Coffee with a marine pilot

by Scott Ronalds

He’s the guy who safely brings in all those freighters sitting in English Bay. The cruise ships, too (back when that was a thing).

Steve (I’ve changed his name for this story) is a marine pilot. He’s also a friend of mine and a Steadyhand client.

Navigating the tides, narrows, shoals, and bridges up and down the B.C. coast is no easy task. Marine pilots must possess an extraordinary knowledge of the region’s geography (above and below water), along with the ability to steer and bring to port a 1,000 ft. vessel carrying 75,000 tons of cargo.

The west coast’s notoriously moody weather doesn’t make things any easier. Rain, fog, wind, and smoke are not a seafarer’s friend. Then there’s the matter of that immense span of green steel suspended over the narrow channel between Stanley Park and the North Shore — otherwise known as the Lions Gate Bridge. Everything must be lined up meticulously for a giant vessel to pass under her majestic span.

It can be a stressful job. Steve can get a call at an obscure hour telling him to head down to the heliport, where a chopper will take him out to a cargo ship to help fix a dragging anchor. Or he could be summoned to Prince Rupert for a week to help guide out freighters loaded with commodities.

But the job is highly rewarding too, and there’s rarely a dull moment. Grabbing a coffee with this captain is always enlightening.

Steve’s in his mid-forties, has a decent tolerance for risk, and a 30+ year investing horizon. When I helped him iron out a strategic asset mix (SAM), we settled on 75% stocks and 25% fixed income for his RRSP (achieved by holding 70% of his portfolio in the Founders Fund and 30% in the Builders Fund). He’s more aggressive with his TFSA, where his mix is 100% stocks (through holding the Builders Fund). He checks in once a year for an update on how things are going.

I wanted to highlight Steve’s story because it’s typical of many of our clients. They live busy lives, have hectic schedules, and when it comes to investing, want to keep things simple. It’s also why we created our Founders Fund and Builders Fund — for everyday Canadians who want a straightforward, hands-off solution with professional oversight.

We’re lucky at Steadyhand to have an extremely interesting client base and have gotten to know many of our investors over the past 15 years. We’ve had great conversations with designers, cardiologists, producers, police officers, lawyers, beekeepers, chief executives, realtors, inventors, professional athletes, winemakers (my personal favourite), business owners, teachers, actors, military professionals, carpenters, musicians ... the list goes on.

Dealing with such a diverse group of people is one of the perks of the job — so a shout out to Steve and all our other fascinating clients who help make our nine-to-five interesting too.