Craig Brent-White Atlas N6210
Craig Brent-White pictured above as the pilot in charge on the bridge of the P&O goliath, the Pacific Dawn.
And when I say Goliath, I do mean goliath. Pacific Dawn pictured above.
So, Craig, I understand you have a few legal issues at present?
Who told you that ….. Mr Speaker, I feel that I am being misrepresented!
Well, there is a rumour that you spilt a full glass of Cape Naturaliste red wine all over the beautiful Claire and what’s worse, all over Pendana’s saloon?
Rumours are always without foundation until proven otherwise, however it was noted that you frantically cleaned and fondled your upholstery without a second glance at your lovely wife Clair. Besides, the consumption of wine and food has always been a contact sport for me. The real problem here is the fact that such a precious drop was even spilt in the first instance!
I understand the red wine stain was removed easily with an ingenious solution provided by you at the time of the grievous incident aboard Pendana. What was the solution?
The solution was not to spill it in the first place, James, but the recipe for removal of the said stain is to pour white wine on it immediately. This dilutes the red colour and you have the opportunity to wash it without the lasting reminder that an accident had occurred.
Craig looking incredibly guilty! I rest my case.
So Craig, is it true that you are a Master Mariner?
Why would this be an explanation? It is an exclamation that the holder of such a certificate of competency has reached a pinnacle in his career. Having said that, many Master Mariners who have an unlimited Masters ticket, have the right to be Master on any sized ship in any ocean may not have had the opportunity to act as Master and may not want the responsibility.
The certificate will say Master, limitations – Master, Chief Mate or watch keeper on ships of any gross tonnage in any operating area. Shipping companies will often employ and insist on the Chief Officer, 2nd Officer and 3rd Officer holding an unlimited Masters certificate. With cruise ships, there is also a staff Captain who holds the same qualification in addition to the officers and Captain.
There will always be only be one Captain who holds the commanding role and it is his word that is the final decision on all matters. Fortunately, I have had the responsibility of the commanding role on a number of occasions throughout my career.
Then, I have to ask, as a Master Mariner what has been the most difficult manoeuvre performed by you as Captain?
This is not a one answer question; the length of the ship does not necessarily define the degree of difficulty, usually as Master of a large ship, you are not allowed to make mistakes. Situations are meant to be thought through well ahead of a situation becoming a critical manoeuvre. With places such as the English Channel or Singapore Straits and many other congested waterways you have extra officers on the bridge watching every situation as it develops. Crossing situations, close proximity to other vessels happen constantly.
You may be the Master but it is a team effort, you depend on their support and bridge team management is the tool you live by. There will always be a ship somewhere that has a language issue, even though English is the worldwide requirement. Those extra seconds to establish a clear understanding of this other ships intentions can be harrowing moments. The collision avoidance rules at sea are very clear: early decision making is critical. There have been so many situations over the years that have had the potential to turn out adversely; it’s hard to single out one manoeuvre.
How many nautical miles have you done?
I have no idea, when it is your job, those details have no relevance. It is the birthdays you miss, the weddings, events etc that add up. When you are at sea it is the “exclusion of all other things” that is the cost or the measure; not distance.
Max and Craig spending some quality time together.
Yes, I planted it 20 years ago and have spent all these years with two jobs. When I am at sea, I have great support at the vineyard from my wife who runs the cellar door and distribution to the wholesale market with her team. I also have two guys that have worked for me for many years that are dependable and help me with the viticultural aspect and one chap who helps me with the actual winemaking. If the truth be told, I have now handed the winemaking over to him but still oversee the critical aspects of the process.
Craig still checks the wine in every barrel!
At Cape Naturalist we operate on organic viticultural principals, to the point that I still do some pruning and direct the nutrient based spray programs and the day to day running. Advertising and the wholesale market are the sole responsibility of my wife. It is a constantly changing world these days and you have to be concise in your approach if you want to succeed.
I understand that you recently won the World’s Best Wine Award for you cabernet merlot 2009 at the London International Wine Show?
Yes we won the best red wine of the London Wine and Spirits competition in 2011, out of 15 countries and over 7000 wines. No doubt a huge reward which has placed us higher in the pecking order in the Margaret River Wine Region of Western Australia. People have to take ownership of your wine and it’s all about time at the face, consistency, presentation, marketing and above all sales. I put the kettle on about three days a week, not a drop passes my lips!
Celebrating their world record win!
IWSC Awards ceremony.
Was this the same wine you spilt on Pendana, viciously and purposely?
No it wasn’t that wine, nor do I agree with your interpretation of events. Mr Speaker…….I feel that I am being grossly misrepresented!
I also understand that in your youth your were a croc hunter and barramundi fisherman in the remote Kimberley region of Australia’s top end which has to be about the most dangerous place on the face of planet earth?
As usual James the content of your diatribe is not quite correct. Croc hunting went out with spotted underwear long before I shot them….I mean before I first went to sea in 1967 abalone diving in Bass Strait between Tasmania and Victoria. I left diving in 1971 and became a furniture designer and maker until 1982. At which time I sustained bilateral tennis elbow which wiped out my furniture making career; having just won the Sydney Arts Council Award against all artists that year. I was the first furniture maker to do so in Australia. It was a huge blow. The prize subsequently was won by America and by Michael Jean Cooper who is universally regarded as the finest wood craftsman on this planet. I was to work as his assistant preparing a nationwide exhibition of his work in larger than life sized figures using wood and metal as the mediums.
My career was over according to my doctor so I went back to sea in 1983 as a commercial fisherman. I had three different fishing licences and a timber lugger built out of Western Australian Jarrah and Tuart in 1905. The hull and deck had been restored and I refitted the galley mess area with Tasmanian Blackwood which didn’t do my arms any favours using muscle actions I was told not to do. It was great fun and I was careful not to inflame my elbows too much. I married my second wife Michelle whose father was the deputy Prime Minister of France to Charles De Gaulle. We set off to fish the entire coast and ended up in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Tell us a dangerous incident that happened to you during this time?
Crocodiles were an unfortunate hazard of barramundi fishing and at times problematic, especially at breeding time as it occurred at the same time as barramundi gathered in certain areas to breed as well. At first I disliked crocodiles because they stink when you skin them which I did on the odd occasion with a dead one having expired in the nets. After a while handling hundreds of them and returning them to the river I began to respect them and like them to the point that I would take them on-board my 4.85M aluminium tender work boat. Crocs up to 3m/ 11ft, if they were gasping for air and looked in trouble, I would revive them by unpicking the net from around their teeth, wrap their jaws together so they couldn’t eat me, leave them on the deck around my feet while I continued to clean fish out of the rest of the net. All of this time they would remain calm watching the fish come over the side.
Once their feet would start to move and the claws articulate I knew it was time to put them back. I would have a deck hand helping me sometimes and it used to get quite congested when there was a lot of fish, the two of us and a croc in the boat. I said to Greg (deckhand) on one occasion – “you pick up the tail I will pick it up behind the front legs and tuck my head into its neck, we walk it to the bow, place it’s head across to the stbd side of the bow and you get ready to throw the body out the port side as I release the rope on its nose and push it over”. Greg hadn’t tied the rope tight enough and it fell off as I picked the croc up. Here I was looking eye ball to eye ball with this animal. I said to Greg “put down the tail slowly come forward, pick up the rope and slip it back over its nose before it realises it can eat us without too much trouble”. Greg refused! I threatened to eat him if he didn’t.
Once the rope was secure again he picked up the tail and we spun it into the water. It barely touched the water and spun back to bite the bow in front of me. There were too many close calls because I fished up to 20 miles away from the mother ship at night sometimes by myself in tidal ranges up to 12M over a 6 hour period. It was extremely hard work, you had to have your wits about you and understand intimately the nature and geography in which you lived or pay the consequence.
Catching a few other things besides crocs!
Amazing stuff, so Craig you are now semi-retired and when not piloting P&O Cruise ships in the Kimberley, not picking grapes from the vine and not spilling wine do you also have time for your Nordhavn Atlas N62 hull #10?
At my age, 66 this year, one should be getting into slow down mode. Who wrote that? I have been left off the invitation list it appears because it’s hard to get the sea out of your blood after so long and there is nothing more satisfying than being out in the field pruning among the vines listening to the birds on a sunny day.
My N62 doesn’t see enough of me because there are so many things I love to do, life is so diverse. Both my wife and I are football tragics, Aussie rules of course….go Fremantle Dockers! We are going to the Loyalty Islands (700nm East of Australia ) in October on ‘ATLAS’ and probably cross the Australian bight late February next year. Other than that she is nestled quietly in the Versace Marina at South Port in Queensland. I visit her every 6 weeks at least.
Surfing in Lombok Thailand.
Atlas waiting patiently for Craig to return.
Why did you choose a Nordhavn?
For years I hunted high and low for a vessel that makes sense to me. ‘ATLAS’ was love at first sight, she is a little ship. Comfortable and reliable, fibreglass yes but not a Tupperware container like so many other vessels built out of the same material. Fast is expensive, time and distance are interchangeable measures that interact adversely with cost. The compromise of horse power against speed is a choice one makes and for long distance cruising getting along at 8 knots is more than tolerable. The sturdy seagoing capability has been proven in bad weather to the point that I would not hesitate to sail anywhere in her, except Antarctica.
What has been your cruising (recreational) highlight so far?
Spilling wine at various anchorages inside the barrier reef between Princess Charlotte Bay and Percy Islands to the South on a glorious sunset in calm weather.
Craig looking rather cold on top of Mt Wellington!
Do you travel with an animal on board?
Only myself! We have two dogs at home who I would love to take to sea. One is a Jack Russell (Monty) and the other is a rescue dog (Max) who has been DNA tested to be a product of wanton sensory gratification at some point by an Airedale Terrier, a Labrador, a Standard Poodle and a Dalmatian; not all at the same time one would imagine.
My wife is far too protective and suggests she knows how our dogs think. It’s all too hard as she is the secretary of the save dogs from euthanasia group and our dogs work at the vineyard daily greeting people. I insist they work anyway for the Kangaroo marinated eye fillet steak she roasts for them each night. Max has hip displacement and osteoporosis. Monty is a princess. They are both pictured and interviewed in The Australian Wine Dogs book, Monty of course has made the inside cover of the previous edition. The good news is they are coming on the next trip to Great Kepple Island which will be a shakedown cruise before the trip in October.
Max and Monty visiting guests at the cellar door.
Monty about to enjoy a drop of red after a long day!
Craig, if there is one thing that irritates you while underway what would that be?
Travelling with someone else on watch while I sleep when I am not sure of their navigational skills! We travel 24 hours per day when we can.
Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?
Have I ever run out of anything, no. Inventories and planning are fundamental to going to sea, if I run out of anything such as a consumable item, that’s life. There is always the next port.
Craig’s wife Jennifer relaxing aboard Atlas
Would you describe yourself as more a hunter or more gather?
I am ambidextrous.
Why did you name your vessel Atlas?
I didn’t, Jim Wallace the previous owner named her that which I approve of immensely.
What other names did you consider?
‘Second nature 1’ as I also have another vessel at home named ‘Second nature’. We are a very maritime vineyard being only 1km from the sea. I love my fishing on calm days.
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?
I don’t know James, it’s a bit like the crocodile question where do I start, but I was Master of a Muslim Seismic ship once which presented more twists and turns than this article has time or space for. Essentially some of the incidences where having pork on board, the mullah came down to scrub the freezer and chillers out with mud three times to cleanse it, crew porno sites crashing the entire network which meant we had to return to port and it took one week to restore, meanwhile the French and American survey team caused problems ashore with their merriment that had me placating the local authorities not to incarcerate them. Crew smuggling a woman on board for an international voyage which I thwarted before departure and as such avoided an international incident. I had to sack 77 crew over a two month period all Australian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippines and Chinese nationalities after which, I ended up with one of the best crews I ever had; all of them from the Philippines.
I also sacked my relieving Master and Chief Officer before I got off at the owners request because of incompetence after an assessment. I anchored the vessel in Singapore harbour telling the officers they would be relieved in due course. As I disembarked I was contacted by the owner of the shipping company who then offered me the job of CEO of his shipping company because I saved his company from losing the contract. It went on and on. The previous CEO was an in law who was purposefully trying to gain control of the company by giving me all these seafarers off international rosters that couldn’t get a job elsewhere, hoping the confusion would cancel the contract and somehow gain him control of the company. I regretfully declined to accept a return to his company in any capacity. This is the edited version.
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
Taking the above command in the first place!
Tell us a little something about MV Atlas?
A vessel is an extension of you in many ways. You express subconsciously your own dreams whether it be a car, a house or some object you love. Luxury items perhaps a little more enhanced. ‘ATLAS’ was very much the vessel, when I saw her essentially intact with some things needed changing. We set about making her fit our minds eye as we moved from area to area. I needed the external timber to be brought back to life and maintained, Jennifer took to the galley items of concern to her and cabin linen changed. The curtains changed to timber blinds. I chose leather refurbishment throughout the vessel. Scottish calf skin with a bright colour to contrast the interior teak timber finish! Outdoor covers and cushions, hull buffed and waxed, skin fittings checked, hose clamped inspected, all machinery serviced, oils analysed, hoses changed, power system inspected, vessel slipped, hull sanded, primed and anti-fouled. Stabilizers, thruster serviced, prop slipped, shaft slipped, rudder pin checked, crane checked. Just everything gutted, serviced, checked or changed until it made us happy that this was our boat as we wanted it. With a vessel it never stops, nature wants it to rot, it’s up to the owner to prevent that or slow down the inevitable. Nordhavn’s are complicated machines that take a while to discover their various quirks.
Are you scared of spiders?
Not overly enamoured by them but very wary of snakes. We have the red back spider that can make you very sick, we watch out for them but the snakes we have on the vineyard can be fatal.
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
A photo I took North of Sulawesi, it was a glassy sea seamlessly disappearing into a partly cloudy sky with the gunwale of the ship at the bottom of the photo appearing like an orange stroke of a brush. The closest photo I have seen to a painting.
What would you never leave behind when heading out to sea?
My toilet bag first and clothes packed prepared for the weather you are venturing into. Last but not least my Masters certificate, passport and current certificate of medical fitness. All essential ingredients to go to sea with!
Craig, tell us something about you that nobody knows?
That would nearly make the question irrelevant.
And finally, where to next?
‘ATLAS’ has to figure here and where I would love to take her is just a little too risky logistically. Where I would like to go is to the islands that are approx. 1500nm from Mauritius, 1500nm from the Maldives and approx. 1500nm from Sumatra. It will be a reality if only I can solve the fuel issue.
As my arms seem okay these days (there are still twinges from time to time) I recently purchased 2M3 of Huon pine, black wood and celery top pine from Tasmania to make a new dining table, bookcase and a cabinet for the renovations at which are now in progress at the vineyard. Once it is finished I would love to stay home for once, just to see the seasons change without catching a plane to join a ship somewhere, just for once.
Wow, very impressive!
Dining table made my Craig which is equally impressive.
Thank you very much for your time and for being a good sport. Look forward to catching up sooner rather than later, that said I will cover Pendana in plastic before you board!
Good luck with your travels!
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