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Ready to get out on the water with my new Bridgewatch certification!

May 30, 2021

I’m very happy (and proud) to have just finished the 4-month Bridgewatch Enhanced program at British Columbia Institute of Technology, in North Vancouver! This certification qualifies me to work as a deckhand. Over the long-term I am hoping to return to expedition cruise ships both close to home (along the BC coast) as well as far away (back to Antarctica, Chile, the Canadian arctic – wherever!) I’m especially hoping for work that doubles using my new nautical certifications along with my sciences background and/or photojournalism experience.

Over the short term, I’m looking forward to working on the water in whatever I can, to consolidate all the skills I have just learned through practical experience.

The whole Bridgewatch program was four months long, but of course right now, due to COVID, they are doing their best to reduce the time on campus and deliver the parts that they can do online that way.

So we did the more “booky” sections, such as Collision Regulations and Navigational Aids online. Here’s a pic of Ferg helping me with my Chartwork.

Much of what we were learning was very hands-on material, so the current COVID situation did make things challenging. We couldn’t interact very closely in class at all, and the field trips and ship ride-alongs that would normally be part of this program were nearly all cancelled.

(I have to say, though, I was very impressed with BCIT’s policies regarding COVID and keeping everyone safe. I was a bit worried about how that would go before I got there – but it was all good!)

So I didn’t get to toss a big mooring line from an actual ship to an actual dock. But here’s a little example of me practicing in class!

Ropework was in fact quite a major component of the class time once we were physically all together in class. This is something I previously knew nothing about, but really love doing (and am getting very good at!)

I can now splice all kinds of rope – three-strand, eight-strand, double-braid. I did these big mooring lines, and I also have made Ferg a really cute little custom dog leash!

The “regular” Bridgewatch program is more like three months long. The “enhanced” one that I was fortunate enough to take included additional courses: we also did our Radio Operators (Commercial) license and Marine Basic First Aid, as well as the internationally sanctioned safety courses (STCW BST and PSC), that are required to work at sea. They cover basically every aspect of safety on ships at sea: all your life-saving equipment, launching and recovering survival craft (as well as how to actually survive on them if you are stuck in them for days or weeks), and even four days of marine firefighting – which was very intimidating for me at first, but very empowering as I got over my fears. That’s me in the middle, holding the hose, about to enter a burning faux-ship! (The fire in it was not faux).

Aside from the firefighting, we learned about and practiced launching and recovering three types of survival craft: lifeboats, life rafts, and rescue boats. We also had pool sessions to learn how to don and swim in immersion suits, and to practice skills such as getting into the life raft from the water.

This is me, docking the lifeboat – first try!

Like I said, because of COVID our class was not able to get out on the water much. So it was a real treat for us to get out on the water during our final week with Group Ocean, one of the tugboat operators on Vancouver Harbour. Their tugs are big and powerful – super impressive – and being out on two of them made it easy for us all to maintain appropriate physical distancing.

Here the Group Ocean captains are demonstrating how they can spin the boats around – first the other one, then, quite to my surprise, the one that I am on while I was filming!

I’m already putting my new skills to use – the photo at the top of this post is just the other day out on Sproat Lake with Dave. We had to tow some logs back to the lakehouse, and I was able to put my new splicing skills to good use making a towing bridle and tying the towline securely. I am super excited, and currently looking into a few work possibilities for this summer. It feels really good, getting more comfortable with what I need to know and do on the bigger ships.

Many thanks to my great BCIT instructors, and also to my amazing classmates (some of whom shot the photos/videos of me here). See you on the water!

And if you like what I have here on my site, or want to keep informed about my current exciting projects and adventures and speaking engagements, please sign up for an occasional email update on my Contact page. (Don’t worry, I respect your privacy and I will never spam you!)

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