All hands: Kate Middleton was once a deckhand.
All hands: Kate Middleton was once a deckhand.

Kate scrubbed my deck, says Cape skipper

By Michelle Jones Time of article published Apr 28, 2011

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She may be marrying her prince tomorrow, but Kate Middleton was once a regular deckhand on a sailboat where she scrubbed and cleaned under the watchful eye of a Capetonian skipper.

Cal Tomlinson, who then worked as a personnel manager for the crew, said that Middleton’s work could be described as “menial wage for menial work”.

He said Middleton spent five months working for Challenge Business, owned by renowned sailor Chay Blyth, during a gap year 11 years ago. Blyth is known for being the first person to sail around the world backwards into the currents and wind. The company owned 26 boats which were used for summer corporate hospitality events.

Tomlinson, who now lives in Stanford and works restoring Victorian houses, said

the boats were docked in the port of Southampton. Middleton, along with three others, was responsible for readying them before the guests arrived.

“In the morning, it was (about) getting the boats ready, scrubbing, at 6.30am or 7am. Pretty labour intensive work. She would have one other deckhand to help her, a mate and skipper.”

Tomlinson said about 12 boats would go out daily and Middleton would have met the guests, settled them on the boats and then spent the day as “the general dogsbody”. The crew would work for about 10 hours each day and were paid about £40.

“And they were expected to perform. It was cleaning, lifting and carrying. The catering packages which arrived every morning each weighed about 500kg to 600kg.”

Middleton got the job a year after she finished school because her parents were friends with Blyth through socialising in the same circles. Afterwards, she moved to Scotland to study at the University of St Andrews, where she met Prince William.

Tomlinson said he and the crew were “vaguely aware” of Middleton’s connection to the boss, but were impressed she never let that affect her work.

“She was very, very good. She was very committed, very enthusiastic and just got on with the job.”

He said other crew members had joined the company in the hope of gaining some sailing experience and becoming part of the elite sailing world.

“A lot of them started moaning and groaning; it was very dirty work and not at all glamourous, but she just got on with it.”

Tomlinson said everyone was aware Middleton was just “passing through” and would be starting university the next year. “She did admit once or twice she was going to be in the same residence as Prince William.”

He said there was a lot of teasing on board about how she and Prince William would end up together, but she simply shrugged it off.

More than once, Tomlinson had been forced to take a lovesick young man aside and warn him that Middleton was “out of bounds”, he said.

“She was a very bright and cheery person. She was very keen to learn.

“She was very fascinated by the technology, which was quite refreshing for someone who didn’t have a sailing agenda.”

Tomlinson said he had not been surprised when he learnt his former deckhand was involved with the future king.

“I wasn’t surprised when I heard Prince William had found a girlfriend in Kate Middleton. She was very memorable, very attractive and very self-assured for a 19-year-old.” - Cape Times

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