Mariah McCooey began her life on a boat, so it’s only fitting she’s made a career of being out on the water.
The day after she was born, McCooey’s parents brought her onto their live-aboard sailboat they built themselves in Esquimalt Harbour, where she lived for several years.
In her early 20s, McCooey owned her own 26’ classic wooden sailboat, travelling all over the world, through the Northwest Passage, the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’ve literally been on the water since day one,” said the now 31-year-old. “I love it. It’s a challenge. Every day is something new and exciting. It’s always changing. There’s something new to learn all the time.”
McCooey, a Saanich resident, was recently named harbour master for the Port of Victoria.
The port is under the authority of Transport Canada and is home to international ferry services, commercial tugs and barges, fishing fleets, harbour ferries and water taxis, whale watching operations and seaplanes. It extends from Shoal Point to just north of the Johnson Street Bridge, including Laurel Point and the Inner Harbour.
As harbour master, McCooey is in charge of all the day-to-day operations of the port (their offices are located near Fisherman’s Wharf), including safety on the water from a marine and aviation perspective, along with the airport and marine and float plane activities.
They are also in charge of monitoring vessel traffic, enforcement duties and responsible for the harbour’s emergency planning and response, coordinating special events in the harbour, and managing the airports safety management system.
“Anything that happens in the harbour requires the harbour master’s approval so any diving operations or drudging or any special construction projects all need approval from our office,” said McCooey, adding anything that happens in the harbour, she’s aware of. “We have a lot going on from recreational users up to the Coho. We’ve got a massive cross section of people using the harbour.”
McCooey, who has been on the job since September, has a degree in nautical science, a chief mate certificate from Transport Canada, and is currently completing a masters in maritime management.
Prior to her homecoming, she was posted back east, serving as the navigation officer for Coast Guard ships in Newfoundland.
However, with the birth of her one-year-old child, she was hoping for a job that didn’t involve heading out on the ocean for months at a time.
Now, she has the best of both worlds.
“I loved being at sea, but being a mom now, I can’t really do that. Here at least, I’m in an office, literally on top of the water at Fisherman’s Wharf,” she said. “I can go out on a boat when I want to. It’s a really good combination.”