Called to the sea
Colin Carter of Stephenville followed his father’s footsteps to become Marine Atlantic captain
Day 1 in a three-day series marking 120 years of ferry connection between Cape Breton and N.L.
Colin Carter knew from a young age he wanted to make a living on the sea.
In fact, he spent many hours on the water as a child because his father was a captain for Marine Atlantic, before moving on to opportunities with larger companies.
“My uncles were captains as well,” Carter said. “There was a lot of seagoing people in my family and that really inspired me in my career.”
As the years went on, it was clear Carter would work on a boat. His dream of being a captain 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, who lives in Stephenville, said there were many reasons why he wanted to stay closer to home and not travel long distances for work.
“I was starting a young family and I really wanted to be closer to them,” Carter said.
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.
Over the past eight years, Carter has had many memorable moments as a captain.
In March 2011, he helmed the final crossing of the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood from Port aux Basques to North Sydney.
The Smallwood and Caribou were replaced that year by the MV Highlanders and MV Blue Puttees, two of Marine Atlantic’s current four vessels.
He says the biggest adjustment to the new vessels was getting used to handling them.
“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,” Carter explained.
Another challenging part of being a captain is making the decision whether or not to sail in inclement weather.
“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 borderline.” Carter has a wife and two sons. “(My sons) have been on the boat before — it was nice letting them see what I do,” Carter said.
His 14-year-old son has already said he wants to be a captain like his father one day.
“It would be interesting to be able to work side by side with him,” Carter said.
MV Highlanders Capt. Colin Carter of Marine Atlantic looks into the distance during an Aug. 7 afternoon crossing between North Sydney and Port aux Basques. Carter, who lives in Stephenville, has been a captain with Marine Atlantic for the past eight years.