Boatswains… sew what?

A Boatswain in HMCS NANAIMO works to sew some privacy curtains on October 26, 2018 during OPERATION CARIBBE. Photo: Capt Jennifer Jackson

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When someone thinks about the job of a Boatswain, sewing is probably not something that comes to mind. But sewing is in fact part of a Boatswain’s job on ship and during Op CARIBBE–one is doing just that.

“It was a last minute decision to add a sewing machine to our kit,” explains the LS Boatswain, who cannot be named for operational security. “But it has already come in handy, allowing me to make some additional privacy curtains for around the accommodations pod.”

Halifax-class ships usually include a Boatswain as a sailmaker as part of their crew, but it is unusual to find a Boatswain at a sewing machine on a Kingston-class ship like HMCS Nanaimo.

“You’d be surprised how much sewing is needed on a ship,” adds the Boatswain. “Uniform repairs, covers for boats, nametags. I have even sewn some fancy napkins for a reception.”

Learning the basics of using a sewing machine is part of QL-3 Boatswain training and at the QL-5 level they are required to make bags and other small projects to hone their skills. While it is part of the core training for the trade, it’s is not always a Boatswain’s first exposure to sewing.

“I first learned in junior high, and then learned more from my grandmother,” adds the Boatswain. “I actually like doing it. There’s a rhythm to it that clears the head and it is great to see your finished project and the results of your hard work.”

For this Boatswain, sewing is a regular part of his shift as a day worker, during CARIBBE, when he is not working on other duties such as special sea duty helmsman or as a small boat coxswain.

“I am working on curtains now, but I am sure other projects will come up. There is almost always something to do on a ship at sea – sewing included. I am glad we brought a machine – it saves having to do big projects by hand.”

As HMCS Nanaimo continues on Op CARIBBE, our sewing needs will be well mended.

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