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Sunday 21 October 2018

Young mum conquers high seas with top post on board Ulysses

Claudine Ledwidge-O'Reilly

A young mother-of-one has conquered the high seas after being appointed the first ever female chief engineer of the world's largest car ferry.

Bridget Gavin was promoted to the senior post on the huge Ulysses ferry after rising through the ranks as a maritime engineer while juggling motherhood and romance.

The 31-year-old, who hails from Leenane, Co Galway, said weeks and months spent away from her loved ones are extremely tough.

"It is difficult on the heart," she said. "When I was working for BP at deep sea, I would be gone for months at a time.

"So I would come home and my daughter wouldn't recognise me anymore."

Romance blossomed for Bridget and her Donegal-born boyfriend, Gerard, who she met while working at sea on a BP ship two years ago.

Effort

A relationship with a fellow seafarer takes constant effort -- but it's all worth it.

"You have to be very committed. But it helps that Gerard is very easygoing and I try not to take life so seriously!"

Her new schedule on board the Irish Ferries' vessel Ulysses is more family-friendly than sailing the deep sea, as she works two weeks on and two off as opposed to months on end.

But Bridget said she would be lost without the support of her family, particularly her parents Martina and Martin, and the close knit local community.

"Grainne just started school the day before I left for my two week shift, so that's hard too.''

But Grainne is her mum's greatest fan -- even coining a nickname for her friends at sea.

"She calls them salty dogs!" laughed Bridget.

"And she's already dying to see the ship."

Bridget has responsibility for ensuring the four engines of the 51,000 tonne ship have all the power they need to carry up to 2,000 passengers and crew and 1,342 cars or 240 articulated trucks on any given day.

Her decision to study maritime engineering at Cork Institute of Technology took many people by surprise.

"My family were definitely shocked and also upset because I'd be gone from home so much," she said.

"It takes a certain type of person to go out on the deep sea.

"You can feel very isolated and you're very dependent on the other people on board, so you need to get along well."

She is just one of two Irish women to hold the all-important Chief Engineer Class 1 Certificate of Competence which laid the foundation for her successful career.

"I would recommend it as a career to other young women because it's a great job, very secure with good money. I absolutely love it."

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