A day in the life of a skipper

Paul Blessing is a Skipper and Steward at ChesterBoat and has been Assistant Operations Manager since 2014.

I was born in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. My father was in the forces, so we moved all over the world during my childhood. I went to seven or eight schools in total, including schools in Northern Ireland and Germany.

I now live in Cefn-y-bedd, a village in North Wales with my family. I’m married with two little boys: Tomos, who’s two-and-a-half, and Aled, who’s just turned one. It’s a lot of fun at home and a very rewarding experience.

I usually start my working day around 8.00am if it’s a passenger day. I wear full skipper uniform – white shirt, smart trousers. At ChesterBoat we run sightseeing cruises that give our passengers a unique experience of Chester, but we also operate themed cruises, which are great fun (for me as well as for our guests!). I start the morning by briefing the crews for the day and making sure that any safety announcements are covered.

A key role, as assistant operations manager, is to ensure that the boats are running smoothly, so that’s next on my list. If I am running a cruise that day, I will greet passengers on the boats and make sure everyone has a good time and a great experience.

Some days I’ll oversee engine repairs and any maintenance that is required on the boats. During the week, we prepare for our Friday nights themed cruises. Our 2018 season is in full swing, with quite a few events fully booked. We also host lots of private parties, from wedding receptions to big birthday celebrations. I love the party cruises!

During the winter, I’ll tend to do a bit of everything as we are a fairly small team.

At the end of most days I tend to my horse, then head home to eat dinner with the family and wind down for the evening.

What’s the best thing about your job? Getting to meet different people – they come from all over the world, as well as right across the UK. They’re always so happy too, because they’re having a lovely holiday or day out. Also, it is nice to be a part of a close-knit, family-owned business. My colleagues come from all walks of life and we make a fantastic team.

And the worst? I struggle to think of anything in particular, but I’m not a big fan of the cold and wet weather we get now and then.

What would be your dream job – if you weren’t doing what you do now, that is! When I was young I thought of flying as a career. Instead I captain a vessel on one of the most beautiful rivers in the country, so I’m very happy where I am, thank you!

How do you relax? I own a horse, so I like to ride and I love going for walks with my family. I often spend weekends performing Dark Age re-enactment shows. We portray the men and women who lived in and around the Commote of Iâl in North-East Wales between the ninth and twelfth centuries (AD850-1199). I also teach sword fighting, which I have done for almost 10 years!

What is your favourite film? The Good the Bad and the Ugly, a classic spaghetti western with Clint Eastwood.

Favourite book? The One That Got Away by Chris Ryan.

Favourite song? Behind Blue Eyes by The Who.

If a film was made of your life, who would play you? Gerrard Butler

Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet? I’ve been in two films. The first was The Brothers Grimsby – I was on set for five days, but I’m in the film for around 90 seconds! I was also in The Vicious Dead, a zombie film. More recently I was in the Chester Chronicle because I rescued a baby near the River Dee – that was quite an experience and I was very grateful for the regular safety training we receive at ChesterBoat.