Captain Dereck L. is one of the many seafarers protecting the British Columbia coast, working in the Canadian Coast Guard.
His time at sea began at the impressionable age of 13 when he joined Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, then raced Spanish style longboats for the Sooke school district. Having developed a taste for the marine industry, at the age of 19, he went on to become a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary unit in Sooke (RCM-SAR Unit 37). Dereck later spent time in the Caribbean, on the island of St. Maarten where he raced ex-American cup yachts before returning home with a certainty that it was now time to pursue his MED courses and OFA Level 3- all with the intention to apply and eventually work for the Canadian Coast Guard.
Crediting his volunteer time as a Royal Canadian sea cadet, Dereck had learned and harnessed skills that would ultimately be used during his career and as he progressed his tickets in the industry. Having just received his long service award from the Canadian Coast Guard, he has proudly served 15 years and sees no end in sight for stopping, any time soon. He happily notes a favourite saying, “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor, you can’t control the wind but you can adjust the sails”.
What made you want to transition from being on deck to getting your Captains ticket?
This was ultimately my goal upon joining the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The keystone to the decision was helping people. I looked at joining the navy as well but the immediate gratification of helping local mariners was the key. Working in the CCG has career stability, good benefits, and a pension, ultimately this wasn’t a deciding factor however, it made the position more attractive.
When you arrive at the Masters certification, you’ve locked yourself into a particular section of the CCG (for me, Search and Rescue) and I knew that this was where I wanted to be. I specialized as a rescue specialist and thrived in this line of work, I very quickly recognized that this sector in the CCG suited me and I got to learn something every day, whether it be something new or testing my already developed skills. Being a rescue specialist is something I am extremely passionate about and is something I encourage others to consider as a career. It only made sense to start looking towards higher certifications and the responsibility that comes with. One of those responsibilities being, that I get to share my knowledge with the deckhands on my crew, so that maybe one day they will also become Captains.
Can you give insight into how life as a Captain (or at sea) has affected life at home?
With the Canadian Coast Guard, the schedule typically remains the same as far as day to day work and shift on/shift off but there is a lot more follow up with station administration and other tasks such as ‘purchasing’ in your off cycle- where work as a deckhand generally means that when you walk off the ship, you can leave work behind and you don’t have to think about work again until it is time to come back. As a Captain, you are not as removed from the vessel in your off time.
What has been the highlight to your career so far?
Being coxswain of an Inshore Rescue Boat is some of my most memorable moments. My most memorable rescue happened when I was working in Bella Bella. We had a call out which I ultimately received a silver service award for. A plane crash happened at Addenbrooke Island and we were one of three vessels to attend shortly after the crash. Four people lost their lives that day and others were injured. For the efforts put forward by the CCG (and others), I was one of the few who later received an award in recognition of our work. The way I think about that accident now is that “I just happened to be there” it could have been anyone but the boys at 442 put my name forward.
Another memorable moment for me was one year when my son and wife were able to spend Christmas aboard the ship, when the ship was out of service. We were operating on a skeleton crew and my family were able to come to the vessel where we later spent Christmas in the galley. There have been a handful of other moments where I have been fortunate enough to have my family come to visit at the IRB station (Inshore Rescue Boat Station) where usually we have a crew consisting of 1 Coxswain and 2 university students- to be on standby for SAR (Search and Rescue).
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, professionally?
In five years, I would like to be reliably relief Captain, if not stepped into a full time SAR station on the Coast. It is challenging to go back to school after being out of it for so long, there is a financial toll and the stress from being away from home, away from my wife and kids. I have found however, when I was at Western Maritime Institute, it was well worth the time and effort- the friendships I have forged by going back to school, the networking that can be done and the information that the instructors have, are all fantastic to have when you are in this industry!
Any advice to upcoming Captains?
Do it! Get your ticket, don’t think about it, don’t put it off, start going for it. You don’t have to do the courses back-to-back, get organized and look for your next course, for your ticket. It is worth the time, money, and effort and after all the hard work, you can look back and be proud of how you’ve grown in your knowledge of the marine industry and where it will then take you in your profession.
It is easier to get these courses now that there is more vocational school. You have multiple campuses, it’s a lot more accessible now than when I was early in my career as a deckhand. If you’re thinking about going for a career in this industry, I would recommend the Canadian Coast Guard, I love the work that I do and see myself doing it for many years to come. If you’re curious about a career at sea, start doing the work to look into it, it is well worth the time and can become a wonderful career.