On Water: Interview with Captain Edward Shiels of Latitude
As a young boy growing up on the coast of Sydney, Australia, it was normal for Edward Shiels to spend a lot of time on the water. His father had a little fishing boat and he was also a member of the Australian Navy Cadets, a leadership programme for young people. At 15, he left school to join the Royal Australian Navy, where he spent five years.
Now 57, Shiels is a full-fledged captain for the 47-metre long-range cruiser, Latitude, a job he’s had since July last year. This is the third boat he’s captained, following a seven-year stint in Italy and another seven years in Phuket.
On the Latitude, he is in charge of a crew of nine, including a chief officer who is responsible for managing the crew and making sure all paperwork is in order; three deckhands who help with the maintenance of the boat and navigational watches; an engineer; a chef; and three stewardesses in charge of housekeeping.
When asked what he likes most about his job, Shiels replies, “I enjoy planning the passage and arriving where I planned on time. I like using the equipment to chart the navigation and just essentially being in charge.”
He considers the safe management of the vessel and the crew as the most important part of his job. “There’s always something that needs attending to,” he explains. “I also have to monitor the shipping conditions and the weather. I have to be
on my toes.”
While Shiels isn’t at liberty to reveal the identity of the boat’s owner, he is able to confirm that the gentleman is in the hotel and hospitality business, and is an avid explorer, photographer and scuba diver. The trips they make on the boat usually involve heading to places where he can indulge these passions. Indeed, a walk about on the luxury cruiser revealed several framed photographs that were taken by the owner, including close-up shots of animals.
Latitude has a 4,000-mile (6,400km) range, which means it can keep moving for up to seven days without stopping. For scale, a trip from Singapore to Bali will require just one stop to fill up the tank, which takes in 70,000 litres of diesel. The boat can comfortably sleep 20 people, including the 10-member crew.
The owner isn’t usually on board for the entire journey. He flies in to certain ports with his family and friends to join Latitude and the crew, after which they will sail and explore the region.
The crew recently spent six weeks in the Raja Ampat Islands (pictured below), an Indonesian archipelago off the waters of West Papua. The area is known to be a diver’s dream with its beaches and coral reefs.
This is certainly an advantage of owning a boat—the ability to reach places that are not easily accessible by other means. And on a luxury yacht, you are also able to enjoy a lifestyle that includes being able to savour good food cooked by a personal chef, while surrounded by friends and family in some of the most beautiful places in the world.
Under Shiels’ captainship, Latitude has sailed to the Southern Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, among other places. The next planned trip is to Australia, and there have been discussions about the Maldives, Seychelles and Africa. A trip usually starts with the owner contacting Shiels to express interest in a specific location, after which the captain will consider the feasibility and plan for the journey.
When he’s not working, Shiels goes home to Phuket where he has family. He tries to relax and not answer his phone, although he admits that it can sometimes be hard because there’s always something to organise, such as parts for the boat. Even when they’re docked, but still on the clock, there’s a lot of maintenance work to be done in order to get Latitude ready for the next trip.
At the end of the day, however, Shiels will not trade this life for any other.
“I love the freedom and being outdoors and living with nature. I can’t imagine living any other way”
Learn more about berthing your yacht at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove, Singapore. If you simply want a taste of the yachting life, a fleet of premiums yachts are also available for charters here.