I chatted with a couple of Able Seafarers (aka Able Seaman, Able-Bodied Seaman, or AB). Emily and Chad are AB’s on this expedition, and they came by their training in totally different ways.
Emily went to the California Maritime Academy for 4 years and earned a B.S. as well as a 3rd Mate’s license from the Coast Guard. In addition to classroom time, she spent summers out at sea on a large training ship for 2 65-day cruises and a 100-day cruise on a commercial vessel. After graduation she worked a year on a commercial oil vessel. This is her first cruise on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson.
Chad came up through the hawsepipe. That is, he learned by on-the-job training. He started out on fishing boats in Alaska, then spent about 18 years in the oil transportation industry. He’s worked on a variety of commercial vessels. Along with his on-the-job training, he’s had training courses on land. About every 5 years he’ll do more training and pass specific tests to keep up his certifications and license. Chad also holds a 3rd Mate’s license from the Coast Guard. This is his second rotation on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson.
Both Emily and Chad are qualified beyond requirements for AB, but they enjoy the work. Their shifts are 4 hours on, 8 hours off continuously plus an extra 2 hours each day. Usually they’re standing watch on the bridge, assisting the mates and acting as lookout. They also have duties in general maintenance of materials, equipment and areas in the deck department. They make rounds of the ship above-decks looking for any problems and they help with deploying or retrieving overboard science equipment.
A favorite part of the job for both is the people they work with. Emily says the people working on this ship like what they’re doing, and it makes being here more fun. They can trust the crew and like working as a team to solve problems. For example, there were some problems with the winch a few days ago and they worked together as a team to figure out how to fix it. Chad enjoys how the missions change with different scientists onboard – it’s interesting. It’s also fun to see the excitement of the scientists.
The biggest challenge is the duration of the trips and being away from family for so long. Back on land both look forward to wide open spaces and walking around in flipflops. The freedom of no schedule and the opportunity for solitude are also valued during time off the ship.
Your “able seafish,”