Peter Crawford, is relief captain and first mate of the MV Scillonian, the sturdy little ship which is an essential passenger and cargo link between Penzance and the beautiful Isles of Scilly just twenty eight miles off Lands End.
He does not have far to go to work because his home is only one hundred yards from the vessel and he can even keep a watchful eye on her out of the window. But besides being so physically close to MV Scillonian, Peter’s entire adult life and thirty six year career has been tied up with the ship.
“I grew up in Mousehole where being close to the sea and fishing boats and to the ships sailing in and out of nearby Penzance, instilled in me a desire to go to sea,” he said. “I always wanted to be a deck officer, but the eyesight test was far more stringent in those days so, to my surprise and disappointment, I failed it.”
Not to be blown off his career course, Peter opted, instead, to become a ship’s radio officer, because in those far off days no deep sea vessel could sail without one. “I went off for two years training at a technical college in Bristol after which I spent eighteen months gaining my experience as a ‘sparkie’ on Italian flag cargo ships,” he recalled. Then aged 21, he decided to come back home and was fortunate enough to be appointed radio officer of the new MV Scillonian III, built at Appledore in North Devon and launched just five years earlier by a youthful Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall in May 1977.
So began Peter’s amazing life long association with the ship which has since sailed the equivalent of three times to the moon and back. “It’s been a wonderful experience from many aspects, including the friendships I have built up over the years with colleagues, the islanders and with the passengers, many of whom are drawn back to Scilly year after year,” he said. “I’ve had my picture taken in my radio officers uniform standing with their children at the bottom of the gangplank and have gone on to see those youngsters grow up and return with children of their own.”
And talking of long association’s with MV Scillonian’s close knit crew, who are in many ways like an extended shipboard family, Peter actually travelled on the same school bus as Marcia Still who first came aboard as a member of the catering team eighteen years ago and has been Ship’s Purser for the past twelve years.
With the advent of more modern communications systems, Peter and many of his radio officer colleagues could see the end of their jobs on the horizon so he approached his employers, The Isles of Scilly Steamship Co, who agreed he could start retraining as a deck officer. “Luckily, by this time, the eyesight regulations had been relaxed so I was able to start my retraining by taking a correspondence course while still continuing in my radio officer’s role,” explained Peter.
With spells at college and working on deck, it took him ten years to complete the promotion process from second mate to first mate and eventually to also becoming MV Scillonian’s Relief Master.