Unlocking opportunity during the pandemic

20 Feb 21

As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2021, Beauty shares her story and growing love for the river, tells how RYA courses help her progress, and gives tips for other school leavers considering their careers options:

I grew up in Westminster and left school with ‘A’ levels in philosophy, psychology and sociology. I’d never really considered working on the river at all. As a child, it had not really played any part in my life. I was more into football and following Chelsea, but I joined City Cruises in November 2019, as cabin crew. Mum encouraged me to take up the opportunity. Friends were surprised, but were happy for me and supportive too.

I first took an interest in what the crew did, arriving at different piers. Captains and mates soon started teaching me how to tie up the boat, the different lines and how to do a pinch. Just when I thought I’d got that all learnt, the skippers kept on testing me on how we should come along side to dock. I mostly relied on the big yellow mooring buoys to tell me what direction to berth.

Then I was shown the engine room and taught little things, such as the bridges, bowline knots, two turn half hitch knots. Day by day my interest grew, as well as my love for the river. I was soon captivated by it all.

I began to see the extent of what the work of masters and mates entails. It really interested me. It's not as simple as just driving a boat in a straight line and throwing some ropes out. People think it’s easy, but I can assure everyone it’s not.

Covid crisis

Initially at the start of the pandemic, we were given time off, which was OK, even fun at first, but I quickly got bored. My motivation soon began to dwindle. Then as the economic impact of the crisis on the river deepened, City Cruises had to make me and others redundant. It was inevitable, but still hit me hard. I was devastated.

I really thought my time on the river had come to an end, but luckily the PLA came to my rescue. They offered to take me on to serve out my apprenticeship with them. My City Cruises colleagues, Jeremie and Clemence, were in the same boat and luckily have been transferred over to the PLA too. We have been very fortunate and are very grateful to the PLA for taking us on.

Guiding light?

I'd personally like to thank the PLA’s marine training manager Rachel De Bont for all the support and encouragement she gives to me and all the other the PLA apprentices. We all owe her big time and think the world of her.

Best bit of the river? 

Definitely the middle district, from Greenwich to Westminster pier. It’s where I started on the Thames. I have so many good memories of this stretch of the river. I am sure they will stay with me all my life.

Career highlight? 

In November 2019, my training took me to Plymouth for a sea survival course. That was so much fun! We had to do an overnight challenge. It was a bit scary, driving out at night for the first time, but really cool to see all the regulation lights out. It really helped me develop my navigation skills.

At City Cruises, I loved the bigger M2 vessels, driving the RIBs at high speed and working on the tourists’ tea time cruises.

How have RYA courses helped?

I have recently passed my Day Skipper practical down in Plymouth. It was amazing to navigate at night and put together skills such as identification of colregs and manoeuvring the vessel together. I have also completed my power boat level 2; it was great to see how my driving improved so much, so fast!

The courses condense a lot of work into a set amount of time and you get though it! You watch your skill set develop and you know so much more than you did at the beginning of the course. 

I intend to take my Yachtmaster very soon; this will expand and consolidate my knowledge and help me on my way to achieving my Boatmasters’ Licence.

Future goals?

By the time I am 32, I'd love to be a skipper. I’d also like to mentor other apprentices and maybe spend some time at sea, like my friend and colleague Scarlett, who is just starting a cadetship at Warsash Maritime School.

I’d definitely like to explore other sectors within the maritime industry, to see where I want to specialise. At the PLA right now, I want to improve my navigation and driving skills. I'd like to explore the other departments in the PLA too. But my focus is getting my Boatmasters’ Licence. It will unlock so many future opportunities.

Advice to your younger self?

  • Try your best to achieve the best grades you can. It will open more doors for you.
  • Join a sports club, or learn a musical instrument, something you enjoy.
  • If you're not sure what you want to do, that's absolutely fine. It will come to you later in life.
  • You'll change your mind about your dream job 100 times before you leave school, but it's always good to have a goal.
  • Look into apprenticeships, as you will be learning and earning at the same time.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • For any young Londoner considering their career options, I’d say the river under your nose could be a route to long and happy career.
  • To my fellow females, don’t think a career on the river is just for boys!
  • So far I am having fun and learning so much. That’s got to be a good thing. Only Chelsea winning the title again could top it. Or maybe not…

    With thanks to the PLA; much of this story is reproduced from their publication Tidal Thames News. Photo credit City Cruises

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