Women Making Waves – Nita Duguay

Deckhand – Atlantic Towing Limited

Nita works as a deckhand on the Atlantic Towing Port and Coastal Vessels. Growing up in Halifax, she was always fascinated by the activities in the harbour. She used to watch the ships coming and going and sometimes, when she would walk across the bridge, she would try to be right over top of a ship as it was passing underneath to see what it looked like from above! Walking along the boardwalk when she was younger, she would wonder if people actually used those ladders that went nowhere into the water (spoiler, they do!). The marine industry was something that she was around at arms-length her whole life but was always something that interested her. 

 1. How did you end up working in or alongside the maritime industry? Please tell us the story of how you got to your current role. 

About four years ago, I was looking for a change from the work that I had been doing up to that point. A family member was working in the office at Atlantic Towing and said they were looking for deckhands on their tugs. I have always been interested in new experiences, so he organized a visit to the vessel so I could see what the job would look like. After spending a few hours on board, I was sold! I took the required safety courses to start working and haven’t stopped since.  

 2. What education have you taken a) pre-working in or alongside the maritime industry and b) since joining the maritime industry? 

I attended university in Halifax for a year and then spent some time in Ottawa completing an arts degree. My time studying was personally enriching but didn’t lend too much towards a career at sea. To get hired I had to complete the required safety course and within a year I obtained my Bride Watch rating, which was a personal goal I set for myself. 

Since my first visit on the tugs, I have learned a lot! By asking questions and watching how things work. I am continuing to learn on the job as well as taking on self-directed studies to continue my professional development, with the hope of writing certificates in the future. 

 3. What is the most rewarding thing about working in or alongside this industry? 

There are many different challenges each day that require fast-thinking and problem solving. These are aspects of the job that I find the most rewarding. Together as a crew, we all have to keep the boat running properly, work safely, and do so in many different situations and conditions. I have learned so much from my colleagues by doing various tasks, ranging from towing barges to maintenance, or even boat handling! I have seen places and done things that I likely would never have done elsewhere, such as sailing from Baker Lake, Nunavut. 

 4. Did/do you have any role models in the industry? If so, please tell us about that experience and tips on how to approach someone for mentorship. 

 One of the things I value most working on the boats is the guidance that I have received from my crew mates. Fellow deck hands, mates, engineers, and masters have all been so ready to teach me and answer my questions. It is a positive and encouraging place to work where everyone is a contributing member of the team, and we get the work done safely and efficiently. I am very grateful for all the encouragement and help that I have received over the last several years.  

 5. What is your advice for someone looking to get into this industry in our region? Any important events or associations to be following? 

 For anyone looking to get into the Marine Industry, I would encourage them to work hard, keep their eyes open, and to not be afraid to ask questions. It is such a valuable experience to be able to work while learning the trade and there are many people around who have a wealth of experience and wisdom to share. It is hard work and not always pretty, but there are so many other positive elements that make up for it. There are many adventures to be had and good people to sail with.