S1 Graham: From Summerside Campus to HMCS Summerside

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Navy News / December 22, 2020

by Lt Sheila Tham

Sailor 1st Class (S1) Nicolas Graham is a Marine Technician on Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Summerside which recently deployed to the Central Caribbean for Operation CARIBBE. The only crew member from Prince Edward Island, S1 Graham grew up in Charlottetown and has many connections to the ship’s namesake town of Summerside, P.E.I.

Before joining the Navy, S1 Graham was an apprentice electrician and a sailing instructor at the Summerside Yacht and Curling Club.

“I started sailing at 12 with 23 Kent Sea Cadets – I just joined one summer and loved it so I kept doing it,” he says. “I ended up teaching sailing for two years and became the head sail instructor.”

After going to Holland College’s Summerside Waterfront Campus for electro-mechanical technology, joining the Naval Reserve as a Marine Technician just made sense.

“You get choices with the Reserves,” he says. “You can choose what coast, what length of contract, when you want to work, and what type of ship you want to sail on.”

And variety is part of the appeal.

“After this, I would like to sail with the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships next.”

S1 Graham took the opportunity during Operation CARIBBE to finish his B-ticket package, one of the qualification levels for Marine Technicians. “Sailing in a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel gives junior ranks a lot more responsibility, because the crew is smaller,” he says, “It also introduces you to sea states and we get to do some missions that really give you a purpose.”

It’s not his first sail in a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel, having spent time in Africa on board HMCS Kingston on Operation PROJECTION. “I really liked doing the community relation activities. We helped repair schools for kids in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, fixing desks and holes in the roof,” he says. “The engineering department has a lot to do on ship so you don’t always get to go do those activities, but working with the kids there was really cool.”

Although rewarding, S1 Graham noted that his favourite memory took place in the Mediterranean. “There was a bioluminescent algae bloom that lit up the entire ship and a pod of dolphins swimming through it, glowing,” he remarked.

Travelling is one of the perks of the job, but not the only one.

“In between watches we can play guitar,” he says. “Another one of the guys in the shop plays guitar, too, but we play totally different styles of music and we can learn from each other.”

S1 Graham joined the Reserves for job stability and the variety.

“Growing up in Charlottetown, I thought the best job I could find was at Cavendish Farms – it’s a great job, but I would be working on the same system every day. With the Navy I can work on different ships, different systems all the time.”

When asked what advice he would give to someone looking to join, S1 Graham said, “If you give your all, you will be rewarded and well-respected by your crewmates.”

 

Operation CARIBBE is Canada’s contribution to U.S. Enhanced Counter-narcotics Operations under U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATFS). The intent is to conduct international detection, monitoring and interdiction of illicit trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and off the Pacific coast of Central America. To make this happen, Canadian ships embark a Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) from the United States Coast Guard. The synchronization of capabilities between the Royal Canadian Navy and U.S. Coast Guard enables greater success in reducing drug trafficking while strengthening international interoperability.