Quote of 2009

“When you reach that point in your life where your dreams become your life and your life becomes your dream… You know you are the most happiest person in the world!”

Character Moulding in your environment

It’s the people around you who have an influence on your character. Your personality is set in concrete but your character is more like clay, it can be moulded and shaped as you grow up. Character shows who you are as a person.
I live and work on board a ship, I have for the past 5 years, and my character has been moulded and shaped so many times that looking back you would think I was three different people. At the end of the day it has all contributed to who I am today.
People can influence the moulding of your character in both a positive and negative way. For instance my time on the tankers was at the time a negative influence but now I see that how the tankers shaped me has been an effect on my inner strength and ability to say ‘No’ these days. So the ship which I am on now has a crew who are 99% positive most of the time an love talking, being social, smiling and saying hello. All this contributes to the shaping of you are as a person. It is a nice feeling when your true inner character comes out.
You would be amazed at how much of a stress free atmosphere creates a relaxed environment. Why stress? Why worry? Does this get you anywhere? As much as it effects your physical health it also effects your mental and emotional well-being. Fatigue, lack of sleep, high blood pressure, decrease in your level of patience and tolerance and your ability to control yourself starts to become over whelming. So how can we make a change t o create a stress free environment in our home, workplace, family and everyday life? You’ll be amazed at how much of an influence hading a positive attitude makes your surroundings comfortable to be in. Make eye contact when you are involved in conversation, greet people as you walk past them, smile to all people who walk past you and no matter what mood you may be in always do things out of love!

Life Influences

The person who has influenced me the most in life and whom I also admire is my Dad. The one and only Mr Stewart. My dad is the most amazing person I have ever known. He spent 10 years raising his beautiful daughters, 2, which have turned out to be successful happy young woman. All thanks goes to him for our upbringing. When we were growing up he was a fulltime 6 days a week worker to earn money to keep us going, a farmer, sailor, fisherman, netball referee, running and biking buddy, a taxi driver, rally car driver, chef, cleaner, medic, support person, volunteer coastguard skipper for the Kaipara and watch leader on the Spirit of New Zealand. Also a peacemaker, provider, family binder, father and a best friend to me and my sister. He still is a lot of that to us today. He runs a fulltime, full on house hold for 5, a farm which requires 90% of his time, managers his workplace and his family commitments are more than most would ever experience in one year. He never gives up and never refuses to help someone in need. Never failed us and never left us with nothing. He is my Dad and I love him!

De-railment in Life

I had a dream the other night after cargo watch that the railway wagons, which we just discharged from the rail deck, had a derailment on shore. It came a huge shock to me because all I could think of was what did I do wrong to cause this to happen and how could I help this situation? When I woke up in the morning all I could think about was what I had just dreamed about. I spent a bit of time reflecting back on what happened and replayed the situation over and over again in my head. I thought that this may have been a warning for me for next cargo watch on the rail deck, but in the end I realised that it was a reminder of how important it is to stay on track on life. It came to my attention that many unpredictable things can happen in our lives, which we don’t fully expect, or ever think could happen to us. Some things shake us up and others leave us stranded. But it is the ones that cause us to fall off track that are more of an issue to try and get us back. Think of transportation as an example. Cars and trucks have the freedom to go where ever they like, trams have a bit of flexibility to how far that they can stray from the overhead cables and trains are restricted to the direction which the tracks are going.

Just can't stay away

Here I am again. Back at sea when I'm not at sea. Making any sense? Probably not. I have just moved into a new flat in the town where I now work and it is by the beach. So what is the last thing I do before I go to sleep at night? I look out the window and see the 10pm ferry go past on its way to Picton. What do I do during my days off? I go down to the beach and sit on the sand watching the Ferries go past in the morning. The evening walk along the beach is enjoyed as the 6pm ferry sails from Wellington. Some would say that I have an addiction and obsession with ships and the sea but I say that I have a passion. Addictions and obsessions bring pain but Passions bring happiness to life.
I do what I love and I love what I do, what more could I ask for?
Reaching that point in your life where you are happy with who you are and what you are doing, it is such a nice feeling. Passion brings happiness and happiness brings life. I used to not look forward to the day where I would have to sign of a ship, but now I am not bothered by this any more because I still get the buzz of seeing them from my bedroom window on my days off.

Learning from your past

Someone once told me that “We are all products of our past.” Wow! That’s pretty deep. At first I didn’t like that, because like most people I to have things in my past that I am not proud of. People say things they don’t mean and do things in the spur of the moment which they never would dream of doing in their lifetime. People have regrets and scars and bruising from issues that they may have encountered.
So in my eyes the past is the past, it’s behind us and there is no way that we can go back and change things. They have happened and now it is history. What we can do now though is focus on the future and moving forward in life. Learn from your mistakes and make a better effort to do what you do better next time round.
“Always look forward, don’t ever look back”

What a Captain and Mate will do for their ship!

In April-June 2005 Captain Leppington and I sailed the Pacific Link to Fiji where we spent 3 months working on board the ship while it carried out its medical outreaches. We worked all round the clock from navigation, chart work, bridge (port and sea) watches and anchor watches, to chipping and painting, sanding and grinding and sign writing the ships name on the bow, both sides.

Riddle: - What runs fore to aft, port to starboard, left to right, stern to stem and there are three of them on a ship? – Guessed yet?

Captain Leppington and I spent a few months training crew in bridge watch duties, ship maintenance and ship board safety training procedures. Full time work, lots of hours on deck and little sleep gained by all on board. Grinding would start at the crack of dawn and noise s=would start to cease by sunset. There was no chance for an afternoon nap for me in Fiji.

Fiji was such an amazing place to experience 3rd world life. The lives children live in the villages are quite fascinating. They get the most out of life by making use of what is around them. For example one day in Levuka on Ovalau Island we replaced all the mooring lines on our ship. We placed the lines on the wharf one night and in the morning they were gone. When the Captain and I went for a walk later that afternoon we came across kids swinging from big ropes hung from the trees. They had takes our mooring lines from the wharf and hung them in their trees for the children to play in. It was quite touching seeing children’s eyes light up when they see something like this which they have never come across before.

Make the most out of what you have in life, you never know when you may loose it. What is rubbish for someone may be someone else’s treasure.

2004 Spirit of Adventure Trust Cadets

You spend 18 months together living in close proximity together, every meal is eaten together, tears are shared with one another, good times and bad times they all happen in the same boat. You study in the same room, work on deck and aloft everyday and even share shore leave is spent together.
This is what it is like for cadets on the youth development ship the Spirit of New Zealand. In 2004 Suz, Luke and myself were cadets together. We lived and worked on the same boat as we voyaged around the New Zealand coast with youth from all over the country. We shared many good times with one another and also some very sad times as well. It wasn’t all fun and games we did have our moments, just like any teenagers growing up. But in our case any conflict that came up it was closely resolved within a matter of hours. You can’t hold grudges or give someone the silent treatment to anyone on a ship, it is just not possible. Everywhere you turn you see the other person. If you avoid them during the day you will see them at meal times no matter what.
So where are we all now. Well Suz went back onto the Spirit of New Zealand as 2nd Mate then moved up to 1st Mate, now she is in London in the UK working and having an OE at the same time. Luke is a Skipper for New Zealand Dive and Salvage and is currently doing some work in Samoa. Me I am a 3rd Officer on a Rail Ferry on my way up to the next rank. So there you have it. After 18 months living and growing up together, 5 years later we are still keeping in contact with one another.
Like I explained to someone one day: “Place 2 people in a boat together and after 10 days they will either be the best of friends or have killed one another!”

Reflections on the water

What do you see when you look over the side of the ship into the water? Do you recognize what you look at? Do you like what you see? Or wish you were different? That is the thing with reflections, we cant change them. They show exactly who we are at that particular point in time. Yes sure sometimes we don’t like what we see so we slap the water and the image fades away, but that is only for a moment. Once the water settles again the image comes back and it is the exact reflection of the one who is peering down into it. It is the only thing in the whole world which we can not get rid of. It follows us every where, always looking back at us and showing us what we look like.
Some people grow up their whole lives with out ever liking what they see about themselves. Most would say that this is low self-esteem but I say that people have just not realized their own inner and outer beauty yet. It make takes years even decades for this to be realized but the reality is that you beauty is in you now! All you have to do is look into the water and you will see the uniqueness of your creation. Just take a moment and look at you face. Who else has you nose of the same colour and spacing of your eyes. What about your hair? There is so much that you can do with it, why not do a style that makes you smile.
So every time you peer into the water and chuck stones at what you see looking back at you just remember that when the water settles the reflection will return no matter what.

Settling down for a year

Some would say I’m crazy some will say I shouldn’t, but anyone who knows me knows that I only do what is best for my career and for the people who I am around. Now six years later and after years of training, exams, experience, sea time and seeing amazing places, I have now settled down in a permanent job. I am working on a ship now which is the one I started on as a cadet in 2005. It is such a different perspective now being in a higher role than what I started in. All the training and experience was definitely all well worth it. I am on the Arahura working week on week off for 12 months. It is a great job with great benefits. I am now living in a flat in Wellington by a surf beach with a bedroom view of the ocean. I miss my Dad every day but this is one of the stages of growing up. Settling down for me was scary at first as I have always lived out of a pack since I started at sea. So believe me even I was surprised when this opportunity came up. What am I going to do in my weeks off the ship? Well I have taken up surfing and more hill running as recreational sports and also French as a language to learn. Maybe now is the time when I can now start to catch up with friends. My passion has grown into a lifestyle and is blossoming every day. I wouldn’t change any part of it so far.
So I’ll be working away on the Rail Ferries and enjoying every minute of pilotage, cargo, passengers and safety checks. Bring on the Easter Rush!

Pacific Link Missions 2005

Crew on the Pacific Link in 2005. Paul Leppington - Captain, Megs - 1st Mate, Ivan - Chief Engineer. Missions on the medical ship, Pacific Link, in the islands of Fiji were such an amazing introduction into 3rd World children's ministry. So many lives were changed and impacted on just by having us there with them in the schools. Some of the happiest children that I have ever see were in a village called Naibalebale on Viwa Island. These were kids aged between the ages of 4 and 14, and although they had no money and lived off the food which they grew and clothes that were delivered from supply boats every few months, they all had dreams to become something bigger than anyone could ever imagine. Two little girls want to be doctors so they can help the people in their village get better when they get sick. Some want to be pilots, air hostesses, teachers and even surgeons. These little kids all they see is the future ahead of them that is what keeps them going. They keep their eyes fixed on the goal and live every day to reach their dreams.
Passions and dreams build up inside them and the live each day to become the nurses, teachers and doctors that they have always wanted to be.

Broken Relationships

My second passion after the sea is children. Children are the future. What we put into them now can have an influence on the way they turn out. Whether it is good or bad it all has a influence.
It hurts me to see children being neglected by their parents. When parents break up it is the children who get hurt the most in all of it. Why bring such pain into a young persons life while they are still learning how to live in this broken world? Children learn from us, it is what we do that they copy and learn from. So if a child sees their parents fighting and arguing, the child will class this as normal behavior and their parents actions move down onto their children.
If parents get a divorce then it should be a clean move apart. Each parent should leave the other to live their own life and move on. None of this still fighting for money 10 years later. This only brings unnecessary stress and frustration into the child’s life. I guess what I am tying to say here is that I was raised by my Dad and grew up without a mother so I know what all this is like. I really want couples out there to really think before deciding to have children. Once you bring someone into this world you are obligated to look after them and be there by their side forever. It is a full time commitment. Put the child first in any relationship, think of their needs and their well being. If the relationship ends in a break up and there are children involved then for what its worth make the child’s upbringing conflict-free and clean.
I would just like to thank my Dad for the best upbringing that I could have ever wanted. Without him and what he has done for me I wouldn’t be where I am today!

Fire Fighting Training

If there was a fire in your workplace for you home would you know what to do? There are few people out there who know how to fight fires. Working an living on board a ship you are onboard a floating time bomb. This is mainly focused towards tankers but any ship if it is in the middle of the sea is basically left the experience of eth crew to control a fire. On a ship you are in an environment where if there is a fire on board you cant ring the fire brigade to come and help, you are it! Fire training is a huge part of shipboard trills and safety management. On my current ship we have fir drills every week. We muster, gear up and get involved in pre-planned fire scenarios. Sometimes this may include a dangerous goods spillage on deck, electrical wires involved, medical casualty and some even end in the crew having to abandon ship (just in practice sense) At all times on board we are to know where the nearest emergency exit is, the closest fire extinguisher and alarm call point and also the quickest action to be taken in that area. Whether it is to contain the fire by shutting the fire doors, attacking it by yourself if it is manageable, or evacuating the area and going to muster stations. It all depends on the situation at the time. All we can do as crew on board a ship is know that we are confident and competent in using the fire fighting equipment and know the procedures to be followed to ensure safety in an emergency.
Training done on board ships these days usually involve a smoke machine to give a drill a real life feeling. In some drills the masks of the crew wearing the BA gear get covered up so they cant see where they are going. Everything is dodne by sound, touch and senses.

Blind Pilotage

Everyday is a learning day for me. Not a single day goes by where I haven't learnt something new. 20 years could go by and I would still be learning about new stuff and new ways of doing things. The latest new experience I have had was so amazing! I was the pilot and got to con the Arahura in through Tory Channel Entrance all the way up to Picton. Solo, on my own and I wasn't allowed to use any navigational equipment. It all had to be done by sight and senses. Of course the Master was on the bridge for ticket exemption purposes and company regulations. I had to stand in front of the conning area on the bridge which is in front of the radars and navigation equipment. All piloting and navigation had to be done by sight. It was so awesome! Talk about an adrenalin rush and get your heart pumping. The Captain said to me 'Right get out the front you are doing this now, Blind Pilotage!' It would have to have been the best experience I have had on watch on this ship so far. Talk about being thrown in the deep end head first with no floaties to keep me afloat.
Well after this I am pleased to say that it went really well. The Captain and Mate were impressed with how I did it for my first time. I had only been on board for a week and hadn't done any pilotage work at all on this ship. I had memorized everything from my last ship, the Aratere, and made some fine adjustments to the helm orders. The Captain came up to me afterwards and said that I need to get a photo of myself conning the ship so that I can send it to my Dad because he would be so proud of me seeing what I do.

Motion of seasickness put into perspective

Have you ever wondered why passengers seem to get sea sick more than the Officers navigating on the bridge of the ship? Or why passengers in the back seat of a car are more prone to chunder? I took me a while to realise this but I have finally found out that most people like to have a sense of direction of knowing where they are going. From the bridge we can see what is actually going on and predict the movement of the vessel from observing the approaching sea conditions. So for a passenger who is indoors all they know is that the vessel I rolling around and their head then starts to signal to them that something isn't right. I bought a passenger up to the bridge one day who suffers from real bad sea sickness. She said that she has never been on board a boat or ship before and not been sick. This lady did the whole voyage across from one port to the other on the bridge and didn't feel the slightest urge of sea sickness. Being on the bridge of the ship she could see where we were going and what we expecting to encounter, wind gusts, sea waves and long swell waves. We sometimes get like this in life as well. If we can't see where we are heading or have no sense of direction we start to feel a bit sick. It's just a matter of opening up your eyes and looking forward to what is in front of you instead of down at the inside of a white paper bag.

Life in the Sounds

Marine life in Queen Charlotte Sound is just incredible during spring time and the summer seasons. Seeing dolphins is a regular occurrence and whales are an added bonus. Bird life is encountered all year round, the only variation being bird species.
You think that dolphins are just creatures like any other marine life t sea, but from personal experience they are must more than this. There is something about seeing a dolphin when you are on watch and at sea that brings a sense of contentment and makes you smile. The beauty of creatures gracefully enjoying life at sea, riding the bow waves of ships or trailing behind in the wake left behind. One of the only creatures that can change your mood if you are feeling down or in the dumps. They have a way of coming to the surface when we most need to be saved and cheered up. At first I thought this was just something that I encounter when I am at sea, but after sharing this with many people I have found out that over 30 other seafarers that I know experience this as well. So as you can see I don't just like working on a ship for the job and the pleasure that it brings, I do it to see the dolphins.

Gourmet Cuisine and Rest

How many people do you have to cook for in your house hold? Two or three, maybe 5 if you have children. Do you ever complain about not having enough bench space in your kitchen? Or too many mouths to feed when friends and family come around? I bet you have had one of those days where you don't feel like cooking anymore so you order takeaways. Am I right? Of course!
Living and working on a ship we aren't able to do that. All our food is provided for us. We have highly qualified chefs who live and work on board the ships with us, cooking meals four times a day non-stop. If a ship is tied up for lay-by (not sailing) then most crew get shore leave. This isn't the case for the cooks. If they go ashore we don't eat. If they stop working we stop eating, and then if we stop eating then we stop working. It goes round and round ending up with the ship not sailing.A ship funnily enough moves around quite a bit when she is at sea so sometimes this can make cooking in the galley (ship's kitchen) very difficult. There are usually 2 or 3 cooks on a ship who all have to work in the same small area and walk around cautiously when the seas get choppy. So next time you have a party at home and are complaining about having to feed so many people just take a minute to think about he cooks on ships who have to cook for 40-50 crew members four times a day. For some reason your party will seem just that much easier.