Boatswains are the Canadian 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
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.
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.
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 Canadian Forces physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.
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
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
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
This position is available for part-time employment through the Reserves. Reservists generally work part-time for a Reserve unit in their community. 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.
Reservists train with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required professional standards of the job. If additional training is required in order to specialize skills, arrangements will be made by the home unit.
Typically, Reservists work or train with their home unit for at least four evenings and one weekend per month, from September to May of each year. They are paid 85% of Regular Force rates of pay and receive a reasonable benefits package.