Are you looking to hire a marine contractor for boat maintenance or boat repairs? In the 3.5 years, Northshore Yachtworks’ general manager, a highly skilled marine contractor Rick Champagne has seen this yacht service company grow from just a handful of employees to its current workforce of twenty-nine service and office staff. “Our growth has mirrored the growth at The Creek Marina & Boatyard,” Rick proudly explains.
Rick has over 30 years of experience as a Marine Contractor and is ABYC Red Seal Master Technician!
He reminisces about the early days when he first discovered he had an interest in the marine trades working in the boatyard. He decided to enroll in a Manpower employment course offered in Terrace, BC. “I got there a few days early and a woman at the college greeted me and said: ‘So you’re taking the marine engines course. How would you like to be a dorm rep?’
“What does that mean?” I asked her. “You take care of one floor of guys, make sure they have their bedding and whatever else they need and you get free room and board.” “I was there at the right time,” he chuckles. “I studied for eight months and banked money while I went to school.”
At the same time he studied marine engines, he took his welding ticket and, after the intensive full time course, passed with an 85 percent average. Most of the class had jobs before they left school.
The Marine Trades is a Small and Specialized Industry
“I’ve been in it for 30 years and I still love it. It’s not like car mechanics. We regularly send all of our guys to industry school. Local engine dealers offer advanced training in electrical, corrosion, and systems. When you complete all three, only then you become an ABYC Red Seal Master—under American Boat & Yacht Council standards.”
Over the years Rick has noticed different trends in boat ownership and maintenance. “The way our economy fluctuates, you can see what people are doing in the boating industry. For 18 years, I had my own business, Champagne Yachts, providing refit, yacht maintenance and boat repair services, quality OEM parts, and technical marine solutions and services. When the economy is strong, you see people spending more money on their boats. They’ll buy another boat. Every seven years I see a trend to power boats and then that switches to sail boats. I haven’t figured that out yet. Although in a storm I’d rather be in a sailboat than a powerboat.”
No matter how much knowledge he or she may possess, every once in a while even the most seasoned mariner and marine contractor will have a terrifying experience at sea and have a newfound respect for the water. Rick recounts one such experience.
“Once or twice a month I would go boating with my cousin, Ray. He owned a C&C Landfall and three of us would set sail. I was the technical guy, my cousin was the skipper and our friend would be the navigator. His boat lived at Reed Point Marina. On this trip we decided to go to Silva Bay, off Gabriola Island. We left late in the afternoon and got there in the dark, when suddenly his engine failed. With flashlights lighting the bow, we just managed to squeeze into the slip we were assigned. Close call.”
“On the very same weekend we were sailing the Gulf Islands. It was a beautiful day; the wind was blowing; we were motor sailing the sails. We were flying. You could touch the water with your hands. We could even see the dolphins approaching us, rubbing themselves against the boat. My cousin had the ship on autopilot so he could take the hand held remote, sit up on the bow and enjoy the day with us.”
“Everyone seemed low on drinks, so I went down to get refills and thought I would check on the gauges. I could see the temperature was really low. Something was wrong. I opened up the engine hatch and got sprayed with salt water. We were sinking!”
“I yelled up to the guys, ‘We’re in trouble! Mayday! Mayday!’ My cousin was immediately on the radio calling for help. I jumped down into the engine room. We weren’t moving any more and the engine was half under water. I was trying to find where the water was gushing in. Luckily the water stopped rising. I was under the water, in the engine room, to see what was going on. I stood there but at least we weren’t sinking.”
“Within 20 minutes the Coast Guard came on board with their pumps and started pumping out the water. They towed us into Ganges Harbour. There were no hoses leaking; nothing seemed wrong. I was wondering why the bilge pump failed. I discovered that when we were heeled over, the water was being siphoned through the discharge.”
“I managed to get the engine running, and happily we were able to make our way home. But coming into Vancouver’s harbour just under the Lions Gate Bridge we lost power. I had to put up the sail (which is illegal). I asked my cousin, ‘Did you check the fuel?’ ‘I don’t have a fuel gauge,’ he replied. ‘You don’t have a fuel gauge!?’ I asked incredulously. So I checked the tank and we were bone dry. We got towed again by a boat that happened to come by. What a weekend!” Cool story.
Today, Rick’s home is on Pitt Meadows acreage he shares with his wife. After years of a three-hour daily commute he now lives aboard his boat at The Creek Marina during the week, and travels home on Friday night.
“A perfect day for me is being here, my team of marine contractor are happy and our clients are happy. Makes you feel a job well done.”