Atlantic dream: Captain Kevin Oprey (Picture: Dave Monk)
Captain Kevin Oprey enjoys being at the helm of the 150,000-ton Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 on its transatlantic runs. But one day he wants to cross the ocean in a much smaller vessel – and without his 1,200-strong crew.
‘My dream is to sail the Atlantic single-handed in an ocean-going yacht,’ the 61-year-old told me on the bridge of QM2, days after the ship came to the aid of a Canadian woman on her 83rd day of trying the same crossing in a seven-metre rowing boat.
Captain Oprey said the call to help 34-year-old Mylène Paquette came out of the blue and he and head office had to check out the story before diverting the ship to supply the lone sailor with a replacement satellite radio and a sea anchor to help maintain her position at night, as well as gifts of fresh provisions and toiletries.
Recalling how the drama unfolded, he said: ‘One of the officers came in and said he had received a call from someone about a lady rowing the Atlantic who had some damage to some equipment and could we send her some. We didn’t know what that might entail. We got the team to check on the internet and found out about Mylène. I phoned head office then we made contact with her land base, suggesting if we could we would go and assist her. We made a 20-degree alteration to the south and it only added 14 miles to our overall distance.’
The captain added: ‘I think the over-riding factor was she was slightly more at risk without having a satellite phone. If she lost her other phone she was completely in trouble.’
Mylène’s transatlantic crossing – she has just passed the halfway mark between Canada and France – has been far from easy. The captain said: ‘When I spoke to her that evening she said some days she couldn’t go anywhere because the weather was so bad she stayed in her cabin.’
Captain Oprey, a fourth-generation seafarer who lives in Warsash, near Southampton, said he didn’t think it was essential that QM2 had a Briton at the helm. ‘I think the ship is more important than the captain – keeping a British tradition on the ship is the most important thing.’
The father of two, who travels on the ship with his wife, never gets bored as he guides QM2 across the 3,400 miles of sea between Southampton and New York and back. ‘Every day is different, there is always something new to consider,’ he said.
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More of my stories on Mylène: