My most powerful story of water is probably back when I was a kid and we used to go up north and rent cottages up there. We’d often go with my grandparents up to the cottage. I remember fishing as a kid with my grandparents. Both my grandfathers were fishermen, they really enjoyed it. I remember going out on these little tin boats fishing with them. I remember catching my first real fish with them, one we could actually eat which was so cool. Although by the time it is cut up, it’s a small little piece of fish that we all got to taste a forkful of. But it was great to be out on this little tin boat. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, you’re going get out there and fish. It was just fun spending time with the grandparents and my father at the time. It was a lot of fun.
Water is important in my life – our business is based around water. Somehow my wife and I have always felt our attraction to water. We love the vacation where we are at or near the water. Somehow it makes you feel complete. My wife’s family is from Scotland and they live right on the main river going into Glasgow, the River Clyde. A lot of her family grew up in The Maritimes industry, in the shipyards and companies that supported the shipyards. And so they’ve been connected to the water for centuries in her family. She feels the same, she kind of feels that draw to water.
Somehow when you’re near water you feel complete, it feels like that’s where you should be. Water is worth protecting because it is the life blood for all of us, we have to protect it. There’s so much more we can do. I think we’re starting to turn the tide in many ways at least in a lot of regions we’re going through massive cleanup projects. We’ll have a large one in Hamilton to get through finally. There’s a large one going on right now in the Hudson River finally. That’s been a horrible river and finally that’s been cleaned up. So I think we’re turning the tide.
Now in third world countries I’m not sure so sure. We hear lots of stories and see lots on the news. I think there’s a long way to go as a global nation. At least in developed countries, I think we’re making good strides. My favorite body of water would have to be one of the lakes up in Muskoka or Halliburton. About every other year or two we’d rent a cottage up north, we still do now. When you are up on a northern Ontario lake, sitting on the back deck, sitting on the dock, or on a boat with a floater out trying to catch fish, I think that’s it. There’s something about the calmness and the serene-ness of that water when you’re out there. Throughout the day as it changes with the lightness from the sunrise to sunset, I think it doesn’t get much more peaceful than that.
Before McKeil I was in corporate banking, in that role you’re dealing with all kinds of clients and different industries and different sizes of companies. In southern Ontario there’s lots of manufacturers and metal fabricators and distributors, and after a while they are all more or less the same. They build something or distribute something. About 5 years before joining McKeil I got to know Blair McKeil. We got involved and financed a few projects Blair was working on at that time and I got to know the industry a bit more. It’s such a neat industry, it’s so different than most any other industry. Through Blair, before joining McKeil, I got to attend some of the industry conferences held for the marine industry. It is unique, while we still compete against each other, we still get together we still support each other, we still exchange information. Yes, at times we compete for business but rest of the time we support each other in the industry.
It’s not tradition, it’s really the law of the sea in fact that if there’s a vessel in distress then you drop everything to go and assist. That’s how we carry ourselves in the industry as well so it goes beyond just a vessel in distress. It’s fantastic being president of a marine company. The way I see myself, I guess I am just a lucky guy to put a “C” on my jersey at the captain of the team. But everything we do takes an incredible team effort. The projects we get in to these days are larger and more complex. You often need a bit of everything, you think an innovative technical solution, sometimes it’s a creative financial solution, sometimes it’s even a sophisticated HR solution to crew up certain vessels for certain projects. That’s the pleasure, I feel like I’m just part of the team, we are together as a team achieving great things – it’s fun.
While we are almost 60 years old, I feel like we are just getting started. For any other stories about water that I want to share, the one that comes to mind is from way way back. My ancestors were some of the original pilgrims. Apparently I’m a descendant of four people who came across on the Mayflower. We are on this continent because of ships that brought us here. On my mother’s side, her grandmother came across on the first ship to cross the Atlantic after the Lusitania sank. So the family stories from that crossing were they could see debris and deck chairs and things floating in the water from the Lusitania. At the time it was nerve wracking because they didn’t know if they would be the next to be sunk. Fortunately they made it. So that Atlantic Ocean brought my ancestors to this continent which is very cool.
I’m Steve Fletcher and I’m from Hamilton originally and still living just near Hamilton. I’m the president of McKeil, I’ve been president for about 4 years and I’ve been at McKeil for 15 years.