Thursday, April 25, 2019

Scholarships Are the Way Forward for Many Who Yearn for a Life at Sea

The Making of a Modern Merchant Sailor
Shipping News Feature
UK – 23 year old Rachel Vassallo from South Shields probably doesn't fit most peoples idea of a merchant sailor, and as her only experience of the sea before she received a Sailors' Society scholarship was crossing the Tyne on the Shields Ferry, a one kilometre, 7 minute trip, she was an unlikely candidate for a career on the waves.

Since 2015 however the Society has funded scholarships for 70 students like Rachel, who has now become a qualified Deck Officer of the Watch. After joining her first ship, the STS Lord Nelson in 2016, a vessel designed to be accessible to people of all abilities, and where she travelled from the Canary Islands to Southampton, she changed vessel type to crew on a couple of ferries. She spoke of that time saying:

“The Irish Sea was a valuable experience, I feel I learned the most about how to be an officer and was given a far greater amount of responsibility than I ever imagined I would as a cadet. I was trusted to load the main deck and lower holds, take charge of mooring stations and even manoeuvre the ship off the berth under the Captain’s supervision.”

Next posting was aboard a large cargo vessel with a multinational crew on voyages to Brazil, America and Singapore, and where she says the absence of passengers was hard to get used to. Speaking no Tagalog didn’t hinder her from conversing with her shipmates however, and she claims some even managed to learn a few Geordie phrases from her.

On returning to South Shields Marine School, she completed her exams and is now looking forward to a career at sea, having found a job with Princess Cruises. She concludes:

”[On the STS Lord Nelson I learned the basics of being an officer of the watch, and because of the age of the ship, a whole lot about ship maintenance, [then] saw a great deal of the world. My cadetship has been the best experience of my life and I would like to thank Sailors’ Society for their financial support and enabling me to start what I hope will be a long and rewarding career.”

To help Sailors’ Society give an opportunity for young people to pursue a career at sea, email