What do you do?
I run the catering department on board the Northern Lighthouse Board vessel NLV Pole Star. I am in charge of the cook but I tend to think that we work as a team. Something that I really enjoy is finishing up at the end of the day, getting showered, being able to relax and watch TV. Working in the catering department means I am the first one up in the morning and the last to finish in the evening. I therefore get a couple of hours off in the afternoon to compensate. I think this should be mandatory for catering departments on all ships.
What does a typical day at work look like?
I buy in all the food and stores for accommodation and galley and make sure all receipts are put into the computer system. I help the cook in the galley with the washing up, setting up for meals, and cleaning down at the end of the workday. I keep the mess room stocked with tea, coffee, juice and snacks and keep the area and the TV room clean. I can vary my day as I like. So if I want to spend the day working on my computer, after finishing breakfast and making sure the mess room is stocked, I can. If I want to spend the morning or afternoon buying stores when we are in port, I can do that too. My main goal is always to make the day go as smoothly as possible for myself and the cook.
How did you get to where you are?
I worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board as a typist and office clerk at their headquarters in Edinburgh, for six or seven years. I then became the first female to ever transfer onto one of the ships as an assistant steward. I had to struggle to achieve this, paying for some of the required courses myself and using my own holiday leave to complete them. Four years later, after again putting in a lot of effort, I transferred to the deck department and became the first female deckhand on a Northern Lighthouse Board vessel. I made sure that I could do every job, some that even the men who had been there for many years of service couldn’t do, such as wire splicing. After 14 years working on deck, I returned to the catering department as Chief Caterer. It hasn’t been easy but in 2020 I will have worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board for 30 years.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
When I first get home on leave, I love a few days of 'me-time'. After living closely with 15 men for long periods of time, I like to be able to just relax on my own. Then, I catch up with family and friends. Because I work 28 days on, and then get 28 days off, I am able to plan holidays far in advance, and I can go away for as long as my leave allows. It also means my family and friends can plan around me.
Working at sea means you miss many things happening at home, such as funerals, Christmas holidays and pets dying. But equally you can be home for a lot of things too. Luckily, communication between the ship and those ashore is a lot better now than it used to be. When I started working at sea, there were no mobile phones - you just had to wait to get into the next port and find a phone box with a handful of change!