After 22 loyal years – and 185,000 miles on board the Gry Maritha – Captain Paul Stevens will be retiring in May.
Paul, 68, will retire almost 22 years to the day he joined the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, in May 2000.
A familiar and well-respected face on the Isles of Scilly, Paul has spent two decades serving the islands all year-round on board the dedicated freight ship Gry Maritha.
He said: “The Gry, and her crew, are committed to the community on Scilly. It’s a big responsibility and it’s no exaggeration to say she is a lifeline to the islands, especially in the winter.
“I’ve loved my time on the Gry, but all good things must come to an end. I will miss going to sea, the boat and the close-knit crew who are more like a second family.”
Seafaring is in Paul’s blood. He left school at the age of 15 to become a fisherman, working on trawlers out of St Ives and Hayle, and then for 30 years from Newlyn and various ports around the UK, until a chance conversation with a Dutch colleague on board.
“He told me he was applying for an engineering job on the Gry,” said Paul. “I thought it sounded interesting, so I applied too. It was an opportunity I’d never considered before, but it suddenly appeared on my doorstep. Needless to say I got the job, and the rest is history.”
Paul joined the Gry as A/B Relief Engineer, having obtained engineering qualifications before joining the company, and quickly rose through the ranks as Relief Mate and Mate, before becoming a Master in 2004.
“I did the courses alongside my job, and the company supported me through it all,” said Paul. “Then in April 2006 I became Relief Mate Master, and in 2010 Senior Master. It’s been a privilege, and I can honestly say I’ve never been bored since I’ve been here.
“I love every aspect of it. Every day is different on the Gry – different sailing times; different schedule and the cargo varies from day to day. Each day brings different challenges.
“We’ve carried a helicopter, whole timber frame houses, fire engines and even reindeer. Never a trip goes by where we don’t see some form of wildlife. My favourite time is looking up at the stars on a quiet, clear night. It’s mind boggling.
“There have been a few memorable, stormy journeys – I remember one eight-hour passage in an easterly gale. The Gry has been through it all. She’s a real workhorse, built for the Norwegian fjords, and has been a reliable and loyal servant to the islands.”
Paul, who has always lived in St Ives with his wife Linda, is hoping to spend his retirement gardening, cooking and spending more time with his family, including his five grandchildren.
Stuart Reid, Chief Executive of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul for his incredible contributions to the company over the past two decades. We will certainly miss him and wish him well for his retirement.”