Captain David Bray FNI - Nautical Nostalgia

Master Mariner ~ Marine Artist ~ Guest Speaker ~ Maritime Historian

David Bray with sextant

This is me with a sextant.
All our navigation was of this style;
no GPS in those days.


Born in the Norfolk town of Great Yarmouth, David Bray went to sea in 1965, joining Ellerman Lines as Deck Cadet. Gaining his Second Mate’s Certificate in 1969 he sailed in a variety of cargo and passenger vessels until 1972 when he joined the British Antarctic Survey, serving three years in the RRS “John Biscoe”.

Gaining his Masters’ (Foreign Going) Certificate in 1976, he sailed in Ro-Ro ferries and a variety of Offshore Support Vessels.

A particular interest has been square-rigged sailing vessels. A visit to the “Cutty Sark” in Greenwich when David was 8 years old sparked an enthusiasm for all things traditional sail. Many years Later, David served upon the Nautical Institute Sailing Ship committee, and was instrumental in setting up a training and examination scheme for ships’officers intending to serve in square-rigged sailing vessels, of which there is an increasing number. A voyage in the Norwegian full-rigger “Sørlandet” gave him practical insight into the ways of a large, square rigger.

More recently he has lectured to ships’ Masters and Officers at the Maritime Studies department of Lowestoft College. He pioneered the training for a new, high-tech development, Dynamic Positioning (DP), in 1985, and won a National Training award for this work. Lowestoft rapidly became the world-leader in this technology.

Inflatable boat in Antarctica

Off South Georgia in the South Atlantic, while working with the British Antarctic Survey, this is David driving a 16’ “Gemini” inflatable craft, useful for landing scientists in out-of-the-way places.

Elected Fellow of the Nautical Institute in 1990 in recognition of this work, David is the author of a number of definitive textbooks on the subject. He has served on the Nautical Institute Dynamic Positioning Validating committee for many years, responsible for the approval of training establishments around the world and the maintenance of training standards. He is the author of the Nautical Institute guidelines and rules for the conduct of DP training. Closer to home, he has run DP training at Lowestoft for 25 years and has trained over 4,000 ships’ Captains and Officers in that time. He has also trained the staff from most of the training centres worldwide. At other times he has lectured to candidates for Chief Officers’ and Master Mariners’ qualifications, on such subjects as ship stability, ship construction, navigation and marine engineering.

David has written and delivered technical papers at a number of conferences worldwide, and delivered the Nautical Institute Annual Address in 1999. He chaired the Marine Technology Society DP conference in Houston in 2000. He has also been instrumental in the development of training simulation programmes in association with manufacturing and training organisations in Norway. He has frequently lectured on DP in Norway and elsewhere.

David holds a Certificate in Education obtained in 1982.

Now retired from nautical education, he is currently in demand as a cruiseship lecturer, his primary subject being maritime history. He has been engaged as guest speaker in a variety of cruiseships, including those of Cunard, P&O, Saga, Fred. Olsen cruises, and on board “Discovery”. His specialist areas include the 19th and 20th century history and development of merchant shipping, and the marine history of the two World Wars.

Paddle Steamer La Marguerite & Orient Line Orion

The paddle steamer “La Marguerite” with the Orient line “Orion” in the background

In the past, David has been involved in the preservation and management of historic ships, and still has an interest in these areas. He has sailed in a variety of historic sailing vessels, including the Lowestoft sailing trawler “Excelsior” and the Norfolk wherry “Albion”; the latter he served as Skipper for eighteen years. As mentioned earlier, he has also sailed in square-rig, in the Norwegian training ship “Sørlandet”.

More recently, David has revived an old interest in marine art, and has completed a number of commissions for clients.

In retirement, when not away in a cruise liner, he enjoys modelmaking, model engineering, painting, and driving a vintage car.