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This is the Man Who Drops the 12-Ton Anchors from Cunard's 'Queen Victoria'

July 11, 2011 at 11:22 AM | by | ()

When you think about the people who make a cruise ship run, who comes to mind? The captain...maybe the head chef and cruise director, right? Well, with about 1,000 crew onboard Cunard's Queen Victoria, there's so many others in the shadows, all responsible for making your vacation an awesome one. And over the next two weeks, we'd like to introduce you to them.

Today, meet Richard, Third Officer on the Queen Victoria's bridge.

You're looking at a future Cunard ship captain here. Richard, from the Isle of Wight, may be in charge of dropping anchor and inspecting the lifeboats, but he's got his eye on the helm. Believe it or not, this man in officer's whites is only 21 years old.

"I've got at least twenty more years [before captain]," he admits, but Richard's been at sea since 16, working his way up from cargo ships to the Seven Seas Mariner and finally to right here, where we're standing with an envious view overlooking the Norwegian port of Bergen.

Forget Ron Burgundy; Richard is the real Anchorman. When the ship does need to drop anchor—which thanks to modern technology, their Azipods and the GPS-assisted Dynamic Positioning System, they rarely do anymore—Richard receives the order from the bridge, goes down into the bow and out onto a little flip-down door platform and watches as one of the two 12-ton Admiralty cast Type 14 anchors is slowly lowered, shackle by shackle, until just above the waterline. If all looks good, this is where the fun begins.

"There's an order to drop [the anchor] to so many shackles, since it's the cable on the seabed and not the anchor that really holds the ship," he explains. "When the brake is disengaged, the chain will fly from the locker, with sparks and dust and noise."

Richard's calm explanation belies the thrill of it; to us, an anchor drop seems like one of the ways a massive ship like the Queen Victoria can assert her strength. She may be maneuvered through tight fjords with the slightest touch of a modern joystick, but sometimes, like in the case of dropping anchor, her power and connection to nautical history still shines through.

When he's not counting anchor shackles or being the Junior Watchkeeper on the bridge, you can also find Richard making shipboard navigational announcements. Sometimes his voice wavers with nerves, he confesses, because "we're not trained for public speaking." Luckily he's got the next twenty-plus years to work on it before he's hosting his own Captain's table.

The QV towers above Bergen, Norway, as we tower above it from the top of the city's funicular railway.

What he loves most about the at-sea lifestyle: At the end of the day, Richard thrives on recognition from those higher ranked than he. Hey—everyone likes to be told they're doing a great job, right? He admits he's at his best in areas like the Dover Strait, where navigating other ship traffic is a welcome challenge.

Favorite port: Sydney, Australia. Because it's rare that the ship calls there and "the berth is in the center of the city, between the bridge and the Sydney Opera House."

Favorite on-land activities: You'll find Richard sightseeing in ports new to him, or hanging out at a cafe with internet to keep up with the world. The latter is a common favorite among all crew, since at-sea WiFi is pretty expensive.

Richard poses on the bridge's port side

Up next: on Wednesday we'll bring you a look inside the exclusive world of onboard gentleman dance hosts (OOooOOoooh).

Disclosure: We traveled to Norway onboard the Queen Victoria as a guest of Cunard, but all images and opinions are entirely our own (or those of the interviewees).

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted; anchor diagram: Wortelboer]

Archived Comments:

Men In Uniform

Best Tag Ever. That is all

Yes, Men in Uniform

Well, it seems Cunard has a fine crew to navigate their ships on the oceans of the world. This article was really interesting to know the facts behind the scenes.