Like many of the Women Making Waves, Kaz Adams found her passion on the water and never turned back! She has been an ASA Sailing instructor for over 20 years and she’s a USCG Licensed Captain who works term charters to boot! Kaz is an incredibly inspiring woman with a positive attitude. I interviewed Kaz to find out about her life.
1. Where are you from?
Born in Rochester NY; grew up in Boston, MA.
2. When and where did you first learn about sailing?
My first sailing experiences were working at YWCA Camp Ononda, Canandaigua Lake, NY as a 16 and 17 year old.
3. What experience do you have working in the sailing industry?
At camp, I was an instructor/lifeguard. The following year the Director offered me the job of Assistant Waterfront Director. I like to joke that I basically got into sailing as a dare. From there, I went into racing Thistles and day-sailor class (almost losing my life in a race), then working as crew on a historic schooner in Newport, RI. I was asked to be a first mate on a sailing charter with friends that were going from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini and back.
That experience changed my life and my perspective on sailing. Although it was fun (despite going during hurricane season between Opal and Pablo), it was then that I decided that I could do this better than it was being done. So I did!! I got my ASA 101-104 at Blue Water Sailing School with a friend of mine – then went for ASA 114 on the Gulf coast of Florida and ASA 105 in Portland, OR. I did a bunch of Caribbean charters and decided to become an instructor. My ASA IEQ was done with Captain Mary Swift-Swan out of Afterguard Sailing School in Oakland, CA.
I saw a calmness, confidence, and real joy in Mary and what she did, and that’s what I wanted for myself. My first teaching job was for Belize Sailing School out of Placencia and down to the Rio Dulce, Guatemala. When I looked into teaching in the US, I needed to have my USCG license, so went to the Maritime Institute in San Diego to learn and got my USCG 50-ton with sailing endorsement license.
Luckily, in my charters, I was getting on bigger and bigger vessels so I got a license that was more than just a 6-pack. Once the USCG handed me the papers I was teaching in Miami and San Diego, and started doing up to 5 charters a year all over the world. Teaching for ASA evolved into teaching for TeamSail, which is the best job I have ever done in my life and wish I could do it full time!
4. Have you ever had a scary experience onboard?
I have had many scary experiences on board. Oddly enough, I don’t panic in a frightful situation, because I trust my intuition. Afterwards, once I have made it through, is when I allow myself to absorb the intensity of what I was up against. Being panicked never got anyone anywhere correctly… suck it up, deal with it, or correct the issue. There’s time for crying, celebrating it, and tequila later! 🙂
5. Describe an average day onboard your boat.
As a charter captain the average day starts before sunrise, watching the weather to see if my plans from the day/night before can be executed. Checking charts and making adjustments before weighing anchor. I usually try to get off the hook early, motor out to get the refrigerator charged up just a little, then raise sails once the guests have had a bit of coffee and can appreciate where they are and what they are doing.
I like to plan days where there is a stop for a swim or snorkel, then hook down by 14-15:00 so there can be time for those who like to go ashore to do so, those who want to snorkel still have light, arrange excursions made for the next day, etc. A floating happy hour and usually a slowly prepared group dinner typically follows. It is rare that my guests eat dinner off the boat, actually… once they get into the rhythm of sailing, they like the boat life best.
6. What’s the best part about working on a sailboat?
The best part about my instructing job is seeing the learning become practical and then actually FUN for the student. The best part about being a charter captain is overhearing my guests talk about the experience when others ask them to share… I realize that what I have given them is an adventure vacation they will never, ever forget!
7. What are some of the struggles?
The hardest part of sailing for me is the worrying I put on myself, when it comes to concern for the guests’ well-being and fun times. Also, sometimes the piece-o-shit boats I have gotten from the charter companies—hopefully those days are behind me (I say that every time)!
8. What are some of your hobbies, and how has your job onboard helped you to develop these interests?
I am a creative thinker – sailing helps me to bring this strength forth and it’s the zone I want to be in always. Nothing else can compare to that. I am involved in all things warm water (except fishing) and have a deep respect for nature, and specifically water. My hobbies include being creative (art, music, writing), being outside and most importantly: my border collie, Lola.
9. Favorite boat snack?
My favorite boat snack is the seasonal local fruit in whatever area I am in.
10. What have you learned about yourself through working on boats?
Trusting my instincts is the best lesson I have learned about sailing. I walk off the boat after teaching, racing, or chartering and feel confident and fulfilled; it’s the only thing in my life that makes me feel this way. My goal every time I sail: FUN, SAFE, FUN. If I achieve my goal for me and whomever is with me, then it is the best experience for all!
11. What’s the best advice you could give to people interested in getting a job in this field?
Whilst being in a male-dominated field has different challenges, YOU are the only one who can stop YOU from achieving your goal. An expert has failed many times on the path, the person who never fails never actually tried anything new.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
I want to thank Kaz for sharing her story with us. Please leave a comment for her in support. If you’d like to read more about Women Making Waves check out these posts:
Interview with Captain Katie:
Interview with Captain Bridget:
The story of my first summer working as a charter captain: