35-year old Mathilde Decarnin has been Second Engineer at BOURBON for almost three years now. She joined the group after 5 years at ENSM1, having always sailed and had no plans to move on. So, here's a profile of a seafarer who loves a challenge.
"After working on the bridge, I decided to stick to being an engineer. I like the team spirit in the job, that there's always work to do and you're always on the go. Ok, you got me! There's also a lot less paperwork to do than up on the bridge!" Day-to-day, she manages weekly maintenance duties in line with the Chief Engineer and takes the watch when the vessel is in dynamic positioning mode. What she likes the best, though, is the challenge that comes with breakdowns that occur and require the crew to join forces to find a solution by giving the best of themselves.
Mathilde is currently aboard a Bourbon Explorer 500, off the coast of Angola, with FPSOs and drillships. "I don't really want to sail on larger vessels. I like these types of ships as there's more of a family atmosphere and a close-knit team". The Bourbon Explorer is a PSV, a vessel geared to supplying offshore facilities. It shuttles back and forth between the land and offshore facilities loading and unloading drilling supplies, packages, specialist products and water, etc.
When asked what she's especially proud of, she answers with the question, "Might it be being a woman onboard? ." There's no show of force nor the sense of incredible adventure with Mathilde Decarnin. She simply says that it's "not always easy" to be the only woman on board but attitudes have changed and she's never had any concern for her own well-being. "People of my generation had women with them at the ENSM (at least 10% were women in my year!) and they are used to sailing with us. It's perfectly normal now. The crew often tell me that they're happy to have a woman with them as it changes the atmosphere for the better".
She works in a small engineering team (a Chief Engineer, a Third Engineer and an Oiler) who stick together. "Sometimes the work is physically demanding but the team is united and no one has ever refused to help me". Mathilde continues to work as Second Engineer without any visible worries, even if she admits that her first black-out2 left quite an impression on her. "Once that happens, you learn to react differently and know yourself when you're stressed. Gaining experience also starts at times like that".
1French Maritime Academy
2Electrical power outage bringing the vessel to a standstill