Ilfracombe’s new harbour master is says she has landed her dream job in her home county.
But Georgina Carlo-Paat also comes into the job as a qualified master mariner – the highest qualification it is possible to achieve in the merchant navy.
Georgina, 49, has lived in Croyde for 20 years but in that time has also worked away from her family at sea for long periods, climbing the ranks until she became the captain of several commercial vessels.
Now she is Ilfracombe’s first female harbour master and one of very few in the UK in the role.
She takes over from Rob Lawson, who retired at the end of March after 17 years at the helm.
She told the Gazette: “In my line of business, being able to come ashore in the place where you live and take over this amazing harbour is a dream job.
“Rob has left this in a fantastic state and he has made my job in settling in a lot easier. My deputy Rick Simpson has been an absolute star and he has held the fort down between Rob leaving and me arriving.”
She said the harbour had great potential and she wants to see it operating for a full year to properly understand it.
Georgina is married to Cosmos and they have a son Yosua, who is four-and-a-half.
She said she ‘fell into’ the maritime life while working as a waitress in Gibraltar during the first Gulf conflict, but ended up getting a job as a cook on an American cargo ship.
She thought the seafaring life was great and when she got home, applied to every company she could find for maritime work, but they all said she was ‘too old’.
But finally a call came, asking if she wanted to go to sea within the week – and she never looked back, working her way through the qualifications up to the highest level.
She has captained a number of vessels including cargo ferries and her last job was as captain of the 3,750 tonne dredger Sand Heron.
Now she says she has ‘come ashore’ for good: “There is absolutely nothing left at sea I want to do, I have done everything I wanted and I have seen incredible things and met amazing people.
“At school girls don’t know they can do things like this, so it’s important to promote industries where equality is lacking.
“The merchant navy is a great career, you get paid to be trained and your qualification takes you anywhere.”