by Jenny Green
This year, the Saga cruise captain celebrates his half century at sea, having sailed more than 400,000 passengers to exotic destinations. And, after rubbing shoulders with royalty, celebrities and world leaders, David’s the first to admit that life is good.
The 66-year-old started his seafaring career in 1962 when he graduated from HMC Conway Naval College. His first job was as a deck apprentice with Shaw, Savill & Albion Line and David’s passion for the sea was cemented when he sailed for Australia and New Zealand at the tender age of 17.
“Shaw, Savill & Albion was affectionately known as Slow Starvation & Agony,” he laughs. “But I remained with them until I obtained my 2nd Mates and later 1st Mates certificates before looking for a local job to pursue my passion for yacht racing.”
Indeed, David – whose home port was Holyhead – went on to become a British National Champion in 1970 and had high hopes for the future. But within a year, family life had intervened.
“My aspiration was to become an Olympic sailor but having married my wife Beverley in 1971 with our daughter on the way, I binned the idea for financial reasons,” David explains. “Instead, I decided to pursue my seafaring career.”
It was a gamble that proved to pay off, however, as David soon worked his way up through the ranks, travelling to far-flung destinations along the way.
“After gaining my Master’s Foreign Going certificate in 1974, I joined Cunard in 1975 as 1st Officer on the QE2 and was poised to be Master,” he recalls. “I was one of nine Master Mariners sailing on the QE2 at the time – something you probably won’t see again, but that’s was the way it was.
“I moved slowly up the ranks and got my first command in 1990 – the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition and the proudest moment of my career. After that, I commanded several Cunard ships then Saga approached me, three times. In 1997, I decided to pay them a visit – and the rest is history.”
In his 15 years with Saga, which specialises in travel for the over 50s, David has captained the company’s entire fleet. The father of two has also sailed to every corner of the world and although he says that ‘every day his special’, his favourite destination is home.
Saying that though, David has fond memories of cruising the Alaskan waters for the first time, as well as travelling to the Antarctic and Amazon with wife Beverley at his side.
“She’s my constant companion,” he says. “I wake up every day and thank the Lord for blessing me with an interesting career, good health and a long and happy marriage.”
In David’s line of work, no two days are ever the same. The father of two tries to start each morning with a swim and regularly plays table tennis with passengers, but his sea and port days can vary considerably.
“A normal, run-of-the-mill sea day means I’ll be up around 7am with various inspections and drills to carry out,” he explains. “There will also be social engagements to attend such as welcome cocktail parties and hosting guests to dinner.
“Without a doubt, the single most enjoyable part of my job has been the many friendships myself and my wife have made over the years with passengers.
“Port days, on the other hand, start when the pilot comes aboard and this can be any hour of the day or night. Sometimes I’m called early at 4am and my day ends when we say farewell at the end. But the bottom line is, I’m always on the Bridge for the arrival and sailing to and from the port.”
Despite his long and successful career, David never thought he’d be celebrating his half century at sea but has plenty of advice for anyone hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“Listen a lot, study well and gain valuable experience,” he says. “But above all, maintain the traditional skills of navigation and good seamanship.”
David will mark his nautical milestone by taking to the helm of Saga Sapphire – a brand new luxury liner offering al fresco dining and the latest tablet technology. His 50th anniversary coincides with the ship’s Caribbean Celebration cruise, which departs on November 17 2012.
Prices for the 31-night trip start from £4,564 and include travel insurance, all on-board gratuities, a welcome cocktail party, Captain’s Dinner, all meals onboard including 24hr room service, all port taxes and visas and a UK mainland travel service to the departure point.
For more information or to book, visit http://travel.saga.uk/holidays.aspx