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Life On Board

This is a Man’s World…

July 20, 2011

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Life On Board, Queen Victoria

Today’s guest blog comes from one of our engineers on board Queen Victoria, Sara Smith. At only 21 years old, Sara has embarked on a very interesting career in a predominantly male environment, here’s how she got there:


I’ve always had a strong interest in machinery and engines of various types. This, we think could well and truly be in my blood. My father is a qualified Charter Skipper/Trawler man off Holyhead, whereas my mother is a Surveyor for the MCA and also a Coastguard. My younger sibling is also water based; he is also a qualified Charter Skipper/Trawler man and runs his own boat, he also volunteers as an RNLI crew member for Treaddur Bay inshore lifeboat team. My Grandfather also worked away at sea.

Originally from Anglesey, North Wales, I attended Coleg Menai, Bangor, where I studied Manufacturing Engineering, ICT and Robotics. I originally found out about the Merchant Navy through family and friends. Before this I worked at Airbus in Broughton, as a fitter, however with all of the negativity hitting the press that year regarding the financial issues of Airbus, I decided to send my CV into Clyde Marine Training, just on a spur of the moment thing.

That week I was offered an interview, the week after given the job and started the month after in Newcastle at the South Tyneside Nautical College.
They offered me a sponsorship with Wallenius Wilhelmsen Shipping Company. I accepted and this is where it started. The company consisted of; Ro-Ro’s, container ships, bulk carriers, con-ro’s, PCTC’s, LPG’s,etc.

I was at South Tyneside Nautical College in Newcastle for just over three years. The course consisted of time spent both at sea and in college. It was carried out like this in order to obtain a certificate of competency for sea work, whilst at the same time, doing a Marine Engineering Higher National Diploma.

The course was very intense and challenging, however, also very rewarding. Whilst in college I undertook various examinations, drills and challenges, some of these were; fire fighting, first aid, simulation courses with engine incidents, navigation, operation of survival craft and rescue boats, along with the core subjects of maths, thermodynamics, sciences, electrics, CAD drawing, engineering drawing, workshop skills, welding, hydraulics, business studies, Marine Management and many more.

When I qualified at South Tyneside College in 2010, I won the title of Best Cadet of the Year, for outstanding performance and initiative shown during my cadetship.
I then went onto be awarded the Marine Society Engineering Cadet of the Year UK Wide prize In London. This was awarded for, initiative, progress, an outstanding MNTB (Merchant Navy Training Board) Portfolio, etc.

My time at sea as a cadet, was thoroughly enjoyable, even though from time to time, I encountered a number of people, to who didn’t see why I should be entitled to work in a male environment, let alone be on board. It took a lot of determination and will power to progress and rise above their views. After all, I had just as much right to be there as they did. My cadetship was great fun; I learnt a great deal and also had a lot of fun along the way.

Granted it’s not an easy thing to do, but if your heart’s in it don’t hold back just go for it. I was lucky enough to have a lot of support, when I needed it the most.
The role I have on board Queen Victoria is a demanding and very rewarding job. As a 3rd Engineer, we help maintain the engine room and propel the ship from one port to another. We also have the responsibility of producing fresh drinking water, carrying out routine testing and maintenance, assisting in Bunkers (taking on fuel), carrying out fire watches, water management, arrival/departure checklists, etc


If someone would have told me 10 years ago, that I would go onto become a Marine Engineer, for the Merchant Navy, I’d of had a hard time believing them.
Yet here I stand today, standing tall and proud of my achievements and I can safely say I’m glad I did it and couldn’t think of doing anything else.

Twelve months from now I’d like to be doing my seconds ticket, I’ve started the prep work for it already.

During my time at sea, I have made a number of friends and have seen the world in a totally different light, and not to mention I saw the world for free during my job.
I have been to South Africa, Finland, Poland, Russia, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, China, Singapore, Canada, USA, Italy, Hawaii, Bermuda, Madeira, Korea, plus many more countries.

At nearly 22 years of age, I have done a lot to be proud of.

Kind Regards,


  1. Wendy Carter says:

    Many congratulations, you have done so well to achieve so much.Enjoy your time with a wonderful company as Cunard is All the very best Wendy Carter

  2. Denise Anderson says:

    Well done Sara, looks like you have worked hard to get where you are! I’m sure you will be an inspiration to many young people considering working at sea!

  3. David Bell says:

    Well Done Sarah, be proud of your achievements, never let the naysayers get the better of you.
    We have a daughter who is a pilot in the Air Force and we know how hard you have had to work
    to achieve your dream.

  4. David Harland says:

    Well done Sara. A really good mate of mine is a 1st Engineer and he is also with Cunard. I know what you have been through and what lies ahead but believe me it is a really worthwhile career.If you have a bad day(and everyone does)then the support of your colleagues will get you through.

  5. Lois Herr says:

    Bravo Sara! As a life-long advocate for women’s rights here in the US, I’m delighted to read about your success. It couldn’t have been easy, but you seem to have the spirit to take on any challenge. Hope I will be on your ship again[I was on QV's world cruise in 2009].

  6. judith sayers says:

    Very interesting blog, well done Sara keep up the good work, good luck with the next stage. Who Knows, perhaps one day one of the Queens will have an all female crew?!!!We have a female captain and engineer,are there any more in training? Well done.

  7. Bill Bradbury says:

    Sara You are an inspiration to all your sex. Cunard are very lucky to have your talents and the way you are going it could be “hello Captain” in the future, so all the officers will be keeping their eyes on your progress. As we are on the Victoria next year its good to have someone so qualified looking after us.In the distant past my wife trained as an engineer, only girl (then) on the course so I know all the obstacles/comments you have had overcome. Well done.

  8. Beryl Moss says:

    Well done Sara. You are a truly amazing young lady and an inspiration to any young person who has the ambition to progress in whatever field they wish to be in. It is great that you have already started the next stage in your career which I am sure will be prove to be very successful.

  9. Vivienne Percy says:

    Hello Sara, I loved this blog. What a truly inspirational young lady you are. You are a credit to your family, your sex and to Cunard. Well done.

  10. Pearl Smith says:

    Well done love.
    Dad and I are as proud as punch of you.

    mum & dad xx

  11. Alice says:

    Jut want to say wow this young lady is incredible. i have to look up to her ambitious life and her courage and her accomplishments. I admire a smart young person like this. I wish i was as smart at 22 as she is. I say, YOU GO GIRL YOU ARE ONE AWESOME YOUNG LADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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