Kris Campbell strolls through Shining Waters boatyard in Tantallon, Nova Scotia on a sunny, late fall day. He passes sailboats, motor yachts, boats big and small. He knows how to fix almost anything that might go wrong with any of them. It’s this variation of skills and knowledge, on top of working near the ocean, that Kris loves about being a Marine Service Technician.
He used to work on cars in Vancouver. That was good for a tinkerer like Kris, but automotive can get repetitive. “I was bored fixing the same thing in the shop every day,” he says, “I didn’t think that would be a good long-term plan for me.”
He went on a sailing trip with a friend, and was instantly hooked on the ocean. “You see this whole world of sailboats and going places,” he explains, “once you get a taste of what there is, there’s all these opportunities to work in the marine industry. So I switched.” Kris began working as a Marine Service Technician. That was about 12 years ago, he estimates. Today, he's fixing the stern drive of a powerboat. Tomorrow it could be anything.
Marine Service Technician is a job for which there is a designated trade apprenticeship administered by the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association. MSTs service, repair, refit and upgrade commercial and pleasure boats. That means an MST can do just about anything —electrical wiring, setting and tuning rigging on sailboats, structural and cosmetic work, engines and propulsion systems, plumbing and mechanical work, and more.
Kris got a job with a small travelling marine service company. He says his automotive background helped. “It’s really like 6 or 7 trades at once,” he says, “you have to be a machinist, a gas engine mechanic, a diesel engine mechanic, an electrician, a communication specialist…It kind of never stops, but that’s what makes it so interesting.” The on-the-go part of the work was even better. “I also didn’t want to be committed to living in a city for my entire life,” he says.
He adds that working in the marine industry is so flexible you can find opportunity anywhere. “When you have all this knowledge and the tools, you can really be your own boss,” he says, “if you want that kind of freedom to pack up in your car and go travelling, and work along the way, you can do that because there’s boats everywhere.”
The MST trade is perfect for him. There’s always something to learn and a new puzzle to solve in each job. You don’t really have to be a physical person, either. “You don’t need to be really strong,” he explains, “you just have to buy the right tools to give yourself the leverage, and use tools to lift things…the hand strength comes.”
An MST can stay up to date on various boat systems to keep the job interesting. “I take all the training I can take, and you fly all over the world, to these cool companies to see what they’re doing and learn their products,” says Kris, “how do you not win?” He has learned about heaters on boats, hydraulics, electrical systems, electrolysing water makers and night vision cameras. He can work on any of them.
It’s hard to say what is Kris’ favourite part of being an MST. The variety of work is great, but so is the outdoor aspect. Nothing beats “on a sunny day being out working on a boat.”
So if you’re independent, curious and like to figure out how things work, perhaps you’d like to be a Marine Service Technician. Being next to the water is an added bonus.
“As long as you’re up to the challenge,” says Kris, “you’ll never be bored working in marine. That’s for sure.”
For more information about the Marine Service Technician apprenticeship and trade qualifier exam, visit https://www.nsboats.com/marineservice-certification or email NSBA's Training and Certification coordinator Richard Lindala at email@example.com.