Deck hand - Helms (man-woman) - Boatswain


Navigating on board a Coast Guard vessel brought me the opportunity to go to places very few people have a chance to visit. When you arrive in Eureka, close to the polar ice cap, the immensity of this unhabited territory is breath taking. My trade allowed me to realise my dream: visit the Arctic. If you have a taste for adventure, discovery of new horizons and meeting other cultures, the Canadian Coast Guard is the employer for you.
Deck hand

Maude Perreault, Deck hand
CCGS Des Groseilliers

Deck Hand

On board a vessel, the deck equipments must be safe, maintained and ready to be used at any moment. Thus, the Deck Hand's role is important since he is the person ensuring the deck equipment operational status by maintaining them (winches, windlass, cabstans, hatches, cables, etc.) used for the vessel manoeuver and mooring.

Deck Hands are involved in most of the vessel operations and their service is essential on every Coast Guard ship. They participate to the cargo loading, unloading and handling.

Their services are also required during the seasonal buoy tending operations. On some occasions, the Deck Hand may be required to operate the ship's windlass.

During search and rescue operations, the Deck Hand may be assigned to participate in the operations as a look-out on board the ship or helicopter.

Some Deck Hands can also be part of the fire fighting teams as fire fighters or assistants.

The Deck Hand's services are also required during operations requiring the use of small crafts, for example, for transportation of merchandises or to oversee fuel transfer operations. Deck Hands also board the helicopter in order to assist the technicians on navigational aids land sites.

The Deck Hand also executes various maintenance tasks aboard the ship, such as cleaning and painting works, etc.

Deck Hands

Deck Hands
Buoy tending operations

Deck Hands

Deck Hands
Fire fighting equipment


As a Boatswain, you have the responsibility to ensure that all deck operations unfold safely and in conformance with the Chief Officer's directions. You are also in constant communication with the wheelhouse.

The success of operations as important as the buoys tending operations, the loading and unloading of cargo, etc. depend in great part upon the Boatswain and his deck crew team.

The cargo handling, by nature, is a high accident potential activity. The Boatswain and Deck Hands must be cautious and use proper work mehods, more so, when the weather conditions worsen: winds, high waves, etc.

When operations allow it, the Boatswain assigns staff to ensure that the inside of the ship is clean. In doing so, the safety of the deck as well as the well-being of the crew are under his responsibility.

When operations allow it, the Boatswain assigns staff to ensure that the inside of the ship is clean. In doing so, the safety of the deck as well as the well-being of the crew are under his responsibility.


Pierre Vallières
CCGS Des Groseilliers

Helms (man-woman)

The Helms (man-woman) executes his shift in the wheelhouse. His responsibilities include steering the ship as per the Navigation Officer's instructions. He is responsible to ensure that the ship holds its bearing. The helms man is also responsible for reporting any objects hindering the navigation or any anomaly in the navigation equipment such as the gyrocompas, magnetic compas or steering system problems.

As helms (man-woman), you also act as look-out in the wheelhouse. The look-out is a person placed on a vessel to observe the ship's environment. The look-out does visual and auditive observations to ensure the knowledge of any conditions surrounding the ship, for example: shipwrecked persons, vessels, ice, reefs. History has shown that it is a good habit to keep a sharp look-out whenever a ship is at sea.

The helms (man-woman) will sometimes be assigned to operate small crafts (zodiac, barge). He may also be assigned to operate the winches, for example, during cargo loading and unloading operations. He can also replace the boatswain, when required.

Helms man

Thierry Alamy
Helms man
CCGS Des Groseilliers

Helms man

Daniel Gosselin
Helms man
CCGS Des Groseilliers

What academic training and professional development do I need for a Deck Hand position?

  • Marine Emergency Duty training :
    • Basic security STCW (60h);
    • Lifeboats and liferafts exploitation competency (28h);
  • Sea time with apprenticeship on board in order to meet Transport Canada exam requirements and advance to other positions.

Where can I study?

  • Institut maritime du Québec offers Marine Emergency Duty training in Lévis (Québec Area).

What are my career opportunities?

  • Boatswain;
  • Navigation Officer;
  • Various positions within the Federal Public Services.

What qualities and interests are essential?

  • Enjoy team work;
  • Be in good physical condition;
  • Aptitude for manual work;
  • Resourcefulness and initiative;
  • Able to work irregular schedules;
  • Taste for adventure and travel!

Average initial annual income: 45 000 $ to 55 000 $

Salary varies according to position and time worked. Most Coast Guard crews work a schedule called lay-day, or a period of 14 to 42 days at sea, followed by equivalent time off with pay.

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