10 May 2023

Weipa mariner farewelled with special guard of honour

| Cape York Weekly
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LEGENDARY mariner Francis Sabatino was farewelled in style at sunset last Tuesday.

A guard of honour formed by tug boats in the Embley River paid tribute to the master, who retired last week after 44 years of service.

Known best as “Fran Sab”, the quietly spoken skipper began his marine career in Weipa on March 11, 1976.

He has served the Weipa port ever since.

Fran and his wife Jenny have been pillars of the community and a small gathering of around 30 people joined them at a special retirement lunch at the Weipa Bowls Club.

“Because they are private people we didn’t want to make it a big function,” said Grant Jamieson, the contract manager of Smit Lamnalco.

“If we opened it up to the community I’m sure we would have had more than 100 people there.”

Fran, a Torres Strait Islander with family spread across the Far North, is a regular visitor back to the islands.

He knows every bit of reef and sandbanks from Weipa to Hammond Island.

Mr Jamieson said in the six years Smit Lamnalco had managed the tug operations at the Weipa port, Fran had been a mentor for many.

“Even the older mariners look up to him,” he said.

“When he speaks, I listen, because he brings a wealth of knowledge to the job and to the area. He’s got more knowledge of this place than anyone else.”

Those who worked closely with Fran over the years said he had a keen eye for the weather conditions and could predict changes before the experts.

“He knows all the patterns and while some people might doubt his ability, I know that he’s spot on,” Mr Jamieson said.

As part of his farewell present, Smit Lamnalco had a bell engraved with a special message: A leader in the workplace and a leader in the community.

“I think that says it all, really,” Mr Jamieson said.

“You won’t meet a man who is more respected in the community and in the workforce.

“Almost 45 years of service at one place is a tremendous achievement and we will miss him and his knowledge.”

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