We Were Sailors For a Day

by John MacFarlane 2017

John MacFarlane

John MacFarlane – sailor for a day. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

I was a sailor for a day in HMCS Stettler. The ship was jammed with young boys and we sailed slowly out to Sooke and back. This was an attempt to show a good face to the region and to impress a bunch of young boys to set their sights on teh navy after high school. It worked for me! I went into Sea Cadets and then into the UNTD.

Rick James

Rick James – sailor for a day. (Photo from the Rick James collection.)

Contributor Rick James recently found a childhood memento that brought back a lot of memories – a "Sailor For A Day Certificate" that he received while participating in a not–so–subtle recruiting effort to impress young boys with the prospects of going to sea in the navy. Once a year the Pacific Command took young dependants to sea in frigates and providing a great lunch in the mess. Rick James father, Gunnery Chief Petty Officer Dick James RCN, arranged for him to participate. James recalls, "It was all rather exciting. I’d been aboard Dad’s other ships: HMCS Cayuga, HMCS Crescent and probably HMCS Assiniboine when he was serving in them through 1950s. Participation was all boys and it turned out to be a beautiful day. What was most thrilling was that we were actually steaming in the vessel off the Victoria waterfront. I mean, until then I’d only been aboard an RCN vessel while alongside the jetty at the Dockyard. Now we were actually sailors ... at sea!! I was particularly intrigued too with exploring the inner workings of the frigate. So cramped and cave-like!" Margaret Orton

Margaret Orton Kennedy – almost a sailor for a day! (Photo from the Margaret Orton Kennedy collection.)

Margaret Orton Kennedy recalled "I came across my sailor for a day certificate earlier while cleaning out a box of old photos. While I do not remember it, I was neither male nor nearly old enough, at the grand age of 2 1/4, to be a full sailor for a day. My father had a very dry sense of humour, as you can see from my altered certificate."

Ray Stacey recalls "I have fond memories of those Navy Days events. In Victoria a booth stood at the corner of Douglas and Yates Streets by the Bank of Montreal. I remember a sailor giving me a form for my parents to fill in. When I returned on the day in question, form in hand, we were herded into a blue bus and taken to the Dockyard for a day on a frigate. Bofors guns were fired, mortars fired, ships sped around and we were returned to Fort and Douglas in time to make our way home at the end of the day." He says: "In 1958 the Navy went all out covering the shore of Beacon Hill Park with tents containing operations rooms and sonar rooms in action and many other displays. A very large floating model of an aircraft carrier in the cove was blown up every few hours. There were marching contingents and bands and also Maori dancers. The fleet steamed by offshore at speed making smoke screens as they passed. Quite the show!!! All very exciting and important to an 11 year old."

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) We Were Sailors For a Day. Nauticapedia.ca 2017. http://nauticapedia.ca/Gallery/Sailor_Day.php

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