This week, we interview captain Peter Leeming who has been in yachting for most of his life and decided to reside in the beautiful Balearic Islands which is the hub for yachting in the Mediterranean.
Tell me a bit about yourself?
I was born a Yorkshire man, much to the dismay of my Lancastrian parents! Unfortunately, Harrogate was the nearest maternity hospital to RAF Dishforth where my father was based at the time. With my father being given 2 overseas postings before I was 9 years old, much of my early years were spent in Malta and Malaysia. I left school at 18 and joined Texaco Overseas Tankship as a Deck Cadet with a trip from Saudi Arabia to Botany Bay….A huge adventure, or so I thought at the time. I then spent the next 13 years with Texaco, completing my cadetship in 1978. I left the Merchant Navy in 1988 and transferred ashore to Texaco’s offices in Knightsbridge, where I took over the role of Fleet Personnel and Safety Officer. I was also the Deep Sea Bulk Division Representative for the General Council of British Shipping.
How long have you been a Captain?
I have been at sea professionally for 45 years and have never really seen myself doing anything else, (possibly because I don’t know anything else!). In 1978 and holding my brand new 2nd Mate’s Certificate tightly in my hand, I joined the 300,000 ton “Texaco London” as 3rd Navigating Officer in Trinidad. I then enjoyed the my proudest moment in my life up to that time, when the Master went down to deal with ship’s business and left me, at 21 years old to con the 345m long ship through the buoyed channel and out to open sea, I still remember it as if it was yesterday!
When I joined Texaco in 1975, the company had 4 worldwide fleets, American, British, Italian and Norwegian with a total of 136 vessels of which 36 were under the British Flag. By 1987, I had reached the rank of Chief Officer and the British fleet had been reduced to only 5 ships of which only 2 were still under the British Flag. Seeing the writing on the wall in 1988 was when I left.
Apart from a 4 year spell on the 133m “Al Mirqab” as Chief Officer and later Staff Captain, I have been employed as Captain onboard a 43m Motor Yacht with the same Owner since 1999.
Why did you come to the Balearic Islands?
After a brief stint as a daily commuter from Southampton to London, I ended up in Mallorca on holiday. I realised that with the rapid decline of the British Merchant Fleet that crewed yachting was growing an industry in itself and decided then and there that it was something a part of which I wanted to become.
I met my wife Maria Antonia here in 1990 and we married in 1993. To celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary we took a round the world trip, including a 4,600 km train journey between Sydney and Perth.
We have 3 children between the ages of 24 and 18. My 21 year old son is a deck Cadet with a Container Ship Company and is currently in the Far East completing his last trip at sea before going back to college to sit his OOW
Which of the Balearic Islands is your favourite and why?
Mallorca is my favourite island. Although the other 3 main islands have their own individual charm and beauty, I feel that Mallorca is the most rounded of them all. From the beautiful beaches and deep calas to the high mountains. Even although it is a relatively small island, it has all of the advantages of a mainland population hub with none of the disadvantages.
What are your favourite hobbies here in the islands?
(Sport, culture, gastronomy).
My main hobby is constructing period ship models and also radio controlled submarines and ships. In the past, I have always enjoyed working around the house but if I am to perfectly honest, as I get older, I am more inclined to get somebody in to do the work!
We both enjoy dinner in a fine restaurant.
What is the favourite part of your job?
Manoeuvring the yacht and knowing that I have managed to do a job well done in difficult and challenging circumstances.
What is your most memorable experience in the Balearics?
There have been many but one that comes to mind is stopping the yacht between Mallorca and Ibiza with a sea like glass and letting the guests jump off and swim, out of sight of land and with 1,000 of metres of water underneath them!
Describe each of the Balearic Islands with one word.
Mallorca – Diverse
Menorca – Quiet
Ibiza – Manic
Fomentera – Paradise
Cabrera – Lonely
What is your favourite beach in the Balearics?
My favourite beach is difficult to quantify, as there are many beautiful beaches to choose from. However, I think my favourite is probably Es Palmador beach in Formentera. The reason? It is only accessible by small boat and therefore even in the high season has relatively few visitors.
What is your opinion of the future of the yachting industry in the Balearics?
With the new development in the Club de Mar now underway, the improvements to the marina in Soller and the number of high quality moorings available, I feel that the future for yachting in the Balearics is bright. However, although I applaud the conservation efforts for the Posedonia sea grass, something needs to be done to enable yachts to visit these areas without dropping their anchors. Each year, I seem to be able to anchor in fewer and fewer places, even although they are not even marked as official Posedonia areas.
What advantages do you think the yachting industry in the Balearic Islands compared to other places?
The Balearic Islands have one of the best yachting infrastructures in the Mediterranean and with the ease of communication with the rest of Europe and the world make them the perfect destination or base.
If you were to give advice to a new captain coming to the Balearic Islands, what would it be?
Ask for and listen to advice from other captains who have been here for a while and even if only having attended the “school of hard knocks” will have valuable information that should not be ignored.
What is your proudest moment being a captain?
Managing to complete week’s charter with port visits every night with only 1 engine operational, without the charterers realising any different!