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Captain Murray Lister

Master, Merchant Marine

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Captain Lister has been a close friend of Rich Wilson’s ever since Rich was rescued by Lister, then a Chief Mate aboard New Zealand Pacific, and his shipmates in a terrible storm off Cape Horn in 1990 that nearly cost Rich and his shipmate, Steve Pettengill, their lives. Now, whenever Rich goes to sea, he always contacts Lister to find out where he is. Rich says it makes him feel more comfortable to know that Captain Lister is out there somewhere too. Here is a short piece from Captain Lister for us at sitesALIVE! about his life at sea.]

Major decisions by an eight year old are not the norm, yet at that age I was determined to go to sea, something that was achieved when, at the age of fifteen, I joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as a Boy Seaman, in 1960.

My contract was for ten and a half years, which took me through to the rank of Petty Officer First Class, sub-specialising in Gunnery Control and qualifying as a Ships Diver. During that period I was posted to five different vessels: two new anti-submarine frigates, a Second World War anti-submarine frigate, a Second World War minesweeper, and most powerful of all, a World War 2 cruiser. She was 512’ long and had a crew of 550.

On completing my Naval time I joined the Merchant Service as an Able Seaman, firstly on a fishing research vessel, until the opportunity arose to study for the first of my Officers Certificates. This was not easy, as having left school at the age of fifteen, my background education was far from good.

I increased my nautical experience by serving in various ships and accumulating a lot of seatime over the years. Further Officer’s Certificates were passed until I reached the point where I had successfully completed all the requirements and papers for a Certificate of Competency as Master Foreign Going. This meant that I could Command virtually any merchant vessel, world-wide.

By this time I was serving as Chief Officer, (second in command), in some of the world’s largest container ships of that time, one being ‘New Zealand Pacific’. She was, then, the largest refrigerated container ship in the world, at 61000 tons and 816’ long. The vessel carried some 1273 refrigerated containers as well as another 1000 containers of general cargo.

‘New Zealand Pacific’ sailed around the world every 75 days from New Zealand to Europe via Cape Horn – at the bottom of South America – and back around the Cape of Good Hope – at the bottom of South Africa – to Australia and thence returning to New Zealand.

On one of these voyages ‘New Zealand Pacific’ was directed to a distressed yacht some 400 miles West of Cape Horn, in seas that could only be described as horrendous. Even though it was the middle of the night, the wind blowing 65 knots, the sea 35’ high and snowing, we were so fortunate in finding the yacht and rescuing the two crew members.

The yacht, ‘Great American’, was lost, but lives on in our memories due to the new yacht, ‘Great American IV’, now participating in the 2016/17 Vendée Globe around the world race.

Lifelong friends can be made anywhere at any time. Rich Wilson and I became friends on that dreadful day in 1990 when I was one of the men who pulled him and his shipmate Steve Pettengill to safety, from what could quite as easily have been their deaths.

My life continued at sea, having been promoted to Captain not long after Rich was rescued. On gaining promotion I took command of 18 different cargo vessels over the next 20 odd years, continuing to sail worldwide and calling to 61 different countries, some good, some diabolical.

Keeping a promise to my wife, July 2010 saw me retire from the sea after a little over 50 years. Would I do it again? YES. Do I miss it? YES.