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19th July, 2013

At sea

As we make our way back to Dover where we will dock tomorrow I write this rare sea day blog. Tomorrow marks a landmark in my career as this will be my last day onboard a Saga ship. After 21 years at sea, including 1782 nights aboard Saga ships (I thought Britannia Club members might be interested) I am “swallowing the anchor” to coin a phrase, choosing to work ashore in a land based position.

I’m not completely turning my back on the sea as my new post with an industry leading law firm will be putting my seagoing experience to good use with regards to Admiralty Law or Maritime Law as it is sometimes referred to. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do so when I got invited to apply for the position in May I jumped at the chance.

Without wishing this to sound like an obituary, looking back over my sea going career and particularly the last nine years when I’ve been employed to work upon Saga’s ships I’ve certainly learned a lot and gained invaluable experience:

I first joined Saga Rose in Cadiz on December 1st 2004 as First Officer (I had held my Master Mariners Certificate of Competency for around 18 months at this stage), Captain David Warden-Owen was Captain at the time. My first “trip” with Saga lasted 5 months during which I’d secured a double promotion to Safety Officer and completed my one and only full World Cruise including a memorable visit to Antarctica. It was also the first of many times I sailed with Captain Philip Rentell, who had just joined the company taking over command of Saga Rose in Sydney. It was also the first time I sailed with Captain Wesley Dunlop, who at the time was Chief Officer.

My second tour of duty saw me join Saga Ruby for the first time on 5th July 2005. This time I joined as Staff Captain securing another promotion (not too bad for a tanker man who’d only left BP a year before after 12 years of transporting oil and liquefied natural gas around the globe), this time Alistair McLundie was Captain.

My first command came in November 2007 on Saga Ruby, and the first time I docked a ship as Master was backing Saga Ruby into a floating dry dock in near gale force conditions with ice cold rain stinging my face, ready for her refit in Hamburg. The first time I captained a Saga ship with passengers aboard came less than 6 months later when due to an unfortunate accident ashore in Rome Captain Warden-Owen broke his leg. As Staff Captain it then fell to me to complete the cruise as the ship's Master (I was onboard ship at the time of the accident in case you were wondering).

After a few more short stints in command I finally obtained permanent promotion on 4th August 2010 aboard Saga Ruby where I remained up until January this year when I took command of Saga Sapphire for the first time.

In addition to David, Philip and Alistair over the years I’ve worked under other Saga Captain’s present and past including Kees Speckman, John Brocklehurst, Martin Breen, Neil Broomhall and Frank Allica. Every Captain I’ve sailed with has taught me something and thinking about it the same can be said of most of the officers and crew I’ve had the pleasure to work with, although admittedly some of what I’ve learnt from the latter may not have really been of much use to me as Captain !

I’ve met many interesting people over the years and been to many interesting places as well as on the odd occasion eaten something in a foreign port that could only be described as interesting!

Of course on the flip side I will not miss the early morning calls for picking up the pilot, fog, heavy weather, phone calls in the middle of the night advising me of a problem or telling me another vessel is not following the “rule of the road”, sharing the bridge with a less than hygienic pilot for several hours!  But most of all I will not miss saying goodbye to loved ones back home each time I join ship, especially my girlfriend Melissa.

I have made many friends over the years with Saga, some admittedly I’ve lost contact with, others I keep in touch with, and of course I also met my girlfriend of nearly four years onboard Saga Ruby - so I have a lot of fond memories to look back on. So I will say farewell and goodbye to you all.

Now wouldn’t it be nice if there was no fog on my last night aboard before Dover!

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.