Tuesday, June 3, 2008


TARISI Daku Ganilau has all the makings of an average young woman. Shes young, full of life, shy, and smiles a lot. But beneath this exterior lurks a determined person.
Tarisi, 23, harbours a dream most young women her age probably never think of when they look at themselves in the mirror.
She wants to be a captain on a ship.
Theres no shade of pink in the job. But theres a lot of oil, dirty overalls and rocking and rolling at sea.
Its about being one of the crew on a vessel at sea.
Theres no glamour in what she does.
Tarisi reckons one of the good sides to it though is the travelling bit, meeting people and the opportunity to visit the many islands that surround Fiji.
Tarisi is a deck cadet on the government vessel the MV Iloilovatu.
Shes learning to become a captain.
The confined spaces onboard the Iloilovatu may be restrictive, but it does nothing to demoralise this young woman from Naitutu in Tailevu.
She has three sisters and four brothers who, with their mother, are very supportive of Tarisis decision to churn out a career at sea.
Shed opted for captains training with the Government Shipping Services straight out of Form 7 at Nasinu Secondary School and is now into her third year as a deck cadet.
She started on the Dausoko, doing repair work before been assigned to the Iloilovatu. She has two years left on her path towards becoming a captain.
It was instant attraction for her.
I love what I am doing, she says.
I love meeting people and being out at sea.
One of the downsides to working on a vessel is the rocking and rolling out at sea.
My first trip on the Iloilovatu was to Rotuma. I remember sleeping all the way to Rotuma because I was sea-sick. I was okay on the trip back to Fiji.
The Iloilovatu is built for long travels.
It was once a Japanese training ship that was out at sea for the better part of six months in a year, travelling all the way across the vast Pacific ocean from Japan to Hawaii.
A fuel system that could store enough fuel for journeys across the Pacific is now filled with water which improves stability at sea.
A lengthened draught (the vertical distance measured from the lowest point of a ship's hull to the waterline or the water surface) helps to cut out rolling in heavy seas.
Tarisi shrugs aside talk of being in a world dominated by men.
I did physics and technical drawing at high school and I was the only female student in my class. This is nothing new.
I suppose the only difference was when I started work. I found it unusual working with a lot of older men. Now we are all like brothers and sisters here.
Tarisis work choice inches out sad memories for her mother, but it also strengthens her resolve to make a career for herself at sea.
My mum prays for me every time I leave to go out to sea, she says.
Tarisi was barely seven-years-old when her father and a brother disappeared at sea. They had gone out fishing outside the Suva harbour. It was in 1994. The only thing I remember is that their fibre glass boat was found. Their bodies have never been found.
Shes tried to push the incident back into the inner most recesses of her memory bank.
But it does provide a challenge for me whenever it does pop up, she says.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to them, or how they disappeared.
My mums support lifts my spirits.
It reassures her.
To be captain, Tarisi believes young hopefuls need to be calm under pressure.
I think its about making right decisions at the right time.
Its also about being confident.