Shari, fresh from a week on Pioneer, breezes into the room. A huge beaming smile greets me, “I’m sorry, I must stink” she gasps. She doesn’t at all! She is radiant, windswept and utterly exhausted but has agreed to talk to me about her time spent working for The Pioneer Sailing Trust before she heads off on her next mission - to try and free Morgan, the orca whale, held in captivity in the Canary Islands. Born in the Seychelles on 2nd June 1986, Shari’s family moved to Cape Tribulation in the far north of Australia when she was 18 months old. Early days were spent being educated by ‘the School of Air’ where they were sent educational toys and puzzles in the post before going on to the High School in Cairns. Her passionate love of sailing began when, aged 16, she was sent on a sail training week aboard a large schooner and her love of the sea blossomed.
|A young passenger (left) and Shari (right) navigate Brightlingsea waters on Trinity.|
Later that year her mother brought her to England to live in Hereford, close to her grandparents. It was a huge move, starting afresh in a new school, new friends, all very daunting at that young age. However in true Aussie style she embraced it, studying ‘A’ levels in Modern History, Politics, Sociology and Archeology. She then accepted an unconditional offer from Essex University to read International Relations and Politics. Essex Uni was close to the sea, a major factor in her choice!
|Pioneer CK18 as seen from a drone.|
Following her gap year back in Australia, this energetic young girl started life at University, living in Wivenhoe and working at the Station Pub to earn some extra money. How incredible it would be to have a job working and sailing at the same time she thought. Some fruitful conversations led her to a few unpaid yacht deliveries and the next stage of her plan was to head down to the Mediterranean and find work on a super yacht. This required several courses on Health and Safety and various other skills which ate up her savings, leaving her unable to afford to travel out there. Frustrated, she continued working at the pub and by chance a great friend, Alex, who had previously worked on Pioneer, told her about the Bosun’s job available at Pioneer. Was this to be her opportunity? Sadly not at this time as Alex got the job!
|Shari using a blowtorch and a scraper to strip Pioneer of her old paint.|
Josh (left), Matt Baker (middle), and Shari (right)
pose for a picture on Pioneer during Countryfile filming.
However, she started to volunteer for the Trust as an extra pair of hands when needed and when Alex decided to move on she stepped comfortably into his spot as Bosun. Her role is hugely varied - in her words “I do as the mate tells me!” The mate is 22 year old Josh with whom she works closely as they are the 2 permanent members of staff on Pioneer with 4 skippers working in rotation. She is going to miss his banter and sense of humour! The sailing season runs between April and October with the winter months spent taking the boat apart for general maintenance. The worse bit about the job - cleaning the heads, but the best, well, where should she begin....? The biggest part of her role has been to make sure people feel comfortable and safe aboard. If they don’t, they won’t have fun and Shari wants to show them how exhilarating sailing can be.
|Madi (left), Josh (middle), and Shari (right) pause in stripping Pioneers paint for a photo.|
She exudes such a love for life which must be extremely contagious. Her warm personality shines through and her eyes light up as she describes how rewarding the days on Pioneer are. She is a wonderful role model to young and old alike. Groups have included Emmaeus, the homeless charity, Young Carers, a charity supporting young people caring for an ill or disabled parent and many other special needs groups. Listening to her talk about people making new friendships, the shared experiences, the sense of family, team-work, the cancer sufferers, the opening up of emotions, the laughter, the tears, the talking, the heartbreaking stories, makes us both feel incredibly grateful for all that we have and just how rewarding her job has been. She is moved to tears by her passion for the role and by the realisation that she is moving on.
|School children from Stevenage pose with Pioneers crew- Shari can be seen on the far left.|
This extraordinary girl has many more strings to her bow. She has taken time off to work for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Japan, highlighting the tragic capturing and killing of dolphins. She has loved returning to Pioneer as she feels the boat is her ‘happy’ place even on a cold, miserable British day! The next stage of her life will take her to Tenerife to join the Free Morgan Foundation which is trying to free a female orca held at the Loro Parque in Tenerife. As she says “if I don’t at least try, I will fail, so I am going to keep trying” This bright and ebullient young woman has been a key part of The Pioneer Sailing Trust. I sensed by talking to other members of the team just how much she will be missed and I feel honoured to have met her.