Students navigate through nautical skills competition

Josh Pennell
Published on January 27, 2014
Marine Institute Nautical Science student Nick Dawe, foreground, and lookout officer Brandon O’Brien, simulate taking a large oil tanker in through The Narrows of St. John's harbour Saturday afternoon. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

It may not be real, but the students manning the bridge of the simulator at the Marine Institute on Saturday look tense

And for good reason. Looking out the wheelhouse windows the Irving oil drums tower overhead on the Southside Hills and across the harbour ships line the waterfront. Ahead, another ship pulls out and heads straight for us. The students quickly act to make contact with the oncoming vessel and adjust their own vessel’s course if need be.

This experience may not be real, but it is real experience for the students taking part in this year’s Nautical Skills Competition (NSC) and an experience they wouldn’t normally get.

Chris Hearn is the director for the Centre for Marine Simulation. The facility is usually being used by people in the industry and students rarely get inside. That was part of the reason for creating the competition, says Hearn.

“We wanted to engage more with the students.”

So they put together a series of events that test skills in four core areas of the nautical sciences — navigation, seamanship, shiphandling, cargo work and dynamic positioning.

There are eight teams of six and the students can be in years one through four of their program.

“Their spirit is really good. We’ve had skits and groups show up in outfits. One group got a flag and a Jack Sparrow hat,” says Hearn.

The students look like they’re all business. They’re bringing a ship into port. They’re navigating cargo in the offshore.

Chris Reglar is a first-year student. The experience is unbeatable, he says.

“It’s a world-class facility, so we want to get in there as much as anybody else,” says Reglar. “All of the competitors get to use all of the equipment multiple times and otherwise we wouldn’t get that exposure.

“It is fun. You can’t go in with a sour attitude,” says Reglar, adding that anybody taking part will come out with more experience than they had going in.

They’ll come out with more than that, in fact. Besides bragging rights, they get their names on the Capt. Jim Thorpe trophy and $1,000 for each member of the winning team.