Three cheers send off for LCdr Mike Erwin

Sailors lined the floats at the Seamanship Training Centre for departing officer LCdr Mike Erwin. Following that, they removed their caps and gave three cheers as the Whaler, staffed by senior staff of Naval Fleet School Pacifc, pulled away to row him ashore.

Sailors lined the floats at the Seamanship Training Centre for departing officer LCdr Mike Erwin.
Following that, they removed their caps and gave three cheers as the Whaler, staffed by senior staff of Naval Fleet School Pacifc, pulled away to row him ashore.

 

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer
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It could be said that LCdr Michael Erwin is a renaissance man.

Cartoonist, writer, friend to Gnaval Gnome, sailor, officer, Guard Commander, and his last post before he retired July 8 – Seamanship Division Commander at Naval Fleet School Pacific.

His retirement, also his 60th birthday, marked the end of a 40-year career with the navy, where he learned, among many trades and skills, naval customs, tradition, history, and ceremonial procedures.

So it was a fitting end when he was rowed away in a Montagu Whaler boat with Heart of Oak echoing over the water, adeptly played by the Naden Band.

His path to the navy began while attending the University of Calgary and searching for part-time employment; circa 1980.

“I saw an ad in the school newspaper. It was about officer training programs in the Naval Reserve and it sounded very exciting.”

By February 1981 he was attending basic training at Albert Head as a naval reserve recruit. A few years later, he made the full commitment to the Regular Force serving in many warships, many now decommissioned, such as HMC Ships Annapolis, Terra Nova, Miramichi, MacKenzie, Protecteur, and Algonquin.

His most enjoyable sail was in MacKenzie – 1991- when the destroyer sailed to New Zealand via Tonga and Tahiti to participate in the 50th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

From 1992 onward, he spent 16 years dedicated to naval training, splitting his time between Naval Officer Training Centre Venture, Fleet School, and the Training Squadron.

“I always found it gratifying to teach and see the students grasp new skills and grow as mariners and sailors.” 

At times throughout the last 40 years, the stresses of life arose, as they will, creating challenges for a healthful work-life balance. For LCdr Erwin, alleviation came with a pen, piece of paper, talent, and a lot of humour.  Over the years he has created a substantial collection of cartoons, satirical jabs at the navy, military, and ordinary life.

Some of his cartoons were even published in Reader’s Digest and Weekly World News.

“I like the thought that some people read my cartoons and got a laugh, and maybe that brightened their day a bit. I always found it gratifying when I’d see one of my cartoons taped up in someone’s workspace.”

Now that the sun has set on his military career, he and wife Karen, a former Naden Band member and professional French horn musician, are taking time to enjoy the Victoria summer.

“Initially I’m going to relax, and eventually I might go back to school,” he says. “Overall, the best part of my naval career has to be working with terrific people from all across the country, and doing important work on behalf of all Canadians.”

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