Natalie Welsh, Riverboat Skipper

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Cruising the beautiful Hastings River is a job that many would envy. Natalie Welsh is lucky enough to do just that as a part of the friendly team at The Cruise Terminal.  Chrissy Jones caught up with the busy Skipper of The River Princess and Chinese Junk for a chat.

You have a great job – working at The Cruise Terminal … What does a normal day entail?

A normal day starts with getting our boats ready for our guests, then welcoming people on-board and making sure everyone is having a great time. I do a number of different cruises, and of course we make sure all the mechanical aspects of our vessels are in working order and fully maintained. Working with a fantastic crew makes sure that the days I spend on the water are always enjoyable.

What qualifications and experience do you have?

Having over twenty years of experience driving different vessels on the rivers and oceans of Australia, I hold a Master Class 5 licence/ MED/ and am also a Scuba Diving Instructor. I began as a coxswain driving dive tenders when I was a Dive Instructor and slowly and surely gained experience and qualifications to make the transition into marine operations.

What would you say the best thing about being a Skipper on a vessel is?

Well, there are numerous things to like about my position, but I think delivering a great day of adventure for the passengers is always very gratifying.

As the skipper of the vessel, what are your main concerns during a cruise?

Safety is always the most important aspect of any cruise. Customer comfort and satisfaction are also paramount for our business. Anyone can buy a boat and operate a cruise, but the secret of a successful business is always the respect and care the team deliver. Creative marketing and the genuine desire for excellence is the major factor in this industry. Coming from an extremely sophisticated tourism centre in Cairns, I can inspire and collaborate with my colleagues to excel, where other operators may not be as concerned.

Would you recommend other women to join you in this industry?

Of course. The more women involved, the better off the industry gets! Marine operations has certainly changed over the years. There are more women actively involved in all maritime careers. I think this is a very encouraging time for women in this industry.

Any memorable experiences on the waterways that you would like to share with readers?

Where do I start! Currently, here in Port Macquarie, I really enjoy the whale season and the customers’ reaction when we observe the whales breaching, or dolphins that swim alongside the boats in the river. I have so many memorable experiences from my days driving and diving at the Great Barrier Reef as well. It’s hard to describe in a few words what it feels like to have had the privilege to be part of it all.

The biggest challenge of your job?

Usually weather. Some days challenge you and the natural conditions are varied, so you never take things for granted – especially on the water.

What’s your best tip for staying on task and being organised in your job?

Respect for the people you work with is a big thing. I think it’s important to have a strong sense of purpose and duty for the work you do and the work others do with you. Good communication and listening skills are also essential.

Do you have any awards or accolades to boast of lately?

My latest award I received was the Maritime Award for Outstanding Commitment, when I finalised a TAFE course in 2012. I am pleased to mention that I’ve also received a number of Tourism Awards in Queensland as well.

What are your interests out of work hours?

I love to spend time at the beach with my family and walk our Border Collie. We are so fortunate to have such a pristine environment to enjoy.   

What keeps you motivated in the workplace?

Happy workmates and the pleasure we give to our guests that explore the river with us on-board The River Princess and the Chinese Junk.

Do you aspire to learn any new skills in the future?

I would like to be of service to those who wish to learn. I have in the last few years thought about teaching in the TAFE environment and have a TAE qualification enabling me to do so. I would think a part-time involvement could benefit the next generation of mariners who wish to get a start in this field. We’ll have to wait and see if a position comes up and whether I’ll be able to squeeze that in an already busy week.

Thanks Natalie.

You’re more than welcome.

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