FROM being surprised by a whale to being flown by helicopter to and from a private yacht, it’s fair to say that Vivien Laura Verey’s career as a yachtsmaster was varied.

She loved the water from an early age.

While most children might squander their pocket money on sweets, she saved hers up and bought her first boat at the tender age of 13.

“It was a two-man kayak; we lived near the River Thames so I and various mates would spend time in the school holidays paddling around leafy backwaters near Chertsey in Surrey,”

says Vivien, who now lives in Awbridge near Romsey.

When she was 16 her father bought her a British Moth, single-handed sailing dinghy.

“I passionately raced my dinghy every moment I could,” she says.

In her early 20s Viv became completely obsessed with sailing and too adventurous to be satisfied by her safe Surrey County Council computer job, so she applied for a three-month post as crew/hostess in the Greek Islands.

“Eighteen years later I came ashore!” she laughs.

After two seasons working in Greece as a crew member, Vivien was promoted and offered a job as skipper/instructor of a Hamble-based sailing school.

“I took my yachtmaster’s ticket, followed shortly by yachtmaster instructors and taught sailing for eight years.”

She loved being on the water, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.

“This was the time of the BBC TV drama Howard’s Way and there were very few, if any, female yachtsmasters,” she recalls.

“I remember the look of horror on the faces of three Welsh miners when I introduced myself as their instructor. It was a difficult course to run!”

Vivien went on to set up a company in Hamble with her boyfriend, and spent the next decade as a yacht delivery and charter skipper.

But eventually she had had enough of life on the water and now only occasionally sails for pleasure.

But she has some interesting memories of her time on the water.

“I remember being mid-Atlantic, heading for Barbados, on watch one night, when there was a terrific noise to the side of the yacht sounding like the whooshing of a firework,” she says.

“It was a whale. It was hard to see just by starlight, but it looked to be about the length of the yacht – 60 feet. “It swam alongside us for about halfan- hour and then just peeled off into the blackness.”

She says the scariest time was crossing the Dover Straits in dense fog and hoping not to be run down by a tanker.

But there was glamour too.

Daily Echo:

Round the Island

“I had an owner who liked me to deliver his yacht to various ports. He would then fly out by helicopter and I would be delivered home in it. I then flew back and collected the yacht from wherever he had ended his holiday. I got a bit spoilt – it’s the only way to travel!”

She adds: “A slightly surreal memory is when I used to accompany one of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet ministers who had been injured in the Brighton bombing and needed someone nimble about the yacht.

“He used to just do a fast circuit of the Solent while eating grapefruit for breakfast and not saying very much!

We would have to wait on the pontoon until the police dog handler had his sniffer dog check out the boat for bombs – at the time, the IRA were targeting ministers. I was a bit scared of being blown up!”

Vivien may no longer spend her time on the water, but it continues to inspire her.

The 59-year-old took up painting seriously five years ago and has revisited her time on yachts with her latest batch of work – a series of paintings which celebrate life on the water.

Daily Echo:

River Dun at Dunbridge

She was inspired to take up painting around 20 years ago, when her father retired from his job as an architect and began painting exquisite watercolours.

But it wasn’t until she stopped sailing that she had the time to really focus on her art.

Vivien now paints a range of subjects and has produced a number of seascapes – “I spent such a lot of time staring out to sea”.

But recently she has started painting yachting scenes and has found it has brought back the excitement and passion she felt for yachting, but this time rather than wanting to be on the water she loves painting it.

“I find I’m filled with excitement and am using large brush strokes and am very animated,” she says.

“My passion for sailing has been replaced by my passion for painting.”