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A Second Seagoing Career in Canada
by Bill Dancer


Reasons to Emigrate

  

In 1968, at the age of 31, I emigrated to Canada to start a second seagoing career and to marry  my wife Carol in 1969. Carol was born in the UK but had lived in Canada for 24 years by that time.

I had been in the Merchant Navy for 14 years - serving with the same company first as a Cadet and, by then, Chief Officer on their cargo liners. It was a wonderful company to work for and I had dreams of a single career with that company ending as Captain of one of their ships.

By 1968, it was clear that this dream would not be fulfilled, at least not in ships that had long stays in ports that allowed you get to know people and places. Shipping was becoming more about minimizing time in port, larger and fewer ships and keeping costs down. There appeared to be less chance of ever becoming a captain and the majority of time was spent watch keeping. This was not for me.

 

An Ability to Adapt

   

One thing my Merchant Navy time did was cure me of the pain of leaving home that emigrants usually suffer. This pain, for me at least, was the feeling of being an outsider (dare I say a DFL) when home on leave. I think being out of tune with nuances of your friends lives coupled with the different perspective on life seagoing gives you were the root causes of this pain.

   

A Coast Guard Career in Canada

   
Prior to leaving for Canada , as a condition of being accepted as a "Landed Immigrant", I had applied for and obtained a job with the Canadian Coast Guard starting as Relief Third Officer in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

   

  

I flew by Douglas DC8 to Halifax, Nova Scotia. on the 18th July 1968 and, on the 20th July, was sailing to the Arctic on the Coast Guard ship "Narwhal" as 3rd Officer to re-supply Arctic villages and DEW Line stations, a 3 month trip. (Note: Dew Line means "Distant Early Warning" line. It was a line of radar stations set up around the arctic circle during the Cold War in order to provide early warning of any Soviet air attack ).

So began a 28 plus year second career with Coast Guard which, in seamanship terms, could be best described as "Now for something completely different". Whereas, in the Merchant Navy you kept well away from all hazards, the requirement of the Coast Guard operations (placing buoys, breaking out and escorting ships in ice and performing rescues in usually less than ideal conditions) was by definition putting you close to hazards. My dreams of being captain were realised by 1972 on smaller ships and, eventually, on the larger icebreakers.

In the early 80,s I started on a series of shore based jobs within Coast Guard ending up in charge of the Western Region operations and, at the very end, for variety, looking after the operational end of picking up a sunken loaded oil barge on the east coast.

  

And No Regrets...

   

My second career was equally as enjoyable as the first and allowed me to fulfill my seagoing dreams and also to live in various parts of this huge and wonderful nation (Nova Scotia, Newfoundland/Labrador, Ontario and British Columbia). 

 

  

I became a citizen in 1974 which, besides marrying Carol, is smartest thing I have done. 

I have no regrets and hope to spend many more years in retirement here in Victoria where I can do all the outdoor things I love in relative comfort all year and continue to strive to keep my mind's age at least 30 years younger than the calendar says.

  

Bill Dancer
Victoria
British Columbia
  
September 2008



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