Chemainus Murphy got the chance this summer to work at a job few get a chance to.
A local member of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, she has spent six years in the program by literally learning the ropes and moving on from there. She graduated from Timberline in June, and is now both working and studying for extra credit in the hopes that she can further her career at sea.
“I graduated, but I’m taking online courses,” she says.
Through most of July and August, she was one of a few cadets from across the country chosen to work on a Canadian Coast Guard vessel. Over the summer she got real-life experience on board the icebreaker, the Louis S. St-Laurent. Her term lasted seven weeks, with six on the water and another week for travelling or in the hub of St. John’s, N.L.
The deployment took to remote parts of Canada on the East Coast and into the Arctic, where the ship sailed in Hudson Bay, around northern Quebec and even near Greenland.
“It was a lot of fun,” she says. “We were able to do everything that the crew on ship does, from cooking and cleaning to fixing the engine and steering the boat…. We also did a lot of ice-breaking for ships to get from point A to point B.”
She was even on hand for a rescue at one point, as the ship assisted a vessel lodged in the ice in the Nunavut region, perhaps a day out of Iqaluit.
Murphy applied months before the summer position and sent reference letters to apply for it, but she knew it would be a difficult prospect in light of how few are chosen.
“It’s, like, four cadets in Canada, so you’ve got to put a lot into it,” she says.
Even with long odds, she thinks the support from those who supplied references like her commanding officer gave her a chance.
Murphy started in cadets because her father had been a member. She describes herself as an extremely shy child before joining at age 13, admitting she had thought about joining a little earlier.
“I was too nervous when I was 12,” she adds. “My first night I ended up loving it.”
Early on, she learned the basic knots, citizenship, sailing skills and other elements of cadets. She started thinking more seriously about sailing and a life on the sea a couple of years ago after taking a sailing course at HMCS Quadra in Comox. As well, she started becoming interested in seamanship deployments through another course at HMCS Quadra.
“It got me into a lot of deployments,” she says, adding she was able to go on naval defence ships, adding the aim of the courses was focused on citizenship, leadership and taking initiative.
“The structure really helps with making someone a better person,” she adds.
Her courses through cadets eventually helped lead her to her ultimate summer job with the Canadian Coast Guard this summer. Murphy’s hope now is to attend the coast guard’s training academy in Halifax, N.S., next fall.
“I’ve heard it was one of the best coast guard colleges in Canada,” she adds.