Marine Atlantic to the rescue. Again
Carter follows in father’s footsteps to become Marine Atlantic captain
MV Highlanders responds to distress for second time in as many weeks
Editor’s note: This is the last instalment of a three-part series which commemorates 120 years of connection between Cape Breton and ‘The Rock.’
NORTH SYDNEY, N.S. – Colin Carter knew from a young age he wanted to make a living on the sea.
Carter spent many hours on the water as a child as his father was a captain for Marine Atlantic, before eventually moving on to bigger and better opportunities with larger companies.
“My uncles were captains as well,” Carter said. “There was a lot of sea-going people in my family and that really inspired me in my career.”
As the years went on, it was clear that Carter would work on a boat. His dream of being a captain eventually became a reality with Marine Atlantic in 2010.
“In this industry you can really go all over the world and there’s lots of work,” Carter said. “I liked the idea of working with Marine Atlantic because it was closer to home, and the relief system was really good.”
Carter, a Stephenville, N.L., resident, said there were many reasons why he wanted to stay closer to home and not travel long distance for work.
“I was starting a young family and I really wanted to be closer to them,” Carter said. “You can’t get much closer to home than Marine Atlantic – it can sometimes be difficult to juggle home and work life because you’re still away, but it’s not too bad.”
Carter, 43, isn’t the only active captain in his family. His brother, Chris, also works as a captain with Marine Atlantic, however the two have never captained together.
“We have an opportunity to see things that people don’t always get to see, like sunrises and sunsets,” Carter said. “They’re amazing to some people and they enjoy seeing them, but we take it for granted now because we’ve seen them (sunrises and sunsets) so much.”
Over the past eight years, Carter has had many memorable moments as a captain.
In March 2011, Carter captained the final crossing of the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood from Port aux Basques to North Sydney.
The Smallwood and Caribou were both replaced that year by the MV Highlanders and MV Blue Puttees, two of Marine Atlantic’s current four vessels.
“For a lot of the crew members, they were disappointed to see those vessels go because they really enjoyed working on them,” Carter said.
“It was sort of disappointing for me as well because I was used to those vessels, and the new ones, I think all the captains didn’t know what to expect at the time, so it was quite disappointing.”
As a captain, the biggest adjustment to the new vessels was getting used to handling the ship.
“Every ship is different how they handle, and you have to get used to that – it was a challenge,” Carter said. “We were the first ones going on these ships and we didn’t really have anyone to train us, so we had to get a feel for it.”
Another challenging part of being a captain is making the decision whether or not to sail in inclement weather conditions.
“We mainly look at the forecast and if it looks like the winds could get up too high where we don’t think we would be able to get into dock, we make the decision to cancel the sailing,” Carter said.
“The captains will talk to each other and discuss the weather and decide from there if a sailing can happen. If you have two experienced skippers, they might decide to have a crossing if it’s boarder line.”
Outside of work, Carter has a wife and two sons, all of whom currently live in Newfoundland.
“They (my sons) have been on the boat before – it was nice letting them see what I do,” Carter said.
Carter’s 14-year-old son has already said he wants to be a captain like his father one day.
“He’s going to try to keep it in the family and that’s important to me,” Carter said. “It would be interesting to be able to work side-by-side with him.”
Captain Colin Carter stands for a picture overlooking the front of the MV Highlanders, a vessel owned by Marine Atlantic. Carter has been a captain with the company for the past eight years.