Online Exhibitions & Stories

Hannah Hurford and Jess Clay

Rewriting Women into Maritime History
Co-Hosts of the Off Watch Podcast

Hannah Hurford and Jess Clay

Location: Charlestown, Cornwall, UK

Change and Camaraderie

In the realm of maritime enthusiasts and seasoned sailors, two dynamic women, Hannah Hurford and Jess Clay, have been making waves with their groundbreaking podcast, Off Watch. Their captivating journey started with their shared passion for the sea and traditional sailing vessels. 

Hannah's love affair with sailing began at a tender age, inspired by the enchanting tales of Patrick O'Brian's Master & Commander books. Her fascination with tall ships led her to embark on a life-changing voyage from Mauritius to Australia on a topsail schooner during her gap year. This epic journey unveiled a revelation, clarifying her path and purpose, which ultimately set her on a course of working with historic ships and telling their captivating stories.

With a childhood filled with pirate-themed birthday parties and a deep-rooted fascination with tall ships, Jess's connection to the sea was undeniable. However, it wasn't until a chance encounter with a sailor aboard the Kajsamoor in Charlestown that her eyes were opened to the possibility of working and holidaying on tall ships. From that moment on, Jess and her partner embraced a life of volunteer crewing, immersing themselves in the world of traditional sailing and seeking out thrilling experiences on the open seas.

Jess and Hannah’s paths crossed during a traineeship at National Historic Ships, where they began to build a friendship bonded by their passion for sailing and their desire to share the hidden realities of the industry. 

"The pandemic's arrival only strengthened their determination to create change and build a supportive community for those involved in the maritime world."
Carly Fields


Enter the Off Watch podcast - an open, honest, and inspiring platform for sailors and enthusiasts alike. The duo found their voices and realised that there was a need to talk openly about the highs and lows of life at sea. They sought to highlight the near-religious moments of awe, but also address unsustainable and dangerous practices that need to be addressed.

The first season of Off Watch wrapped up with resounding success, reaching an international audience and garnering positive feedback from both seasoned sailors and those new to the world of tall ships. The podcast became a beacon for change, raising awareness, empowering crew members, and fostering camaraderie within the industry.

Season two promises even greater impact, as they explore themes and stories from the SHE_SEES project, while continuing to shine a light on maritime heritage and traditional sailing. With the podcast's growing popularity, Off Watch has become a platform not just for the crew but also for the vessels themselves, generating interest and support for the ships that rely on volunteer crews.

Both Hannah and Jess share a vision of influencing change, not only among the crew but also within the leadership of the industry. They hope their podcast will reach captains, boat owners, and those in positions of authority, challenging them to create safer and more supportive environments for all involved.

Their journey has been one of immense growth and learning, and they are humbled by the opportunities and impact the podcast has brought into their lives. Through Off Watch, they hope to inspire listeners to question norms, seek change, and empower themselves to build a brighter future for the maritime world.

As Hannah and Jess continue to sail into uncharted waters, they do so with a shared sense of pride, joy, and gratitude for the difference they are making. Their bond as friends and co-hosts shines through, reminding that great things can be achieved when passion, purpose, and storytelling come together on the vast canvas of the sea.


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Written by Carly Fields

© Emilie Sandy Photography, 2023