Captain Chris Phillips is a career seafarer with a wide variety of experience in the Merchant and Royal Navies. His seafaring career started when he was taken dinghy sailing as a baby still in his carry-cot; sailing featured heavily during his childhood, both with his family and at school.
Early ambitions to join HM Diplomatic Service, or one of the other prestigious organisations operating overseas, took him to Exeter University to read French and Russian, and it was whilst a student that he first sailed as a trainee in the Sail Training Association’s three-masted topsail schooner STS Malcolm Miller. This trip awakened his seafaring genes, and a further voyage as trainee saw him recommended to join the afterguard as a volunteer Watch Officer. Within a couple of years he had risen in the hierarchy to sail as relief Bosun during his last summer at university. The same summer he also spent a few weeks as an able seaman in his first square-rigged ship, the Dutch barque Europa.
By this time his career plans had changed, and he had opted for a career at sea. Coming from a Royal Naval family, the RN was an obvious option, but he also explored the possibility of a Merchant Navy cadetship. As it turned out, at the time very few shipping companies were recruiting youngsters of graduate age, and although he was offered a place in a small company mainly operating in the offshore industry, he opted for the more familiar surroundings of the RN, joining Britannia Royal Naval College in September 1998. He passed a more or less happy year at the College, thoroughly enjoying his time playing in boats on the river Dart. Having already gained his RYA Yachtmaster ticket, he was soon given the custody of one of the College yachts, and was usually seen on Wednesday afternoons and at weekends taking New Entry Officer Cadets out sailing in Start and Tor bays, a pastime that earned him the College’s newly-inaugurated Wiluna prize for seamanship.
On passing out from Dartmouth, an unfortunate injury in a seaboat during a fishery patrol was followed by a frustrating period of shore jobs interspersed with the odd period at sea, more time in hospital, and rehabilitation. This period of uncertainty did allow him a few “jollies”, most notably a three-month trip in the Argentine sail training ship Libertad, at once a most interesting experience from the military, diplomatic and seafaring perspectives.
On his return from Argentina, Chris qualified as an Officer of the Watch and found himself unexpectedly appointed to the Submarine Service. A short gap in between courses enabled him to take a transatlantic round trip as a supernumerary in a refrigerated cargo ship, loading bananas in Central America. More courses followed before joining HM Submarine Vigilant in Faslane Naval Base. The start of his time in Vigilant was not happy, and it was at this stage that Chris decided that it would soon be time for him and the RN to part company. Before this could happen, however, he qualified as a submariner, went on two strategic deterrent patrols and attended the Fleet Navigators’ course, finishing his time on board as a watch navigator and responsible for not losing any of the ship’s cryptographic material.
In parallel with his RN career, Chris had kept up his time in sail training vessels, as volunteer 3rd Officer, relief 2nd Officer and relief Bosun in the Sail Training Association’s new Brigs, Stavros S Niarchos and Prince William. Encouraged by Captain Barbara Campbell, he also tested the water with the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST), sailing twice as a supernumerary Deck Officer in their barque Lord Nelson.
On his release from the Royal Navy in spring 2005, Chris spent some time gaining civilian qualifications before joining the JST. Apart from a brief two-week trip in an aggregate dredger, and 6 months at college gaining his OOW (unlimited) ticket, he has been there ever since, soon rising to Chief Officer rank, and spending his time in both JST ships around Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Canaries. A short trip as Master of Lord Nelson in July 2011 led to his permanent promotion to Master in January 2012. He spent much of 2012-14 on the Sail the World deployment, and has more recently also spent time as relief Master of Tenacious on her recent deployment to the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. He has twice rounded Cape Horn under sail and is a member of the International Association of Cape Horners. In November 2019 Chris took voluntary redundancy from the JST after restructuring led to the decommissioning of Lord Nelson, and in January 2020 commenced studying towards his unlimited Chief Mate’s ticket and ultimately, hopefully, towards his Master Mariner’s ticket.
Chris spent much of his leisure time at sea in his traditionally-rigged ketch Meander, and having crossed the Atlantic (west-east) two-handed in her in 2009, was awarded the Royal Naval Sailing Association’s Tim Sex Trophy for an outstanding act of seamanship in an offshore yacht. In 2015 he was invested as a Yeoman of Trinity House. As detailed elsewhere in his blog, he sold Meander in the summer of 2019 having purchased a bare steel hull to fit out as his ultimate expeditioning yacht.
Chris is single (still), lives on the Isle of Seil in Argyll, enjoys a good read, walking in the hills, playing the Bodhran and singing shanties.