Halifax Fleet Week: N.S. high school students become captains for a day

Click to play video: 'Two Halifax students become a ‘captain for the day’ aboard Canadian Navy vessel'
Two Halifax students become a ‘captain for the day’ aboard Canadian Navy vessel
WATCH: To mark the inaugural International Fleet Week in Halifax, two high school students from the area were given the opportunity to serve as a captain for the day. As Megan King reports, the students received a special honour as guests aboard one of the Royal Canadian Navy's offshore patrol vessels. – Sep 7, 2023

A high-pitched whistle sounds to alert those on the HMCS Margaret Brooke that the ship’s captain is coming aboard.

‘Piping the side’ is a long-standing naval tradition honouring important persons boarding a ship. Today’s whistle is for two high school students from Dartmouth, N.S. who are ‘captains for the day’ during the inaugural Halifax International Fleet Week.

“Feels pretty great,” said grade 11 student Sydney Stonehouse. “In command of a big vessel, whole bunch of people on the vessel, captain treatment.”

He and schoolmate Mira Obura, who is also a grade 11 student, were chosen by their principal at Auburn Drive High School to experience a day with the Royal Canadian Navy in honour of Fleet Week.

“I’ve never like been on a boat before, so it’s pretty cool,” said Obura.

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Aboard the vessel, the pair are taken on a tour of the ship before 10 o’clock soup — another naval tradition.

“We love showing off our ship,” said HMCS Margaret Brook Commanding Officer Nicole Robichaud.

“To know that these kids are interested in the Maritime environment and Maritime industry and interested in the Navy…it brings great pleasure for myself to go and see younger people on board and for the crew to see younger people on board.”

Stonehouse and Obura’s day as captains is part of Halifax International Fleet Week activities planned over the next four days.

“My principal just kind of picked me to be here because I was interested in architecture, so she thought that it would be a cool experience for me to see a boat and stuff inside it,” said Obura.

For Stonehouse, his interest in mechanical engineering was explored.

“There’s a lot more on show on a Navy vessel than, say, if you were to take a ferry,” he laughed. “There’s a lot more you can see on a Navy vessel than on a commercial vessel.”

Robichaud hopes the tour will highlight opportunities to students that are interested in a Maritime career.

“To go and have our ships open for visitors, to go and have our sailors walking around downtown in their uniforms to say, ‘yes, we do have a Navy,’ just brings a lot of pride to everybody,” she said.

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The commander goes on to say that the ship offers a lot  of educational opportunities to young people, especially to those who don’t know much about the Navy.

“It’s just a broad spectrum of what people can be interested in, we have that opportunity of showing that to people,” Robichaud said.

For Stonehouse and Obura, it’s back to school tomorrow.

The two acting captains ended their day on the HMCS Margaret Brook with a handshake and challenge coin presentation from Cmdr. Robichaud, and new options for their future.

“I think that it would even be kind of interesting to build ships, cause I never really considered that,” said Obura. “I was just more thinking about houses, but being here on a ship, I could definitely consider it in the future.”

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