With our questions to hand, we caught up with long time client and friend of dsnm Ben O’Hara, to talk about his exciting new business venture and delve into his experiences of life in the Superyacht world.
Tell us a bit about you
I have been in the industry 9 years in total. I ended up on the high seas after finishing my Design for Advertising degree in the middle of the 2008 recession. I was unable to land a design job and I had little money in the bank so my sister Beth who was already in the Industry said to get involved and I’ve never looked back since. Well only to see who is overtaking me anyway. During that time, I have always tried to remain creative on board my yachts, whether it be beach set ups, guests activities, developing exciting drills or even photoshopping crew birthday cards with controversial imagery to some captains dismay.
What has kept you in the industry?
People often complain that yachting is restrictive but I see the freedom and enjoyment in the job because no day is ever the same. Forever changing weather, guests, crew and locations means we have to adapt, we have to think on our feet staying ahead of the game by being creative. I do find that being creative helps me see tasks and jobs differently, often looking for an alternative approach or solutions to a problem.
This is what led me into my new venture……
Tell us a bit about Witty Learning
As children we are taught to use mnemonics in school and they generally remain with us for our lives e.g Never Eat Shredded Wheat or Naughty Elephants Squirt Water for learning the points of a compass.
In the build up to an exam we are never told how to study, that is usually left to the individual and the type of brain we have or study technique we prefer to use. So following the completion of the brilliant online learning and revision preparation with Barry Sadler, I ended up with an array of cue cards and revision scribbles/notes. As I studied and became more knowledgeable on certain topics, I began to reduce the pile by developing mnemonics and learning aids. I had done the hard part learning the content and these mnemonics would then provide simple structure and memory triggers to follow in an exam. They enable you to recall the information in the correct order, often resulting in the examiner moving on as you show good understanding and knowledge of the subject.
My Mnemonics gave me so much confidence in the exam that I felt I should share them with fellow crew. I just had to think what was the best way of doing so? The cue cards certainly had the content but the dog eared notes with scruffy handwriting after weeks of being flicked through again and again, were in no state to be passed on to a friend for future learning or to be shared with my crew back on board.
So rather than bury them in a drawer somewhere, I decided to use my time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic to put these learning aids into aesthetically pleasing posters for yachts. With the help of my partner Jen, we developed two OOW & Masters posters which cover a huge range of the syllabus and then we launched the Witty Learning site for ease of purchase.
How do you find combining both running Witty Learning and spending time at sea?
I still love being at sea so I’ve definitely got a few years left in me. Luckily my partner Jen is a graphic designer by trade, so she is running the show while I am at sea and managing all the shipping. It’s certainly been keeping her busy which is great.
Who is the key audience for the posters?
I decided to create the posters with a mixture of both OOW and Masters because I want them to be used both on board yachts and at home during study. The content is aimed at crew studying for their OOW and Masters but the sooner deckhands start to learn them, the easier the exams will be when the time comes.
What are your plans for Witty Learning in the future?
We have just released a terms and abbreviations poster to aid crew with the countless acronyms used on board. The idea behind that was to provide crew with a reference poster to help understand many of the terms that they see or hear on board everyday. A junior stewardess is unlikely to know what an OSC is or what or where the Bridge Procedures Guide is to find out. If all of these are consolidated into one place in the form of a poster, then knowledge of all crew is likely to improve.
We are now working on a meteorology poster which will be amazing for vessels and school classrooms. It’s such a vast subject that it gives us lots of freedom to design and educate. Watch this space for that one!! Following the release of the Met poster we may actually start designing children’s posters for homes and schools. It’s really nice to design learning material that you know will benefit people in their studies and hopefully stay with them forever.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I’d hope to have several small businesses set up in the UK but still manage 6 months at sea. As the online era has been sped up by Covid-19, I am keen to jump on that train! However my passion is the ocean so I’ll always prefer staring out of a bridge window rather than at a computer screen.
Have there been any points in your career that are particularly memorable?
The Galapago is my most memorable yachting experience to date and I’d go back there in a heartbeat. It is how the world once was and I don’t believe many places like that are left. It is a must for anyone who gets the opportunity!
I will say that memories are made by a good crew, the yacht itself doesn’t really matter. If you are surrounded by good people then you will have the best years of your life and you are being paid for them.