UTS alumnus Chris Bolton is a gifted marine choreographer. In his 22 years managing special aquatic events on Sydney Harbour, he’s been integral to the spectacular and safe delivery of over 200 of our most iconic celebrations. From the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the Australia Day Ferrython through to visits by the likes of Pope Benedict XVI and Oprah Winfrey, he’s been behind the scenes making sure the remarkable stage that is Sydney Harbour flows gracefully, all while the world looks on.
“When it’s a special event like the start of the Sydney – Hobart Race or the New Year’s Eve fireworks or Australia Day, that’s where I come in,” Chris told AFLOAT magazine last year.
It’s a role that he has cherished, and it’s fitting that the last major event he presided over before his retirement last year was the International Fleet Review of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The Review – a spectacular and complex dance of 40 warships through around 4,000 spectator boats, complemented by a range of activities like fireworks and light shows – was witnessed by thronging harbour-side crowds and a global television audience of millions.
Chris’ love of the waterways began early. Born in 1940 at Neutral Bay, close by the waters that he worked for so long, he had the amazing childhood opportunity at eight years of age of spending a year living in a bush cottage on remote Twofold Bay with his father – a keen yachtie – and his mother and sister. “I didn’t go to school for a whole year”, Chris said. “I just learned sea lore and bush lore… [and] by the end of that year I’d learned a fair bit about boat handling.”
At 16, Chris followed in the footsteps of his maternal forebears, joining the Royal Australian Naval College at Flinders and Jervis Bay before a further two years’ study at the Brittania Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in the United Kingdom. The RAN then took him to sea in destroyers, aircraft carriers and minesweepers, and he held a number of senior ranks including Executive and Commanding Officer of HMAS Penguin.
Just before retirement from his distinguished 31-year RAN career, Chris turned his thoughts to a post-service career that combined his substantial skills with his love of the waterways. He completed a Graduate Diploma of Leisure studies at UTS (at the then Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education, or KCAE) and ran the Sanders Marina in Cabarita for three years before joining NSW Maritime in 1991.
A believer in lifelong learning alongside practical experience, he then completed an Executive Certificate in Event Management and a Master of Management in Leisure Management, both also at UTS. He credits this as a key factor in his remarkable accomplishments: “I could not have achieved this without post graduate education at KCAE and UTS,” he said, and his qualification as a Master Mariner (MC1) helped as well.
After a distinguished career that has seen him drive and direct every type of vessel from a 26,000 ton aircraft carrier, destroyers and frigates to small power boats, yachts and sailboards, Chris plans to devote his retirement to spending more time on his own treasured Nicholson 32 yacht, on the stunning harbour that’s been such a fundamental part of his life.
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