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Pierre Vallee - Trois Rivieres, Quebec, Canada - French (Global Lives Project, 2013) -23:00:00 - 23:29:59

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Areas of Sherbrooke, Drummondville, La Contenance, Lake Saint-Jean, the Magdalen Islands, the Gaspésie in order to bring everyone to the same mathematical level. The first course is a refresher course and he told me: “If you pass the first mathematics course I will credit you with your maths from you previous course”. So, I worked hard. 0.44 --0.44. And when I had specific questions I could count on the help of my class mates, my friends from that time, especially a colleague who is now pilot between Quebec and Escoumins, Mr Simon Dauré. Simon was smart as a whip mathematics were relatively easy for him. When I had questions I could count on him, therefore, I passed my refresher course. They credited me with my maths from secondary five, then, I continued my journey at the institute and never failed another class. The program is called cooperative, i.e. the study sessions are interspersed with training at sea. The course is spread over a period of four years. It is a technique that normally takes about three years, but since we must do twelve months at sea, not twelve consecutive months, twelve months as a cadet on a ship, the course is spread over a period of four years. I kept on going despite the shortcomings I had at the beginning of the program in Rimouski. All went well, and I found out afterwards that it had surprised my career education teacher. She could not see how ... With the lack of seriousness I had towards my studies at that time, how I could have managed to get through the navigation program which is recognized as one of the hardest because the level of science is quite high. We need to be quite good at math and science to succeed the navigation program. It was the case for me, despite the fact that I failed math in secondary four. I didn't fail due to a lack of intelligence but more a lack of will, so ... I managed to pass the course. After that, well, unlike today there were no exemptions. To progress we had to pass exams ... Although we had graduated from a maritime institute we were not allowed to do ... To have the function of navigating officer until we obtained a licence from the Canadian Ministry of Transportation. Issued by one of those organizations called ... Transport Canada or Coast Guard; they have merged. Therefore, it is Transport Canada that issues navigation certificates. So, to have a navigation certificate we had to take... we had to take exams with Transport Canada. For the first certificate, which is a certificate of mate or third officer, there was, if I remember correctly, four written exams plus one oral exam. You had to get 70% in each to pass. To take the exams there was a pre-established schedule, one cannot take them at any given time, we must take them according to the schedule provided. I took my writing exams, my oral exam and I got my Watchkeeping Mate certificate. After that we had to navigate for 6 months. Once again, not consecutively, not necessarily consecutively but for six months on board a ship as third officer, to be able to take the exams for Second Mate. 0.52 --0.52 --There was, if I remember correctly, 6 written exams plus one oral exam. to get a Second Mate's certificate. You need to understand; it is not because you now have a Second Mate's certificate that you necessarily have the function of Second Mate. We don't have the function of the certificate that we have acquired until we have proven to the ship-owner or the Master Mariner that we are ready to have a position with greater responsibilities. So, I passed my Second Mate certificate. After that, we had to navigate for 12 months in order to get a certificate of First Mate. Again, there were 6 written exams plus 2 oral exams . We still had to have 70% in each. Then, after the second oral we could have a certificate of First Mate, which I got. Then, once again we sail for 12 months, 5 written exams, one oral exam and then we end up with the Master Mariner certificate. Which is the highest certificate of the Canadian Merchant Navy. I got my master Mariner certificate at the age of 27 years old. 6 years after completing my course at the Maritime Institute. A few months later, I became Captain of a ship at the age of 27. I was first Captain at 27. My last vessel as Captain was the big ship Camille-Marcoux. Which is between Matane, Baie-Comeau and Godbout. A ferry boat belonging to Société des traversiers Quebec. And, to find yourself captain at 27 is relatively early in a career normally. But to find yourself captain of a ferry like that with passengers on-board at 27 that was really... it was a first. Then, when I used to meet passengers in the corridors they would ask to speak to the captain and I would say: “I'm the captain”. And they would answer: “No, no, we would like to see the real captain”. So, it resulted in some pretty funny situations. But for some people it is a job where the responsibilities are great. So, when we are on the boats, when one is third officer we are responsible for the safety equipment. Because on a boat when we have left the dock if anything happens we have to manage internally. So we are trained as fire fighter. Because if there is a fire we must be able to fight the fire. We are trained in first aid because if there is an accident or if anyone has any health problems or physical problem we have to be able to intervene. So ... -- Police officer too? -- A little bit police officer too, then... It is a particular job because ... It's not like a job ashore. If the person does not like his work ashore, he can feel better by thinking that this evening he will find the people he loves most in the world, his children, his wife. On a boat when we leave for 4 months we are always with the 22, 23, 24 other crew members. You'll work with these people, you'll recreate yourself with these people. You'll eat with these people. So adaptability is something that is necessary to be able to do this job. You must also like it, you've got to love sailing. You have to be a little lonely in the soul because although there are always people on the boat you're far away from the people that love you. You have to be willing to accept that. And most importantly the people you love must be willing to accept it too. The wife or partner must accept it. Must know. 0.54 - 0.54 It is difficult enough to navigate if on top of that we feel pressure coming from family or our girlfriend ... It is often the reason why maritime careers end early. Because ... When you call home after not having spoken to... I'm talking about the past because it's been... It has been 15 years since I stopped sailing long distances I'm ... I sailed on the coast here, and after that as an apprentice and as a pilot but in those days the communication was not like today. We didn't have cell phones. The only way to call home when we were on a long journey out at sea was over satellite phone and it was very very expensive. I remember one New Year's Eve, my wife, who was at her mother's decided to call me on board. We talked about 31 minutes and it cost something like $675. Then I remember after wishing merry Christmas, happy new year, saying I love you, I miss you, we talked about buying a mattress and just by talking like that we paid it... we paid it twice this mattress. Communication wasn't like it is today. There were times when we could spend two weeks without being able to talk to our wives, our girlfriends, our parents. 2, 3 weeks. I used to use the fax. Via the telephone or Inmarsat I would write quite small on a single sheet and to send a sheet it would cost about a minute and a half so it was about $5 to send. I was able to... to talk a lot via fax. So, we would not call often...we did not have a lot of calls from our families. Then, if when you call your wife or your partner and she cries on the phone because she is bored, because she had brake problems with the car, because the little one has the flu, it becomes unbearable. The colleagues who have had to live these situations, all stopped navigating to focus on their families. Which is not a bad choice, I do not criticize their choice but it is the reality. Today communications are a little bit easier Most boats have affordable communications systems that unable talking with families in a more sustainable way whilst on board. Also, the rotations on board are shorter. For me the trip... my longest trip was 5 and a half months. When I was... It wasn't that trip, but when I think a little about the... bad sides of navigation. When I left for my last long trip I left; my oldest son was 3 weeks old. Then, when I came home he was 5 and a half months old. So, losing those months... of the life of a little baby, it is really taxing on a personal level. And if your wife blames you for it it becomes unbearable and people don't come back. -- Good evening sir, ... we had not received our time for... 55 00 55 ... -- That's it, there is no traffic reported coming down. The ... is in operation Just below Charlie 33, circumnavigating Thank you for the... Charlie 33, passing north. Is ...asked? -- Negative sir. -- Roger that. -- Before we go, we'll take your name and your address and we will send you a check later, OK? --Yes, OK. -- Don't stay too long, stay on Pierre 30 seconds then ... those are the instructions. --OK. We can barely see. --0.45 --0.45 --0.42 --0.42 -- The speed of the boat is 17.2 17.2, 17.3 it relates to the sea bed. Evidently the sea bed does not move. So, the boat in relation to the sea bed moves at 17 knots. However, the speed of the boat is 13 knots. So, you'll ask how come if the boat can do 13 knots we are going at 17 knots? It is because the mass of water is also moving. And the mass of water currently moves at about 4 ½ knots. Where we are here is called the Richelieu Rapids. It has nothing to do with the Richelieu River. The story says that ... when the tall ships came up to Montreal; here is a place that has a lot of currents and at low tide the rocks are bare on either sides. So, there were a lot of boats that ran aground in this area. And they were bringing... in order to reduce their weight, to be able to resurface or sometimes because the boats were really too broken down. They would land their cargo and sell it on the little island here. Then, the locals would have called it the rich place because there was a lot of merchandise, so it is the rich place and not the... The Richelieu like the Richelieu River which was named in honor of the Lord Richelieu. -- Are there still strandings? accidents? -- Oh yes, there are still strandings. There are accidents. Obviously we hope it never happens, but most incidents or accidents are caused by mechanical problems. Like the incident that I mentioned to you earlier. Where it remained an incident because there were no consequences, there was no ... the ship did not run aground, there were no injuries, there was no pollution. So it remained an incident but if this incident escalates just a little bit more the ship will run aground with the consequences associated with that, we recently saw large maritime accidents with serious consequences. We are never safe from an incident or accident like that. Pilots are human, captains, helmsmen are human. We are not immune to the failure of one of those men involved here. However, the bridge team together with the pilot ensures that these risks are reduced to a minimum. -- During the early years... of seaways there were more incidents, weren't there? -- Honestly, I don't think that there were many more accidents. The seaway has always been recognized as being very, very safe for the environment and for boats. There are very few incidents or accidents. I do not remember the statistics by heart but it is of the order of 1 out of 5000, when there is one incident or one accident. There are small incidents like; during a docking manoeuver hitting a dock a little harder than what we would have wanted. Yes. It happens... a few times a year we have mishaps of like that. But accidents that are important where there are serious consequences I think it is about 1 in 10,000. --0.30. --0.30. -- Before there were certified pilots for the seaway, were there pilots from elsewhere? From ... abroad? The incident rate was higher, right? -- No, that never happened. We have never had foreign pilots here. Piloting is a local knowledge, we have always had local pilots. -- From the very beginning? -- Since the very beginning. Yes. As a matter of fact the first pilots were Native Americans who inhabited the area. When Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence he would take on board an Indian pilot because although he was a great navigator in the ocean Jacques Cartier had no local knowledge to be able to guide himself up the St. Lawrence to Montreal. 0.28. 0.28. There were pilots from the start. The first pilot... The first recognized pilot is Abraham Martin. And with the... With the famous plains of Abraham and Abraham's coast. we realize that it took place a really long time ago. There is piloting around the world, there is piloting in almost all the major rivers, Large rivers and major ports in the world because piloting is a local knowledge. I know very well ... I am very familiar with, like the back of my pocket, 72000 sailors from the St. Lawrence River between Quebec and Trois-Rivières and the harbors, the two major harbors of Quebec and Trois-Rivières. I am excellent in that sector. However, outside of that area I am an ordinary sailor like any other. However, what makes my specialty or sub-specialty is my thorough knowledge of this section of river. My colleagues in the Trois-Rivières--Montreal area have in-depth knowledge of the Trois-Rivières--Montreal area. Then, my colleagues in Quebec--Escoumins have extensive knowledge of the Quebec--Escoumins sector. Then, we are talking about the navigation channel, about shoals, about currents, about the weather, about the micro-climate's conditions. In addition to the more general knowledge of navigation for all sectors we have developed and adapted the knowledge for our local area. But the pilots are always locals. -- Do you meet your fellow pilots from time to time? -- We meet them when we change pilot as you saw earlier, as you will see in Quebec. Obviously this is not meeting that allowed us to share a lot. We only exchange technical information on the ship and on the trip. On occasion, once a year, we met... we have an annual event for all the pilots of our corporation which comprises the sectors of Quebec--Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières --Montreal and Montreal Harbour. When I did my mandate as Vice President I worked a lot more with the pilots of the other corporation. The pilots of the Corporation of the Port Saint Lawrence and other Canadian pilots because we had Canadian harbor pilot meetings. Then, I had the opportunity to meet colleagues from across Canada. 0.50. 0.50 And I attended the International Maritime Pilots meeting in London last fall. There, I had the opportunity to meet pilots from around the world and to my great surprise people with whom I had sailed almost 20 years ago. Who have become pilots and also attend the same meeting. Two colleagues I hadn't seen for for almost 20 years I saw them in London and... It was very nice to share old memories together. 0.80. --0.80 --0.90. --0.90. --Take the... When I shoot outside I turn off the light to prevent the glare when I film through the window I turn the light off to avoid the glare. So, it will be very zen, it will be very zen.

Video Details

Duration: 30 minutes and 1 second
Year: 2013
Country: Canada
Language: French (Canada)
Producer: Karen Vanderborght
Views: 59
Posted by: globallives on Sep 30, 2013

Pierre guides a cargo ship on the St. Lawrence River at night. He gives instructions to the helmsman from the navigation bridge and explains how he got through boat pilot formation.

This is part of a 24-hour recording of a day in the life of Pierre Vallée, who works as a commercial ship pilot on the St. Lawrence River in Canada. This forms part of the Global Lives Project, a video library of life experience.

This video was produced by Karen Vanderborght, Catherine Genest, Rébecca Lavoie, Ariane Lorrain, Marianne Ploska, Patrick Pearce and Yanie Dupont-Hébert. 

For more information please visit

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