A LIFELONG seafarer was welcomed to shore with open arms for a final time to mark the end of his 46-year career at sea.

Steven Ratcliffe was greeted by delighted family members when he arrived into Harwich Port on the Stena Britannica.

The greeting signified the end of his lengthy career at sea and the start of his retirement.

Steven, known as Rato by his fellow seamen, started his career at sea when he was 16 years old.

He started as a galley boy before becoming an able bodied seaman.

As the years passed, Steven, from Dovercourt, was promoted to an assistant bosun, and then became a bosun before his retirement.

A bosun is a ship’s officer in charge of equipment and the crew.

In the past four decades, Steven’s job responsibilities have ranged from cooking meals for crews to performing general maintenance work around the ships.

Safety has played an important role in Steven’s working life too, and he was responsible for the upkeep of all the safety equipment onboard.

He even had to help extinguish three onboard fires during his career.

Fiona Keen, Steven’s partner, met him onboard the Stena Europe when she was a stewardess and he was an able bodied seaman.

She said Steven, now 64, had been waiting to retire since Christmas.

Fiona, as well as Steven’s children and grandchildren all greeted him at Harwich Quay the evening he came to shore for the final time.

Fiona, 62, said: “It was emotional to see the Britannica come in for last time with him at the front of ship.

Braintree and Witham Times:

“We could see this small figure in the distance, but we knew he was coming home to stay so we were all a little emotional.”

She added: “I think he will be missed by many onboard colleagues as he is known for his quick wit and his banter.”

During his career, Steven was often away from his family for months on end.

“The highs and lows must have been the long time he was away from his family,” Fiona said. “He sailed to Africa and was away from family for three and a half months and then five and a half months at a time.

"Some of the key places Steven travelled to include countries in Africa, as well as Germany and the Netherlands.”