Sub-Lieutenant Vinesh Shah

Sailor Profile / August 19, 2019

Sub-Lieutenant (SLt) Vinesh Shah was 18 when his family left Mumbai, India to start a new life in Canada.

Now in his late 20s, Shah is using his upbringing to solve problems for Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Oriole as a Logistics Officer.

“India is a resource scarce centre, so we were always having to find makeshift solutions to all sorts of things,” said SLt Shah.

Whether it was repurposing cricket balls to use in other sports, creating a multipurpose futon/bed/table out of repurposed wall-décor, or repairing electronics with found wire and a soldering iron, he said a ‘creative solutions’ attitude permeated his life as an Indian youth.

“I remember one funny story when I had to move a large TV and we didn’t have a car so I found a friend and the two of us transported it by holding it with one arm each as we rode two different bicycles down the road,” he said.

This unique mindset recently proved useful when the HMCS Oriole was docked in Summerside, PEI. The dock agent said that a brow – which is like a gangplank for getting on and off the ship – wasn’t available to be used.

“Well, we had to makeshift one because it’s something you definitely need. I had the idea that because there were no marina or ship related shops nearby that we should go to the Home Depot in Charlottetown, an hour away, and just make one ourselves out of construction equipment,” he said.

“It was the most convenient solution at the time to meet our goals.”

SLt Shah said his upbringing in the hierarchical structure of Indian culture made Canada a cultural shock at first but later proved to be an asset as he transitioned into the Canadian Armed Forces structure.

He said that in India, eye contact can be considered rude and aggressive while in Western Culture, if a person doesn’t do it, it can be looked at as hiding something. In India, he said, people are very careful not to brag while in Western culture talking about one’s accomplishments is considered a positive way of self-expression.

SLt Shah said that his alternate upbringing has allowed him to more-easily navigate the rank structure and that he is “just more comfortable knowing when to follow and knowing when to question and clarify.”

His attitude helped the Oriole crew to avoid missing Canada Day recently when, at the last minute, festival organizers in Toronto wanted the ship to move from its berth which would mean cancelling a day of shore leave for the crew.

SLt Shah took the initiative and organized a meeting with city councillors and, to his captain’s pleasure, negotiated movement on a later date, preserving a much needed day of recuperation for the busy crew which has been deployed on the Great Lakes Deployment (GLD) for almost a month.

“While there are always positions and authorities, sometimes critical thinking can create conveniences on all sides,” he said.

This summer SLt Shah is beginning to live his dream of travelling and experiencing new places with the Royal Canadian Navy. This year the Oriole passed through Rhode Island and New York State before travelling up the East Coast and beginning its GLD. Since then it’s stopped in several American and Canadian cities along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes giving the public an opportunity to actually set foot on a navy ship and talk to sailors.

“GLD is a good way to inform the public, including potential recruits, about the navy,” he said.