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Top of page What They Do

Boatswains are the Forces seamanship specialists. They are responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of the ship’s rigging, shipboard cargo handling equipment, and small craft in enclosed waters.

The range of their responsibilities and supervisory duties is wider than in most other sea occupations. Their primary responsibilities are to:

  • Operate and maintain shipboard equipment associated with cargo handling and inter-ship personnel, fuel and materiel transfer at sea
  • Operate and maintain a ship’s anchor and cable equipment for such tasks as towing, launch and recovery of boats, and rescue operations
  • Operate and navigate small craft in enclosed waters
  • Perform required tasks with a ship’s rigging, rope work and lifesaving equipment
  • Organize the storage, training, and use of small arms, demolitions and ammunition
  • Plan, organize and conduct drill and ceremonies
  • Assist and supervise deck crews in maintaining the ship and its equipment
  • Operate light industrial equipment required for tasks associated  
  • Coordinate watchkeeping duties at sea and in harbour
Top of page Working Environment

The Boatswain is truly “The Professional Sailor,” experiencing the unique adventures and challenges that come with work at sea, such as open deck surfaces and a rotating shift or watch system. Ashore, Boatswains normally work as instructors training other naval personnel. Junior Boatswains spend time working outside their occupation performing general duties such as cleaning, painting, working in the cafeteria, standing sentry duty, storing the ship, and acting as members of the Naval Boarding Party.

Top of page Career Development

The starting salary for fully-trained Boatswains is $49,400 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Boatswains who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Top of page Related Civilian Occupations
  • Tugboat captain
  • Deck hand on a fishing vessel
  • Boatswains employed by private ships
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Basic Military Qualification

The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Forces physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding. 

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Naval Environmental Training

Naval recruits attend the Canadian Forces Fleet School either in Esquimalt, British Columbia or Halifax, Nova Scotia for approximately five weeks. Training includes the following topics:

  • Naval history and organization
  • Shipboard firefighting and damage control
  • Shipboard safety and ship’s security
  • Watchkeeping duties
  • Seamanship
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Basic Occupational Qualification Training

The next training is specific to the duties of Boatswains. It lasts about 12 weeks. It includes the following topics:

  • Jackstay transfer of materiel and personnel between ships at sea
  • Procedures for ship refuelling at sea
  • Working of anchors, cables and lines, and tasks associated with mooring, anchoring, slipping and towing
  • Boat work, including high-speed small boat operation, boat maintenance and navigation
  • Rescue operations
  • Handling, preparation and detonation of demolition charges
  • Rigging tasks including brows, ladders and buoys
  • Maintenance of the upper deck and its equipment
  • Maintenance of small arms
  • Operation and maintenance of a .50 calibre heavy machine-gun
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Specialty Training

Boatswains may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Naval Boarding Party
  • Command of Tender Vessels
  • Navigator's Yeoman
  • Instructional Techniques
  • Ship's Diver
  • Demolition
We are now accepting applications for this job through Direct Entry.
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Required Education

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondaire IV in Canada. Foreign education may be accepted.

This occupation is available within the following environments: Navy.
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Serve with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time Employment

Boatswains serve with the Royal Canadian Navy. They are employed as seamanship specialists and are responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of a ship’s rigging, shipboard cargo handling equipment, and small craft in enclosed waters. When they are employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve at a Forces home port location within Canada.

Reserve Force Training

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to prepare them for the Basic Military Qualification course. Following basic training, and Naval environmental training, Naval recruits train for the Boatswain qualification at the Canadian Forces Fleet School either in Esquimalt, British Columbia or Halifax, Nova Scotia for approximately nine weeks (53 training days).

Working Environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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Find a unit in your area and start the application process for part-time employment now.

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