Part 5: Cruising The St Lawrence

At The Helm

The Canadian Empress runs with two crews.  The Hospitality and Navigation Crews. I was on the Navigation crew. This consisted of 2 Deck Hands (one on day and one on night shift), a Chief Engineer,  a First Mate, and of course the Captain. Our crew worked hard. The Navigation Crew is a combined effort that is ultimately responsible for the boat, the crew, the passengers, and getting the boat safely from A to B. As some of you have read in my past posts, my experience  has mainly been in the fishing industry when it comes to working on boats. This has been an amazing experience over the past few months.

20161004_212147 Mate Pap enjoying an off duty, drink I chose for him.

With all amusement set aside,  I want to take a moment to show my respect to my Officers at the helm of the ship. The First Mate, Mate Pap. Although surprisingly young for this type of position, he takes his job seriously. Mate has completed his courses necessary and has put in the time needed to be in this position. A very impressive accomplishment. My children had the opportunity to meet Mate Pap. While it was slightly amusing to introduce a gentlemen a handful of years older then my kids as my ‘boss’, he was a great example and inspiration to show them what one can accomplish with dedication and determination.  I enjoyed working for Mate Pap over the past few months. You need to be a people person when working in this environment and Mate Pap has that down. However the vote is not in yet whether Mate Pap was always being requested for photo ops  because of his approachable sunny personality or his manicured, waxed, curly mustache the lady passengers would ga-ga over.

20161004_103632Captain Emtage dressed in his blues, helping his crew scrub the back of the Empress at UCV.

I have saved the best for last (to clarify, this is considered sucking up), Captain Emtage. This Captain is absolutely remarkable. It was a pleasure to work for such a calm, knowledgeable, & professional Captain. Captain Emtage is modest, well respected in the industry, and any company would be better off having this Captain at the helm. He is not affraid to get his hands dirty. He helps his team with tasks when the ship is at dock. And when it is not, he amazes me with his skill.  The Captain can efficiently maneuver a large vessel any day, but especially in high winds, in a small harbor ,filled with very expensive boats. The slightest touch would send most of the other boats hurtling to the bottom of the harbor, and Captain puts a 200 tonne boat filled with passengers gingerly onto a small dock with ease. He does this while looking as if he is ready for high tea. I know from experience, this is a very high stress position, however Captain Emtage makes it look easy. I can only dream to be this talented one day.

After completing a season of running (more like walking) a marathon with 4 levels, 8 stair cases, 2 ladders, and 5 hobbit like hatches of obstacles I can surprisingly tighten my belt a few holes even with James sizing all my 5 star meals. I have met and heard incredible life stories from the guests aboard the Canadian Empress and have shared many laughs with guests and crew alike.  When this crew arrived in Quebec City on that inaugural cruise with me as their new deck hand I am sure they imagined this 300lb man would not be of much use.  I feel (and hope they do too after seeing that this large man is not a lazy man), that embarking on this adventure with me aboard, made their jobs easier, made them smile more often, and left them wanting me by their side next year. While my body may need some healing I am happy to announce my boat is now fully repaired and ready to begin Sea’s The Days fall walleye season. As I flip back to position of Captain, sadly I won’t need or have a crew of 13 for support, to tie off my boat, heal my ‘hangry’, or assist my clients going forward this fishing season. But I will see you all in May, hopefully with stripes on my arm (hint hint Jason)!