The students on board the Dan Moore
Students on board the RV Dan Moore share stories about what attracted them to Cape Fear’s Marine Technology program. “Everyone wanted to get out of Wilmington – go other places, see other things. I wanted to be on a boat. I want to spend the rest of my life on the ocean. I want to follow my dreams; live the life you had imagined,” said CFCC Marine Technology student Michael Farrell.
Eddie Fetter is also a student. He said, “I’m hoping to get a job in the Army Corp. of Engineers, doing hydrographic surveys.”
One hundred twenty-five students are currently enrolled. Throughout the two year program, they will take five voyages and spend a total of 32 days at sea. Some of the tech students are right out of high school; others came into the program in their 30’s, with four-year degrees and work experience.
“I spent 25 years in the workforce, before I came to the CFCC program in marine technologies. I got laid off one too many times. I was an engineer for 10 years, building trades before that, and this intrigued me,” said John Klingler.
Thirty-year old Lydia Tobolski has one semester left. She is counting on this offshore training to secure a surveying job, and support her son. “This is the experience that you can’t get anywhere else, and the people who do the hiring, in the job market know that. That’s why they come here to hire. It’s dangerous living on a boat and working on a boat, and being out in the seas, and they appreciate that we have at least a taste of that.”
One of the first skills students must master is just living aboard a ship. The lifestyle is completely different than living anywhere else. “I finally broke down and took a shower last night,” said Justin McDonald. “I couldn’t handle all the fish blood on me.”
Passing through a deafening engine room, and down a ladder will take you to the bow where the girls sleep. The bunks are tight with little head room. The boys sleeping quarters are at the stern. “The hardest part of sleeping on the Dan Moore is getting in and out of the top bunk,” said CFCC public information officer David Hardin.
The students are definitely not deprived of good eating. A chef on board prepares three hot meals a day, and there’s a freezer full of ice cream at all times. But the food doesn’t always stay down. Sea sickness is one of the biggest battles aboard the boat. Captain Steve Beuth said, “Yeah when I’m up here six hours straight and we’re into real heavy seas – seven, eight ten foot seas, pounding and pitching away, even my inner ear, equilibrium does get out of whack. You are sweating one moment and shivering the next.”
Sea sickness, tight sleeping quarters, and learning to share bathrooms with two dozen people; it is what these Cape Fear Community College students signed up for. It is what sets them apart from the competition. “When people go to hire, they come to us first, and not having the funding, not having the boats, would put us on the same level with a lot of other people,” said Tobolski.
Thursday will be the last leg of our voyage. We will talk about the current status of the program in the state legislature, and what it will take to keep this offshore training program afloat.
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