NIC marine training instructor Clive Quigley fell in love with working on the water as a young boy growing up in Alert Bay.
“There was a man who’d bring his boat to deliver wood from his sawmill,” said Quigley. “I’d help him unload his lumber and he’d let me steer the boat. Just doing that job made me feel 10 feet tall.”
Quigley started his career as a deckhand on the ferry between Port McNeill and Sointula and then transferred to the Powell River – Comox route, working in various positions from deckhand to chief officer. It was at BC Ferries he got his first taste of teaching.
“I got into instructing pretty quickly and really enjoyed it,” Quigley said. “I started with first aid and developed from there. So when I retired I thought, let’s see if NIC could use my skills – and they could. I’m busier now than I thought I would ever be.”
Quigley is one of three marine training instructors at North Island College, which offers a range of marine training courses, from basic first aid to operator competency certificates for commercial and fishing vessels.
Teaching the safety courses has also been a learning experience for Quigley, himself.
“The courses that I instruct – I had to go back and delve deeply into the material so I can explain it to others,” said Quigley. “It’s interesting, exciting material to teach and if I’m excited about a topic, the students get excited too.”
Quigley also looks for ways to demonstrate the systems student will be using on the water, in the classroom. “When we’re learning the bouyage system we set up a group of buoys in the middle of the floor and drive boats through them so the students can see what we’re talking about,” he said. “One of the things I love the most about teaching is that moment when it clicks for students and they get it.”
Through all the material and courses he instructs, Quigley’s top focus is safety.
“It’s easy to get complacent, but things can happen fast out on the water,” said Quigley. “I had a student who was working as a watchman and a humpback breached and capsized the boat. He was thrown, unconscious, into the water and his inflatable lifejacket saved him.”
Those kind of examples resonate with students and demonstrate the importance of following proper safety procedures, said Quigley.
“It’s the most hazardous industry in BC, in terms of loss of life,” he noted. “We teach students how to follow a passage plan that they’ve looked at and studied, the importance of having a secondary plan in case the weather changes, a plan on how to communicate if you get into distress and a sail plan to leave at home with someone who can call for help if you’re overdue.”
There is a lot of interest in the training, noted Quigley, with students coming into the training courses with a variety of backgrounds and career interests.
“Most of the people I run into have already started working on the water and they’re told in order to work safely you’re going to need these certificates,” he said. “There’s some who have purchased their own vessels and want to learn how to operate them safely.”
One of the advantages of working in the marine industry is the variety of work you can do, something Quigley encourages students to explore.
“Even for me, working on ferries gave me limited experience into the rest of the industry,” he said. “Now that I’m teaching I get to learn about shellfish farming, salmon farming, the tug boat industry, the fishing industry and the tourist industry with whale watching and guiding. Students will ask me where they can go in this industry and I encourage them to go as far as possible.”