The Fiji Times Skipper’s legacy A lover of the sea – Fiji Times

Tosay that the late CaptainJonathan Smith was an old saltwould be an understatement.

His love for the sea stemmedfrom a long lineage of Smith patriarchswho had an intimate relationship withseafaring and all things nautical.

From the moment he discovered themystery of the deep blue to when he waslaid to rest last week Monday, Skipperas the late Captain Smith was fondly

known, was the epitome of an old salt.

In fact, his voyages on the traditionalsea-going canoe Uto Ni Yalo from 2010 to 2012 were in some ways an opportunityfor Skipper to revisit the challenges anddifficulties his forefathers faced whenthey battled the elements on the greatsea journeys they took.

He was a fourth-generation captain.

His great-grandfather, Captain JosephSmith sailed to Fiji from England inthe early 1900s and married FlorenceMitchel of Qamea.

The third of their five sons, StanleyFredrick Smith, his grandfather, alsobecame a captain.Skipper, as he was affectionatelyknown, was born on August 23, 1973, toFredrick George Smith and Stella AlexandraLouise Smith nee OConnor.

He was the eldest of five childrenincluding Wallace, Floyd, Leeanne andReona and had links to Lovoni, Taveuni,Kadavu and Levuka.

Skipper was educated at Veiuto PrimarySchool, Suva, and Drasa AvenueSchool and Natabua High School inLautoka.

Before he earned his stripes as a captain,he had a lot of leadership practicewith his siblings.

His brother Wallace said before theirparents would go to choir practice onSaturday morning, the Smith siblingswould be given instructions on thechores they were supposed to do.

Skipper would change it around andreassign everyone, he said.

But no matter what, the house wasalways spotless before mum and dad gothome.

Their father was a mechanic andoperated Smiths Automotive Services, agarage in Lautoka.

Skipper, however, decided on a differentpath and took to the sea.

Wallace said it was just somethingthat was always in his blood.

He was always drawn to the sea fromwhen he was born.

We the siblings have all gone intoour own fields, but that was always hiscalling.

The sea speaks to everyone differently,and it definitely called Johnathan.

As a brother, he said Skipper could bea hard case but he always cared for hisfamily and no problem lasted more thana day.

Skippers love for his family wasalso reflected in the love he had for hisfriends and the many relationships heformed with the people he crossed pathswith.

In her eulogy, his cousin Sylvia Sagar recalled Skippers first day at Veiuto.

She said she was given the responsibilityof looking after him.

Until he made friends, it was myresponsibility to make sure he was OKat school, she said.

As you can imagine, it wasnt longbefore he didnt want to hang aroundwith me anymore, he had made his ownset of friends.

When the family moved to Lautoka,a new set of friends was found, includingthe now Reverend James Bhagwan,who said Skipper used to make fun ofhim as the talatala who got chased outof Sunday school for asking too manyquestions.

Another close friend, Aman Ravindra-Singh, said he remembered him as ajovial and positive person from highschool.

He always got on with others newand old and was always prepared tohelp anyone and everyone, he said.

In 1992 Skipper attended the Schoolof Maritime Studies and lived with Sylviasparents in Suva.

It was while he was at maritimeschool that he met Mavis Shaw, thewoman who would eventually becomehis wife.

(Back L-R) Jeric and Tristan, (middle L-R)Mavis, Shaula and Skipper, (front) Carterat Shaulas baptism. Picture: TRISTANSMITH/ SUPPLIED

She said they first laid eyes on eachother at a popular Suva night spot.

A month later he came to my sisterHarriets birthday and well it startedfrom there, she said.

They dated for a few months beforeSkipper was called to sea. It was afterhe left that Mavis found out she waspregnant.

In March 1996, their eldest son Tristan was born and they married six monthslater because of his schedule at sea.

Skippers career path meant he had tospend long periods of time at sea, awayfrom his growing family.

But he was able to do it because hecould always count on Mavis support.

I always supported him, I told him Iwould take care of the home front.

They went on to have three more children,Jeric, Carter and Shaula.

He spent his time on bulk carriers andcontainer ships, building his experienceand climbing the chain of command.

During his journey, he encounteredmany challenges.

In 2002, he and his crew were strandedin Bangladesh after their ship was arrestedfor unpaid bills, Wallace saidthey were stuck there for nearly six months and survived on rainwater andrice.

He never lost hope and never let thecrew lose hope either, he said.

Some of them were ready to end itall, but he just kept telling them to staypositive, that they would all make itthrough.

After arriving home from Bangladesh,he traded life on the high seas to becloser to his family.

He took up a job with Naia Fiji, adive-cruise company based in Lautoka.

In a tribute message, cofounder RobBarrel said he knew Skipper was theman they needed to run their ship.

He said Skipper was a true leader whotook responsibility for errors and washighly respected and regarded for bothhis seamanship and his character.

Even after leaving, he would alwaysreturn to take the Naia on internationalexpeditions.

He later went to the Middle East andwhile there, Skipper got a call from Colin Philp who was looking for a captainfor the Uto Ni Yalos maiden voyage andhe came back home to sail it some 30,000nautical miles around the Pacific.

I think if we searched for a hundredyears, we wouldnt have found a moreperfect captain to be the first Uto Ni Yaloskipper on her maiden voyage aroundthe Pacific and the longer voyage allthe way to the United States, Mr Philpsaid.

And the kava session on the Uto NiYalo became the norm wherever weanchored.

Skipper was very vocal and articulateon matters affecting the country andwith his passion for the sea.

Colleagues and friends said he knew what he was talking about, walked thetalk, and never minced his words.

To some he was a marine environmentalist,to others he was the go to weatherman,a captain or as Mr Philp put it Simply a friend or a kava buddy.

The line was often blurred as heformed family-like relationships withthose who he engaged with at workor around the tanoa. He was also verywelcoming to young people and wouldoften sit with his sons and their friendsto talanoa on the porch at Nukuwatu,Lami.

But at the end of the day, he was afamily man. He moved close to home tobe with his wife and kids who he loveddearly, he cared immensely for siblings,he spoiled his nieces and nephews andwouldve been the worlds best Pa too.

A day before he was to bury his mother,Skipper suffered a heart attack whiledriving in Lautoka on Monday, August 9.

He was 47.

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The Fiji Times Skipper's legacy A lover of the sea - Fiji Times

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