Sea Our Love Spotlight - Captain Alona Zaitseva

Adventurer, Poet, Captain 

Many months ago, I happened upon Alona Zaitseva’s Facebook profile and was captured by the gentle manner in which she describes life, the sea, and the world around her through refreshingly honest, heartfelt words. I was determined to learn more about this intriguing woman and respected Captain, and she was gracious enough to grant me an interview. Please travel along with me on her remarkable and inspirational journey. 

Alona (Alexandrovna) Zaitseva was born on February 7, 1990 and raised in Nikolaev, Ukraine. Also known as Mykolaiv, the city of close to 500 thousand people is located in southern Ukraine. Nikolaev is a major transportation hub known for shipbuilding and includes one of the most important Ukrainian Black Sea ports. The historical city situated between two rivers (Southern Buh and the Ingul) offers beautiful parks, flower gardens, vineyards, historical churches, and a wide range of engineering and consumer-goods industries. One notable destination for fellow seafarers is that the Shipbuilding and Fleet Museum is located in the area! 

From a young age, Alona fell in love with the sea and began her seafarer journey with sailing. In her words, the sea, “...just sucked me in!”  Over the years, she advanced to Captain while experiencing many different roles to include crew member, yachting instructor, guide, broker, and event/charter organizer for yachting companies, flotillas, regattas, and team building. 

The road traveled to get to where she is today was “thorny, but interesting.” As a child, she was very inquisitive, seeking  discovery, excitement, and achievement. She dabbled in many different sports, to include gymnastics and fencing, yet once her goals were accomplished or when boredom set in, she found herself, with head held high, saying, “It is not interesting to me anymore!” And In these moments, driven by an internal fire, she set off to further define her life’s passion. 

“Only when your dreams are stronger than your fears, will they begin to come true!”

At the young age of seven, Alona remembers one particular day very well. She was exploring near the river, looking for excitement and searching for adventure. She glanced towards the water and noticed other children around her own age - they were sailing and her heart leapt! An inner voice cried out to her, “This is it! This is what I was looking for!”  She anxiously waited near the pier’s edge until finally the group came ashore. With conviction in her step, she boldly walked up to the instructors and said, “I want to try sailing.” Her simple request was met with smiles and acceptance. “Welcome!” they said in chorus. Today, as Alona recalls this memory, she stated, “This was the best decision of my life!”

Over the next ten years, Alona immersed herself into sailing and it became the meaning of her life. In 2003, at only thirteen-years old, she received the title of “Candidate for Master of Sports,” and in 2005, she received her, “Master of Sports.” She was well on her way toward realizing her goal!

Unfortunately, the country's economy was in decline and subsidies for the sport diminished. The equipment and boats soon became obsolete and irreparable. Alona’s family was poor and she was too young to find sponsors. In 2007, she was forced to give up the sport. It was very painful for Alona to live without sailing, and in her words, “Life became colorless.

“Life became colorless.”

Happily, “Fate can’t be avoided!”

In the spring of 2008, a friend purchased a yacht, “Beneteau Oceanic 464” and reached out to her for help and instruction. She was thrilled with the offer and over the next few years, they chartered guests across the waves of the Black Sea.

In 2009, an International Yacht Training (IYT) school asked her to take their cadets for maritime practice. They were so impressed with Alona’s expertise and instruction, they asked her to become an IYT instructor.  Times were not always easy. On many occasions, Alona worked for food rather than compensation. However, she embraced the experience!

As the years past, Alona made her way on many different yachts. Word of mouth quickly spread about the “Youngest Female Captain in Ukraine." 

Youngest Female Captain in Ukraine

Ukrainian agencies began inviting her to work with them on weekly charters abroad and when she gained experience, she began to organize her own yacht tours. A few years later, she received an offer to become a CEO/Partner at another IYT school where she spent a few years of her career. 

Today, Alona works with many different companies and private owners where she organizes her own tours. She is also an instructor with Montserrat Yachting Association (MYA). 

Alona has ventured to many different regions of the world  to include a recent Norwegian Expedition! Alona said, “My most interesting adventure was the crazy route from the Black Sea to the Caribbean with transatlantic passage.” Her dreams for her next venture are the passage of Cape Horn, expedition to Antarctica, participation in VOR and Vendée Globe, and to relax round the world trip on her own cruise sailing yacht.

“Long story short, if you love your job with all your heart, Stars will stand in a row for your success!” 

As a relatively new Yacht Crew Member myself, I wanted to glean her expertise with a few questions directly relating to her role as Captain. I’m confident you will find her insights and consult very valuable:  

Q:  What values are most important to you as a leader of a yacht?  As for me, the most important values are mindfulness, responsibility, endurance and self-control.

Q:  What advice would you give to new crew members “greenies” to be successful in the industry?

  • Don’t try to jump above your head from the start - element does not forgive fools.
  • Don't be afraid to seem incompetent or inexperienced – it’s better to ask for advice or help than crash or drown a yacht.
  • Remember that all seafarers - are brothers and sisters with the salty blood! Therefore, if you want to become part of the family you should act accordingly! Follow the dream and you will succeed!
Q:  What advice would you give to women in the industry striving to become a yacht leader in the future?
  • Do not listen to those who do not believe in you, who say that this is not woman’s work.
  • Be persistent, believe in yourself.
  • Choose not the school in which you want to study, but the teacher who will show you how to love yachting. 
Q:  What was your biggest hurdle to becoming Captain?

The most difficult thing was not to change yourself: not to exchange the wind in your hair for a prestigious well-paid job on the shore, especially at times when you were running out so hard that there was not enough money even for food.

Q:  What is the best quote or saying that you like to live by?  Life is short – just enjoy it!

Q:  What is it about the Sea that moves you / inspires you the most?  In the raging sea, I can find sedation. 

Today, Alona welcomes and is very open to new opportunities and participation in various projects. Should you have an initiative, project, or opportunity, please feel free to reach out to her directly.  

I’d like to invite you to read more of her travels, inspirational words, and photos on Facebook Alona Captain Zaitseva  Below are some of my favorite quotes - poems to my ears. 

The wind has just begun to disperse the clouds, and the sky is painted in dawn colors. The Sun was just preparing to start its journey through the sky.

And only our katik, dissecting the water smooth, rushed to the meeting of the new day...

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You Stand, so, anchor in an incredibly beautiful fjord, around the beauty: barely heard noise of the waterfall, green cliffs and lull - just a mirror! And only mackerel with its lapping breaks (or complements) this idyll, as if calling you to a sacred ritual

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We are lucky to live in a world full of wonders! It is only necessary to put your nose outside your sofa and in front of you will open countless fabulous beauties created by nature 

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As soon as you pick up a traveler's fever, you can't heal from it anymore and will be infected with it for the rest of your life!

 

It’s been my pleasure and honor to be able to capture a few moments and memories of Alona’s journey. While the seas were not always calm, she met each challenge, each obstacle, and each goal with perseverance, wisdom, grit, and passion.  Thank you Alona for sharing your journey, insights and aspirations with all of us!  

 

1 comment

Alona, you are the best! 👏🤘I’m proud of you!!!

Antonina January 29, 2020

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