“My wife would like both of our sons to go to university ”
I come from the Marlborough Sounds, that’s where I was raised. I did move away for a while. I lived in Gisborne for three years; I was a shepherd there.
I also lived overseas for a bit. I was in the UK for 3 years, and France for three years. I worked in London as a mechanic on the underground; and in France I did a few things … played rugby, worked as a debt collector; that’s where I met my wife, she’s French.
Then I came back to New Zealand and decided to start working for Clearwater. My wife is a Business Analyst and she works for Port Marlborough. We live in Picton now, with our two sons. My eldest son is seven years old and my youngest will be four in July.
I decided to come home and work for Clearwater because I love the Marlborough Sounds and I have a real passion for mussel farming. It’s a really good job to do. I’ve spent a lot of my life on the water and around the farms and I love it, and it’s also been great for me to work with my father; to be a part of a family business. Over the time I’ve been working for Clearwater I’ve worked on three boats: The Muscat, Pelorus Image and the Sounds Legend, so I’ve gained experience across the range of things we do at Clearwater. Each boat is very different to work on, some have really small teams—like the Legend, which has three people on it—and some have up to five crewmen.
The Muscat is the boat that floats the farms and does all of the farm maintenance. On the Muscat we check the farms, tighten the lines and can put on up to 300 mussel floats a day. The Pelorus Image is the harvester. The work on the Image is full-on in that there’s lot of deadlines and they’re quite short.
Half the Skipper’s work on the Image is taking phone orders from the mussel buyers. At any time they might call and place an order for, say, twenty tonne of half-shell, and the orders can be really varied so you are constantly changing what you are doing. You deal with a lot of different people on the Image; like you might be talking to four different people at grading sheds, then you’ve got quite a big crew of five, and then you’ve got more people involved in getting the product to the port and on its way.
I started running the Sounds Legend at Christmas. The Legend is a seeding vessel so in some ways we have the most important job because seeding is where it all begins; if you get that wrong, everything else suffers. The great thing about the Sounds Legend is that, although it’s still got deadlines, they’re not as tight and there aren’t as many. You’ve got a certain time frame to achieve the seeding of the beds, but you’ve got a lot more flexibility within that time frame … if you don’t get what you wanted to done today, because of weather or whatever, you can catch up tomorrow. That’s something I really enjoy about running the Legend. I’ve got a really young crew who are hard workers. I’ve got a great crew actually, we get on really well and that’s really important because we live together for a lot of our time.
If you get a person who’s not happy on the boat, or they’re just not a happy person, it can get really difficult for everyone; so it’s important that the Skipper makes sure the crew are all good. You have to work on that, like if you notice that someone is feeling a bit off you just give them some space, and we do stuff together like playing cards in the evening, we go fishing on the weekends that sort of thing.
We’ve even competed outside work on a triathlon. I tell them I’m the old dog showing up all the young pups (laughs). One thing I really enjoy is that we’re not told what to do all the time. I mean. We get told what is needed, and then we plan how to do it and organise ourselves. I get to train the guys and organise the boat, so there’s a sense of freedom and responsibility. I like the responsibility; it’s like being your own boss.
Its great when people show you they have confidence in you, it makes you feel more confidence in yourself. It takes a bit of time to train someone but you just be patient. Like, sometimes, a new guy can be pretty useless for a few months … well, not useless … but just haven’t got it yet. But if you can see he’s keen, and you know what his goals are for the future—that’s important.
Like when Jimmy started with me he was straight out of school, and he just wasn’t as physically strong—but he was keen and hardworking; stuff like that, you kind of sense that they’re good. Now he’s a top worker. He’s been with me two and a half years now. I had faith in him because he was honest, he was hardly ever late. You know he lived in Nelson and he didn’t have a car so he used to drive over the hill every day on a Nifty-Fifty scooter. Imagine that … it’s nearly an hour’s drive on that windy road, steep … and he’d turn up in the winter in gloves and a scarf nearly frozen, but he’d still turn up. He’s a hard case and he makes the day enjoyable.
There’s a lot of humour, you know? It’s a good life on the boat; it takes a while to get into it because you’re away from family but its good work. The work we do is varied and we’re out on the water which is great; and its good money too. You need a certain amount of money to be able to do the things you want to do, and both my wife and I work full time. We bought our house in Picton, and we’re looking at the possibility of another investment. Assets like that will help us in the future. We go back to France once a year too, in the quiet season at Clearwater. That’s really important because she’d get really homesick otherwise.
In the future, she’d like both of our sons to go to university; her parents are both lecturers back in France. So we have to be able to do that. I know that everyone hopes that Clearwater will get bigger and I hope that I might be able to move up the ranks over time into a manager role. I’ll have to work hard for it, I know it won’t just be given to me, but I’m good with that. And I hope that my sons might be interested in working in the business as well, because it’s a good life. Especially my eldest son, he’s a real hands on little guy, I think he’d love the work here. My youngest is too young to tell, but I can see my eldest being happy working here, he can start out as a deck hand and learn how the business works. I’d like that.
Case studies prepared by Mandolin Associates Limited, email@example.com