Gary Ivany, the assistant commissioner for the Canadian coast guard Atlantic region, says the open house is meant in part to inspire people to join the coast guard. (Arlette Lazarenko/CBC)
The Canadian Coast Guard opened its ships' doors to the public for a show and tell in St. John's on Saturday — in the hopes that some who visited will return for a career in the service.
Children ran around the harbour on Shoreside Road, checking out attractions, like a helicopter and a boat that they could climb inside while listening to an instructor explain how they are used during missions. The parents were right behind, snapping pictures.
There were tables with information about the coast guard, including how to apply to work for the guard. Gary Ivany, the coast guard's assistant commissioner for the Atlantic region, says there were two goals for the event. The first: education, to teach people about the coast guard with the hope of achieving the second goal: recruitment.
"We're always looking to recruit," Ivany said. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the coast guard saw a lot of retirements, he added. "There's a lot of opportunity not just to work around the Avalon, but to work all over Newfoundland and Labrador."
The work has provided him a lot of great experiences in over 30 years of working for the coast guard, he said.
"I had the opportunity to sail on ships, be there in darker times when people were calling for help, and be there to pull them out of the water or clean up pollution."
Crew members of the ship Captain Molly Kool gave groups of people a tour, from the captain's chair to the corridors below sea level. (Arlette Lazarenko/CBC)
The biggest lineup at the event was for the icebreaker Captain Molly Kool, named after the first woman to become a licensed captain in North America.
In small groups, people climbed the ship using steep stairs, and on board, they met Capt. Edward Cooper and his crew. Each member guided a small group of visitors through the labyrinth of tunnels and rooms inside the ship.
"We have a great crew," Cooper said. "Today they're helping with the tours, and they volunteered to do that. They take good care of the ship, and they're a great group of guys, excellent shipmates, and we all get along well."
He says the best kind of person to work on a ship is someone who is willing to take on a challenge, "and learn something new and maybe even overcome a fear of heights or water or any kind of activity that they didn't grow up doing. But they can certainly learn while here with the coast guard."
Capt. Edward Cooper greeted people aboard the ship. He says people who appreciate hard work and adventure are suited for a job on a ship. (Arlette Lazarenko/CBC)
Part of the job on a ship like the Molly Kool is search and rescue, breaking a path through ice for other ships — and a little bit of adventure, he says.
"We get to see lots of parts of Eastern Canada that we hadn't seen before," he said. "Our first trip was to Greenland, and we met some wonderful people there at the American air base. It was a good experience for all of us."
One of the crew members is Andre Brown, who has been a deckhand and quartermaster since he joined the coast guard five years ago. Anyone thinking of joining should consider the various roles available on the ship, he said.
"If they want to go to sea, that's one thing — they need to know which department they want to join, whether it's galley, engine room, deck or bridge. And they need supportive people back home if they're going to go to sea," he said, as the work includes long weeks away from the shore and the family and friends that await there.
Andre Brown, who has been working for the coast guard for the past five years, says the best experience he has had was rescuing boats in need. (Arlette Lazarenko/CBC)
Ivany said it's often through family and friends that people join the coast guard.
"We have so many people who join us because they hear about us through word of mouth, family, and friends. Therefore, an open house gives us the opportunity to reach additional people who learn about the coast guard."
That's how Brown found himself on his own path.
"I ended up in the coast guard just through family, and my father encouraged me to come here and be on this boat," Brown said. "You'll never know until you really try. I didn't know if I'd like it or not, but I gave it a good shot, and it worked out."