Q&A with Lieutenant-Commander Maude Ouellet-Savard, Captain on board HMCS Brandon


This Q&A features HMCS Brandon’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Maude Ouellet-Savard. The ship is currently deployed on Operation Caribbe. LCdr Ouellet-Savard assumed command of the ship in July 2019.

Are you the first person in your family to be in the military?
Yes, to the surprise of my family as they did not expect me to join. And I’m still in 20 years later because I love the sea!

Where was your favourite place to sail in your career?
Croatia and Thailand were two very different areas I sailed to, but very beautiful in their own ways. I had great experiences there in 2008. I had a chance to go back to Croatia two more times after that and it was still as amazing.

What’s your favourite smell on ship?
When the cooks make fresh bread, it’s a comfort smell that reminds me of home. And I can’t say no to homemade bread!

What’s your favourite part about the job?
There’s something new every day, there’s no monotony at sea. There are always new people, new challenges, new tasks. It’s never boring.

What is your favourite activity to do in free time while at sea?
I like to be creative and do things that take my mind away from work. I’ve done painting, crocheting, and drawing, anything that allows me to disconnect and relax, but still allows me to answer the phone every few minutes.

How did you get such an excellent crew on board?
A bit of luck at the beginning, but really just great people attracting great people. I think we’ve gained a good reputation for having good morale on board by fostering a welcoming environment that people are attracted to.

What motivates you to be the Captain of the ship?
It’s a goal that all Naval Warfare Officers look forward to: having a crew and executing a mission together; it is great motivation to keep going and keep pushing through the ups and downs of the job. It’s a lot of responsibility as the team relies on me to make the best decisions for the ship and crew’s well-being. On the other hand, the reward of seeing sailors grow, and the crew as a whole succeed, makes the challenge worth it!

What was the hardest thing you’ve had to do in your career?
As a Navigation Sea Trainer for Flag Officer Sea Training with the Royal Navy, I had to maintain situational awareness and navigation safety during various training scenarios when embarked in ships from all over Europe and beyond. In English speaking ships I could easily manage, but it became a lot more complicated when bridge teams spoke German, Dutch, Norwegian or Portuguese. Speaking French became very useful when training with the Belgian Navy.

Why did you choose to join the Navy in particular?
Because I fell in love with being at sea when I was on a boatswain course with sea cadets. I decided then to seek out navigation as a career. My neighbours in Quebec City, a service couple, introduced me to the military and encouraged me to join. Opportunities for women in civilian shipping companies were limited at the time and I’d seen a few women go through military college already, so I was swayed towards that path. Being from Quebec City, with the base at Valcartier nearby, there was a strong military community. Sea Cadets were also a great launching platform to introduce me to basic naval skills that piqued my interest.

What do you miss the most when you’re at sea?
My bed at home without the phone ringing!

What’s the first thing you do after a long sail?
I grab a bowl of Island Poke and get a good night’s sleep.

What’s one interesting thing about you that most people don’t know?
My first ship ever was HMCS Brandon during my Maritime Surface and Subsurface training. It was also the first time I sailed with my best friend Lieutenant-Commander Nadia Shields (current Commander HMCS Saskatoon). We met at Royal Military College and our careers have intersected ever since. It’s amazing to be the Captain of the same ship where I first started sailing with the Navy and my best friend, and the fact that we’re now both Captains on the same mission for Operation Caribbe. 

Are the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels safe to deploy on this operation?
They definitely are. With all the training our crew has completed, and the versatility of the platform, it’s extremely well suited to conduct this type of mission.

Why is this mission on Operation Caribbe important?
It’s all about the way we can make a contribution to Canadians’ and North Americans’ safety and security by interrupting the flow of illicit trafficking in the region.

How many seas have you sailed?
Based on Greek literature I’ve travelled six of the seven seas, having missed the Caspian Sea. For Medieval Europe I’ve done all of them. Based on modern classification of the seas, I still have a lot of travelling to do! I’ve circumnavigated the world in the Northern Hemisphere, but the southern seas remain uncharted territory for me.

What are the top highlights of your career in the Royal Canadian Navy?

  • Circumnavigating the globe on HMCS Calgary in 2008
  • Navigating her Majesty the Queen for International Fleet Review on HMCS St. John’s in 2010
  • Taking command of HMCS Brandon in 2019 and the opportunity to deploy on Operation Caribbe with my team.

Were you ever in a situation of real danger on a ship?
The biggest threat I’ve faced is weather was a super typhoon called Jangmi; it was a category five hurricane in Asia in 2008. Acting as navigator for the ship, we were transiting back from Operation Altair en route to Japan when Jangmi was making its way towards China. It was nerve wracking because I was very junior and responsible for the ship’s navigation. It was a great learning opportunity for me to push through those challenges and safely navigate the ship back to Victoria.

How many times have you said “make it so”?
Routinely as a junior officer while conducting colours and sunset ceremonies. If you ask me how many times I’ve said “yes please” that would be many times a day!


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