessel?

A: We hire based on quality of candidate and largely the feel we get it during the interview process. Unfortunately the very nature of this industry means that a lot of candidates from diverse backgrounds don't even bother applying. Much like when I started, I was told wouldn't stand a chance of getting a job and that I shouldn't even bother trying. How do we fix this? By encouraging the people at the top to embrace those young guys and girls who might not think they fit the 'mould', to join up and offer them their first opportunity! 


ACREW Captain 500GT winner Guy Perkins in Porto Montenegro

Q: Do you consider yourself a leader, and what qualities do you think are essential for effective leadership in the yachting industry?

A: Yes, my role is a leadership role and something I take great pride in. Hierarchy is prevalent in yachting and there is some importance to the heirachy when it comes to safety of passengers and the vessel, but this can often get abused and this is where I hope the new generation are changing and improving things.

I encourage all my crew to have a voice and part of my role is to recognise those that may be afraid to speak up and help facilitate them. As leaders we need to be approachable. This is vital in yachting. If crew have safety concerns, they need to know they can come to us, even question us if they don't feel safe.

We also have a duty in yachting to mentor junior crew and be a support system for them in every way possible. Both in their professional careers and personally too. We're all away from home and this requires a different type and approach to leadership. 


Q: Leadership can be especially challenging on the high seas. Can you provide an example of how you’ve led your team through a difficult situation? 

 A: I can think of multiple examples where crew will look to the Captain when we're experiencing poor weather, or major technical difficulties. It is my job to remain calm, keep a level head and provide direction, or, when necessary and safe, allow crew to figure out the best course of action for themselves. This is how we grow as a team. We have a huge amount of responsibility on our shoulders as Captains and there have been many occasions where I have been scared, or nervous about a situation, often as a result of poor weather, but its imperative we remain calm and lead our team effectively. 


Q: Motivation can ebb and flow during long voyages. What strategies do you employ to keep your crew motivated and focused on their tasks?

 A: We like to mix things up onboard, alternate jobs in each department, provide crew with some diversity to their role. It's important for me that crew understand the intricacies of each department as this will inevitably result in a more cohesive team when the height of season arrives. I also try to incentivise crew and give them things to look forward to.  On the odd occasion when things get particularly tough or mundane, it's important to understand as a leader when to call it a day, drop tools and go do something spontaneous and fun with the team. This, in my experience, pays dividends in team dynamics.


Captain Guy Perkins receives the prestigious ACREW award in Montenegro


Q: Winning the prestigious ACREW Crew Award for Best Captain 500GT is a significant achievement. What goals do you set for yourself following such a triumph?

A: Winning the ACREW award was a huge achievement for me and something I'm incredibly proud of. I would like to use the platform to bring further diversity, opportunities and awareness to the industry. If my win encourages one person to book their STCW and start a career, that would be a huge achievement for me. Personally, I have ambition and next month will be sitting my Master 3000 oral. Following that, I would like to use my ticket to pursue a larger vessel with increased cruising capabilities, but, let me get the ticket first before getting ahead of myself!


Q: Looking towards the future, what are your aspirations within the yachting industry, and how do you plan to achieve them?

A: In the next few years I would like to enter the 70 metre plus sector. Again it's important to me to show people that people 'like me' can do this job, and can succeed.


Q: With your rich experience, what advice would you give to someone starting their career in yachting?

A: To anyone starting in yachting, enjoy it! That's absolutely the most important thing. Even if you just do a season, go for it! Have the experience! If you decide to pursue it as a career, then make sure to log your time, work towards your tickets, and give yourself something to fall back on. If you join a boat and there are red flags, read them and consider your options.

Longevity is good but not at the expense of your happiness or mental health. If you don't feel safe, speak up! Join Nautilus or the PYA and understand your rights as a Yachtie. Google the key points in the MLC (Maritime labour Convention) and COSWP (Code of Safe Working Practices) to know what you are entitled to and what you should expect from a Yacht. Ask questions, network, go to the crew events. Never fear asking a 'stupid question', as there is no such thing.

One day I was selling mangoes from my garden in the Caribbean, the next day I was a deckie on a yacht. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, but I learnt, and progressed. If you have decided this is a career you want to pursue long term, consider an exit strategy at some point. This is important. We all age, some might marry, start a family etc, and its important to consider that you may not do this until retirement age, so PLEASE save some money, invest with a investment advisor, don't put all your eggs in one basket, and very importantly, consider studying in a field outside of yachting. We all have access to so much online so use your off-season evenings to develop yourself, grow, and build a CV that could benefit a life after yachting.


Q: How do you envision the future of yachting? Are there any trends or changes you’re excited about or think are important?

A: The future of yachting is, of course, exciting. I've seen a lot of changes just in the last 20 years. I'm excited to see mental health being a key focus in the industry now, increased safety measures, a move to green technology, yachts with more varied itineraries and a younger owner client base coming in. I also welcome some of the reality shows other yachts turn their noses up at. I think it gives more people a view into our world and hopefully will encourage more to pursue this fantastic career.


Q: Finally, is there a message or principle you live by that you’d like to share with our readers?

A: Tricky one. I was once told by a friend that we make our own luck. This struck a chord with me at the time and it's something I live by to this day. I like to think that my story is proof that most things are possible if you put your mind to it, create your opportunities and pursue them.


Captain Perkin’s life story is a testament to the human spirit’s capacity for overcoming adversity. His unwavering dedication to crew development, commitment to safety and well-being on board, as well as his relentless pursuit of personal and professional growth are hallmarks of a leader who weathers the challenges of life with unparalleled grace and determination. But his voyage doesn’t end here. Captain Guy Perkins’s story continues to unfold, with new chapters full of adventure, leadership, and inspiration waiting to be written. His journey reminds us that with tenacity, courage, and a supportive community, the storms can be weathered, and dreams that seem as distant as the horizon can be reached.


As Guy charts his course towards future achievements, inspiring us with his indomitable spirit, we invite you to follow his unique journey on LinkedIn at @Guy Perkins. Let’s set sail together into a future where the only limits are the ones we place on ourselves, because the best chapters are yet to be written.

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