Saint Andrews welcomes Erin Carpenter, regions first female whale watching captain

Submitted photo Erin Carpenter is the first whale watching boat captain in Saint Andrews, and she is loving her job. She has worked for Jolly Breeze Whale Watching since 2016, and hopes to one day attain her 60-tonne license license that will allow her captain the tall ship.

Saint Andrews – Jolly Breeze Whale Watching has a first for the Saint Andrews area – a female captain for their Zodiac boat. Erin Carpenter grew up on Deer Island, and has always had an affinity for the ocean and whales. She grew up around boats, and her grandfather started the family tradition of being on the water, running a herring carrier. Her father is involved in aquaculture, and her stepfather is a lobster fisherman.

“I’m from Deer Island. I grew up there, and had always been on the water my whole life,” said Carpenter.

While Carpenter has been working for Jolly Breeze Whale Watching since 2016, this is her first year as a captain. She was a crew member for the first year, and then she studied the engineering that would enable her to earn her small vessel machine operator engineer certification. Carpenter said one engineer is needed on board for each trip, and she did this on the Jolly Breeze tall ship. In addition to her training, she also received instruction from another boat captain, and has now progressed to Captain of the Jet Boat.

“For the Zodiac, it was a five-day training course,” said Carpenter. “It’s a small vessel operator proficiency course. Then I had a radio course as well, which was two days. I went out with the other captain, and he taught me everything. I’ve been on boats all my life, so I already knew about navigation stuff. I also learned about the engines, how to use the boat, docking, and how to drive it in the fog.”

Carpenter, who has a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology, did a marine semester at UNB Fredericton. She said she was looking for a way to combine her love of travel with gainful employment that involved the ocean, and working on the whale watching tours was the ideal situation for her. She can work seasonally, and then spend her winters traveling. For example, she spent the past winter in Australia, and then did some of her training upon returning to New Brunswick.

“I just love being on the water, and I’ve always been fascinated with whales, so this was perfect,” said Carpenter. “I had been working, and when I graduated university I did an internship one summer, then worked for Huntsman for a couple of years. I wanted to travel, and the main selling point is I could be here on the water all summer, and then travel for the rest of the year.”

Carpenter said she has had no issues with being a woman in an industry that is normally male-dominated. She said she does worry about what the passengers may think, since she is does look very young for her age. She sometimes worries passengers will be nervous, but so far, there have been no issues, and everyone around her has been extremely helpful.

This year, Carpenter has been driving the Zodiac, and said she has had a lot of fun in her role as captain. She said being a captain allows her to see more than you might not see normally on a whale watching tour. She is looking forward to coming back next season, and said she has a chance to get her captain’s license to operate the Jolly Breeze tall ship, but that won’t happen for a few years.

“You need a 60-tonne license, and that involves lots of training and work,” said Carpenter, who added, “Other people think where I’m the first female captain that it’s good for other women. They see the opportunity is available for them. If I can do it, anyone can.”