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Buoyed by my life on the sea; Captain John Perry sailed the high seas for more than 30 years. ASHLEIGH SAWYER speaks to him about his experience and his career move into lectukring.

Byline: ASHLEIGH SAWYER

CAPTAIN John Perry certainly knows his stuff when lecturing students at South Tyne Marine College. He's a man who spent 30 years at sea, and who has even circumnavigated the world.

Having had his on-shore home in South Tyneside for more than 40 years, he now puts his vast knowledge of all things nautical to good use by encouraging youngsters to follow in his footsteps.

John, pictured, circumnavigated the world in 1988, sailed the Persian Gulf, became involved in the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965 then after more than 30 years out at sea decided it was finally time to take a change in his career and leave behind his life voyaging the world in return for his job lecturing.

He started working at the college in 1999, teaching returning British able seamen (ABs) and Indian excadets who wish to go higher in their profession.

Even though he thoroughly enjoyed the years he spent out at sea, he admits that spending time at home is just as enjoyable.

John lives near Westoe Village, South Shields, with his wife Maureen, whom he met in the mid-1960s when he moved up to the North to work in the shipyards.

"It was at this time that BP had more than 140 tankers in the Tyne and the shipyards were always busy," he recalls.

The couple settled down in South Shields before boarding the British Sailor, British Kiwi and the British Star together.

Maureen shared John's passion for sailing as John and after taking a break from the ships in 1969 to start a family, she later returned in 1973 onboard the British Vine and British Poplar.

John's certainly had an illustrious life at sea.

It began in 1961 when he enrolled at the King Edward VII Nautical School in the docks of the East End of London.

The school taught John basic sea mechanisms, sea ship navigation and gave him the opportunity to get a taster for what life out at sea really would be like.

John, who was born in Wiltshire and grew up in Staines, seems to have inherited his love of sailing from his mother's side of his family.

Not only was his mother a Wren in the Women's Royal Naval Service during the War, his uncle was also in the Merchant Navy and his cousin was an AB in the Royal Navy.

His adventures, though, have taken him much further afield than them.

With BP he traded tankers around the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, meaning he was caught up in the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965 at just 19.

"I must admit it was a hair-raising experience at such a young age" he says.

His voyages with BP also involved him being involved in tanker trades during the Biafran war in 1969, as well as the Persian Gulf war in 1980, when Iraqi armed forces invaded western Iran. In the 30 years he spent travelling the world with BP trading oil, he regrets never visiting New Zealand.

"There are two places I haven't been to, Cape Horn and New Zealand, and I must say I do regret never getting to go to New Zealand."

Even though he achieved captain status in 1982, it was not until another five years later in 1988 that he eventually set sail deep in the sea fleet, where he served as master for another six years.

He says the most memorable voyage he has ever been on was the very first one he captained.

It was on board the British Esk, a Merchant Navy ship which he met at Melbourne in the summer of July 1988.

He set sail for Pakistan via Shanghai and the Persian Gulf. "I remember thinking I had finally achieved what I wanted to back in 1962.

"Becoming master of the ship showed that all my studying and training had paid off and for once I was my own master," he said.

John says the highlight of his career was representing at Westminster Abbey the Merchant Navy at the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) parade in 1991, laying the wreath on behalf of the Merchant Navy in memory of those who landed in Gallipoli, Turkey, in the First World War.

After pursuing work with BP for 30 years, John decided it was time for a change and he took a job with China CPSE for four months.

He then moved to be a recruiting brand captain for a 300,000-tonne Saudi tanker before going to work to supply oil off the coast of Brazil on a six-week on-off basis.

In the meantime, he applied to be a lecturer in the internationally recognised nautical department at South Tyne Marine College.

Family life is something that is very important to John, who has three sons, Christopher, 33, David, 32, and Michael, 25.

Even though none of them now live in the North East, both John and Maureen thoroughly enjoy travelling to see them.

John especially enjoys taking the ferry to Northern Ireland to visit his grandchildren.

Perhaps what is surprising is that out of all his sons not one of them followed in his footsteps in the Merchant Navy.

However, Christopher did gain his sailing certificates with the Sea Scouts and even sailed on the Tall Ships, but never pursued his interest any further than that.

Captain Perry says his life is now very enjoyable, living in the North East and lecturing like-minded people.

He also enthuses about travelling in his caravan and attending numerous committees in the region, including the Durham centre caravan committee as well as the Nautical Committee Institute North East branch, for which he is the college representative.

CAPTION(S):

PLACE IN THE SUN - Captain John Perry, pictured with the British Tamar in 1992 at Cartagena in Spain; MAIN MAN - he was captain of the Polaris Star in 1994; EXCITING JOURNEYS - the British Tamar enters Malta in 1992; EARLY TRIPS - in 1963 John was an apprentice on BP's British Diplomat
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 26, 2008
Words:996
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