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Navigating to where the heart 'skips a beat' featuring Lungi Mchunu

7 December 2023

In Episode 3 of the second series from Nautilus International's podcast Off Course: a sideways look at life at sea, we have an inspiring chat with South African-born yacht skipper Lungi Mchunu, the first African woman to sail to the Arctic.

Lungi is a yachtmaster graduate of UKSA, the training charity and Nautilus strategic yacht partner, and has worked in yachting, cruise and racing.

We speak with her about her fear of the sea, how she overcame it, and her experiences of the Arctic. 

Not from a sailing family, Ms Mchunu's maritime career started after a thwarted attempt at becoming a pilot, which led her initially to an education in economics and sports community work. While at an international conference in Monaco she decided on a whim to conquer her fear of water by joining a sailing course in France − having never set foot on a boat before. While scared and shaking at the beginning, 24 hours later she experienced a 'sense of quiet joy' that she had found where she was meant to be. From there, more coincidences on social media led her to apply for work on an Arctic expedition aimed at collecting samples to monitor plastics and the effects of climate change, all the while attempting to keep a lookout for a sunken Italian navy vessel.

Her career trajectory also shows a working arrangement typical of the yacht sector, where she works at sea for six months and then moves to a shoreside role for other parts of the year. At the same time, she uses her career to further her other passions: sustainability and encourage more women into the seafaring industry and to having adventures.

Ms Mchunu is a Just Transition hero of our time −  a female maritime professional who has managed to align her career as a yacht skipper with her values in the wider world.

Her interesting adventures are far from over, however. This yacht skipper still aims to sail solo around the world.

'You keep going forward until you find something that makes your heart skip a beat. And once you find that, everything comes into alignment.'

Listen to more of this lively interview by playing the Nautilus Off Course podcast!

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