Terrifying. Beautiful. Forgiving. A bond with the sea is for life


Those who live at sea understand both its beauty and brutality. Advancements in maritime technology like sonar have reduced the odds of shipwreck, but the ocean remains unpredictable and deserving of respect. This is what Khomotjo Mphahlele drums into the heads of her sailing cadets, because the textbooks fail to convey the reality of life as a captain.

Mphahlele only learnt these lessons later in life herself. She grew up in Limpopo. Inland. After finishing school, she travelled to the coast to pursue a Diploma in Maritime Studies at the Durban University of Technology, becoming a cadet sailor thereafter. Two years later she was awarded her certificate of competence by the South African Maritime Safety Authority, and has since sailed carrier ships, petrol tankers and diamond mining ships.

“Once you’ve bonded with the sea, she never leaves you,” says Mphahlele. With ten years of experience in the industry, as one the few women making a career, she has stepped up to the role of educator to pass her invaluable knowledge down to the next generation. As a Senior Marine Training Facilitator, her deepest desire is to see more women become sailors. Though the ocean is harsh, Mphahlele’s promise to those brave enough to embark on this exciting journey is that it will show them more about themselves than they can imagine.