Fiona Maplestone - Case Study

From teenager to adult in ten days.

Fifteen-year-old Fiona Maplestone had been sent aloft on the tall ship Alma Doepel, to furl the heavy mizzen sail, when one of the ropes snapped.


“The rope has broken,” she yelled down to the crew on deck. “What should I do?”


“Fix it,” was his response.


An adventurous but reserved country teenager, Fiona was then a newcomer to the world of grown-up responsibility.

It all changed in that one moment. She’d been taught just the day before how to splice ropes, so although it took her a few hours, she eventually did manage to ‘fix it’ by herself.


“I was very chuffed,” she said. “It was one of several instances that taught me to have confidence in my own physical ability.”


“Another time I was shown how to operate a powered long boat, then the next day I was asked to take the long boat by myself to pick someone up from an island in the distance.”


I would have previously considered that these sorts of things were demanding jobs for grown ups, yet I was expected to do them as a fifteen-year-old. It taught me to back myself and to acknowledge that I could handle most situations.”


But it wasn’t all smooth sailing during that voyage. Fiona also recalls a time when she had to share her night watch with a fellow trainee who was very
homesick, and who did not share Fiona’s resilient outlook.


Those night watches were probably the most challenging part of her voyage, according to Fiona. But with little else to do except reluctantly take on a
counseling role, Fiona realised that life always offers a choice and it is up to the person to create and exploit their own opportunities.


Fiona may have joined the crew as a typical country teenager with little aspiration to do anything more than ‘hang out with her friends’ but she left as an adult.


“It gave me a heads up that there was more to life outside a small country town,” she said. “It challenged my outlook on life, gave me a lifelong interest in all things nautical and encouraged my thirst for adventure.”


These days Fiona is married with three children – a 14-year-old boy, 12-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy. She works as an editor for an educational publisher, but places a lot of emphasis on having a good work/life balance.


“I’ve taught my children to grasp opportunities as they arise and to recognise that sometimes adventures should take priority over school,” she says.

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