August 28, 2013
Posted in: Interactive Transatlantic Crossing
During my time on board Queen Mary 2’s recent Transatlantic Crossing to New York, I was given the opportunity to meet with Captain Kevin Oprey to have a chat about his life on board and to put our Facebook fans’ questions to him… And this was what he told me…
What made you want to work at sea?
I come from a long sea-faring background – my father, grandfather and great grandfather were all at sea. I was brought up on Southampton water and enjoyed sailing as a young lad. I was very interested in seeing all the great ocean liners going up and down the water – it got me enthused and I always wanted to be part of it, so at 17 I went to sea as a cadet.
What does your day involve as Captain of Queen Mary 2?
As you can see when you look out of the window, my office, if you can call it my office, presents a different challenge or different environment every day, so some of my work is dependant on what I see out of the window. I can wake up in lovely sunny weather and I just go to work as normal, or I can wake up in quite severe weather conditions, so I will be spending quite a bit of time on the Bridge, or we could be in fog, and again I would be up here. Outside of those environmental issues, I can do anything from maneuvering the ship into port, mingling and talking to guests – attending cocktail parties, dining with the guests, attending meetings, talking to the crew – there’s such a variety of roles I have to play and they’re all equally important to me and I find them all equally interesting. I can’t define which my favourite of them all is – but I do like interacting with the guests. When I go to the cocktail parties and when guests come in, I try and have a different conversation with everybody and they always say to me ‘you must be so bored doing this’ and my answer is ‘if I was bored, I’d go and work on a cargo ship’ – I really enjoy the interaction. So I could say I like that side of it, but I also love the ship handling aspect of my job.
How often does your wife travel with you?
Now that my girls have grown up, she travels quite frequently. I really enjoy having her on board, she’s a great ambassador, she mingles very well with the guests – she’s very popular. She’s a great support to me on the ship, particularly during cocktail parties and dinners.
Christian Reay wants to know what you do in your spare time when you’re not on the Bridge?
Because of the aspects of the job, you’re quite busy all day anyway, but you never know what is around the corner, so the best thing you can do is rest just in case something comes up. In the time that you have off, and to be honest, there aren’t that many evenings you have as a spare evening, it is best that you take it easy as you could sail into fog, and then you’re on call again.
Dean Williams asks, what is your favourite port of call?
I have lots of ports that I really like – New York is always good to sail into, and Sydney because of the bridge, the harbour itself and the Opera House. I also love sailing into Valletta in Malta, because when you come in early in the morning there’s always a very blue sea and the sun is behind you, bouncing off the old historic stone walls which look pink, and it’s almost like going back in time. But if you want to know which my favourite port is, it’s Southampton, my home port.
The Bridge on board Queen Mary 2
What are the worst conditions you have encountered on a Transatlantic Crossing and are there any limiting factors where Queen Mary 2 cannot go to sea?
Any captain would be a fool to say there are no limits. Every day is different, every crossing is different and you judge it on the information that you have to hand. You have to take everything into account before you set sail. You wouldn’t just make that decision yourself, you would be talking to other people from the office, and so I would say there are limitations that you have to weigh up very carefully. With regards to the worst weather, I guess on Queen Mary 2 we have had 2 situations – one coming out of Quebec during a force 11, and the other was leaving New York on the night of Hurricane Sandy, again about a force 11. All the other ships around us were doing five knots, very slowly dealing with the conditions, but because of the way this ship is designed and built, we came out of the harbour, dropped the pilot off – the wind was up to about 70 knots, but we turned to the north, straight into the heavy seas and winds and took off at about 20 knots and everybody said that they didn’t feel anything, she just sliced her way through it, all the way up to Newfoundland. Although you can be in severe weather on this ship, sometimes you don’t realize you actually are in it. You see it all around you, but the ship is performing so well that you don’t often realize what you’re in.
With regards to the limiting factors, New York port authority declared that by 6pm the port would close and all ships in the port had to proceed to sea, so that was our limiting factor. We left marginally early, in time to get clear before the wind picked up. We just about made it because we had quite a bit of difficulty getting off the berth, even with the largest 2 tugs that New York could supply – the first time we tried we couldn’t get off – we waited a few minutes and the second time we got off. Coming out of the harbour was quite a challenge in itself. Preparations were the same as we would normally do, all of our safety checks were made, we went over our passage planning several times with the navigator and the Bridge team, all of the various departments were notified of what we were going to expect, passengers were addressed and advised of the conditions outside, so we made sure we’d made the appropriate preparations. It’s nothing more than we would normally do, but we just made sure we’d covered every aspect.
Judith Maloney Yocom wants to know how people are chosen to dine at the Captain’s table?
There’s no real set order to be honest. I’m not one to say I’m going to take all the VIPs – I like to have a good mix. I’ll invite people who have sailed many voyages with us, and people who are sailing with us for the first time, or someone who has just got married on board. Or I might be talking to someone who I find interesting and will invite them to dinner with me one evening. I pick them randomly. I also take a bit of advice from people on board on who to invite – I try to give everybody an opportunity.
Dining at the Captain’s table
Kieran Binns asks, would you say you are now at the pinnacle of your career?
I would say I feel that way. I’m very proud to be captain of Queen Mary 2, I can’t think of a better position to be in. To be offered this ship is beyond belief really.
Jill Jones wants to know if you enjoy music – what do you like? Who is your favourite composer?
I love playing Eric Clapton music, and the Stones and the Beatles. Having had 2 girls – who are now grown up – my taste in music changed as they grew up, as I liked some of the music that they played. I like playing classical music as well but I don’t have a favourite composer.
Finally, where do you like to go on holiday?
When my wife and I are on board in the final couple of weeks, we always say ‘we’ve got to go on holiday’. We talk about going to places like the Caribbean or the Canaries, which we did this year, but then when we get off we say we can’t be bothered to fly, so we end up going to the Isle of Wight for a week. I’ve just bought myself a new yacht, so that’s what my holidays for the next few years will be about.
Thank you to everyone who sent in a question for the Captain while I was on board Queen Mary 2 and of course to Captain Kevin Oprey for taking the time to answer our questions.