This is not a subject that I have had to write much about before, so excuse any quirks in this attempt!
As they say, the best place to start is at the beginning.
I was born in 1957 in a then small village in the southern part of England called Twyford, in the county of Berkshire, about thirty miles west of London. I received the majority of my education in the local schools, all part of the national school system, until I was twelve years old. At that I time, I entered into what was then known as a streamed school, after taking a examination called The Eleven Plus.
This examination, now discontinued, was taken by all students over the age of eleven in the national school system in order to choose an appropriate level of learning for students to move forward to in their schooling. The next level of schools beyond this age were divided between those that were targeted at University entry and those that were targeted at College entry. This distinction may be hard to understand from the perspective of the American school system and the subtleties are a subject unto themselves, so I will not attempt to fully explain them here!
I spent the next six years in one of the Accelerated Learning or Grammar Schools, as they were known, on track for possible entry into one of Englands leading Universities, such as Oxford or Cambridge. Somewhat unfortunately, or so it seemed then, at the beginning of my final year at the school, I was unable to reach an agreement with the head of teaching as to which particular examination subjects I should be working toward, and I left the school.
This has not turned out to be as much of a missed opportunity as it may seem. The training that I received during my Navy career and the varied experiences and acquired skills that I have gained since that time have more than compensated for any lack of paper qualifications. This is not just conjecture on my own part either, as a psychological profile test that I completed as part of a career counselling course that I completed after leaving the Navy gave the assessment that ...the subject either has or would have been likely to acquire at least a second class degree from a major university.
The ten years that I spent as a commissioned officer in the British Royal Navy has been the highlight of my working life, so far. I was fortunate to be able to travel to several different parts of the world and to get a much broader concept of life than the limited perspective offered by the small community that I grew up in. I was also able to harness my natural curiosity, willingness to learn and interest in technology to a high degree by training to become a hydrographic surveyor, which saw me working in the branch of the service responsible for collecting the data used for making the acclaimed Admiralty Charts used by mariners worldwide. The closest parallel to this work within the US Military would be a cross between working for the USCG and NOAA, with a little NASA technology included!
It was quite an emotional experience when I stood overlooking Plymouth Sound in Devon, England, close to the site of the departure of The Pilgrims for the New World, and watched my very last ship sail away without me, ending a very full and fulfilling ten year experience. It was still a full six months until my thirtieth birthday, and it is hard to imagine any other experience that could have taught me so much at such an early stage of my career.
After a short sabbatical, during which I took the opportunity to decide what kind of work to pursue to further my career, I was offered a job working for a company that supplied data communications equipment to business computer users by mail order. Having been first introduced to computers during the last couple of years at school (a donated DEC PDP11E, complete with punched tape programs written in BASIC), and then more acquainted with mainframe and desktop machines whilst in the Navy, this was my first taste of the growing trend of interconnection of computers. I and my colleagues had no idea that our range of modems, multiplexers, interface converters and ethernet devices would in a few short years hence become the very heart of the then unheard of World Wide Web. Quite appropriately, the company was called Black Box!
Not long after this, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to move to the US to live and work. Having grown accustomed during my Navy time to much wider horizons than those viewed from my desk in Englands own Silicon Valley, I did not have to be asked twice if I wanted to see California!
After arriving in the San Francisco Bay area, I found a position in sales for a company selling electronic survey equipment. Well, theodolites, electro-optical distance measuring units, satellite positioning systems and surveying were all familiar to me from my Navy days, but selling, that is something new for me, and just how much of California did you say I had to cover?
Loma Prieta earthquake notwithstanding, I managed too meet and exceed my sales targets, but the Big Shake gave pause for thought. Was this really the right place to be? I had been on the upper deck of the Cypress overpass about an hour before the quake hit, and if it had not been for the World Series game and the light traffic, I would have been there at the time that it collapsed. I decided that I would take the chance to see more of the country before this particular part of it came down around my ears!
The next couple of years were spent travelling around the country and camping in such beautiful places as Northern Arizona, the Sierra Nevada of California and Death Valley. Once winter arrived at the end of the second year, a warm place seemed like the best idea, so off I headed to Hawaii and the Garden Island of Kauai. Like many visitors to the Rainbow State, I liked it so much, that I stayed!
Once again the fickle finger of fate pointed my way, and another of those Is this the right place to be? decisions came around in September of 1992 in the shape of Hurricane Iniki. The 172 mile per hour winds during the visit of Iniki to the island resulted in the destruction of eighty percent of the power lines around the island, damage to ninety percent of the buildings, a halt to the tourism industry and the loss of my job making sushi to go! The government aid agency, FEMA, was encouraging as many people as possible to relocate during the recovery period after the hurricane and airfares to New Zealand from Honolulu were the best deal around in terms of miles per buck, so off to the home of the Kiwi!
I spent a wonderful year trekking, camping, hitch hiking, fruit picking and lobster fishing on the South Island amongst some of the most beautiful scenery and most warm hearted people that I have ever come across. Unfortunately, the visa was only good for one year, so time to go again. News from Kauai was that jobs were still very scarce, so I accepted an offer to join the crew of a sixty foot sailboat embarked on a multi year circumnavigation.
My first position aboard was that of Navigator. Once more, my time in the Royal Navy came to be useful, and after the first month I took over the position of Skipper of the boat. The voyage of the sailing vessel El Karim took me over the next two years to Fiji, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, The Maldive Islands, Oman, North East Africa, The Red Sea, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, The Baleriac Islands, Spain and finally Gibraltar. If ever there was an experience to demonstrate the vast diversity of mankind and the world in which we live, as well as how small our part in it is, then this was it.
Gibraltar was the closest point in the journey to my family and birthplace in England, so I parted company with the big green ketch, and headed home for Christmas. Unfortunately, all the time spent in tropical and subtropical climates made an English Winter as close to unbearable as can be imagined. I never enjoyed winter as a child, and nothing happened to disabuse me of that dislike! Fortunately, with the generous help of my family I was able to head back to Hawaii, thus completing my first circuit of the globe!
Maui seemed like a more promising prospect for a job search, and with my nautical and technical background I soon got a job working on what is probably the most technologically advanced cruise boat in Hawaii and one of the most advanced in the World, the Navatek II. After a short period on the crew roster, I transferred into the position of Onboard Engineer. This made me responsible for keeping all of the complex systems of this eighty foot SWATH boat (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) up and running during cruises around the western shores of Maui and across to the nearby island of Lanai. Some of the systems on this fascinating vessel would be more familiar to an aeronautical engineer than to one of his marine brethren, but once again a wonderful chance to learn something new.
Unfortunately, this position ended when family business on the mainland required me to head back to the West Coast. California had become an even busier place than when I had previously lived there, so as soon as the family business was concluded I headed off to make a long overdue visit to friends in Alaska. Wow, more beautiful scenery, but only as long as the temperature stays above seventy degrees! I stuck it out until October, but then the cold chased me back to sunny Hawaii and the splendid Garden Island of Kauai.
Once more, out on the water was the easiest place for me to find suitable employment, especially on a small island in the middle of the worlds largest ocean! As beautiful a place as Hawaii is, the economic reality of its geographical location and its dependance upon one or two main industries make it a very limited job market. After a couple of years more enjoying the splendors of the islands it was time to face reality and head back into the greater market place of the mainland.
So here I am, at the end of the story, so far.
Florida is my current base, mainly in consideration of its proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico and the opportunities that those areas may provide to someone of my background. That does not preclude other job categories, as I am very willing to apply my skills and experience to any venture available.
Please take a look at my resume if you would like more details of my employment history, and feel free to email me if there are any questions that I can answer for you.
Thanks for your interest.
Sunday, November 19, 2000
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