Meet Captain Jill Friedman from Madeira Beach, Florida. Captain Jill started working on the water 30 years ago as an able bodied seaman and worked her way up to captain with a USCG Master License for Vessels of Unlimited Tonnage. Captain Jill also has an Associate’s Degree in Ocean Marine Technology from Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from the University St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.
It is easy to see how accomplished a mariner she is. She’s a pioneer in the maritime industry and a wealth of knowledge. We reached out to Captain Jill to learn how her experience over the past 30 years, working at sea, has been:
Captain Jill, what inspired you to work on the water?
“I got to go to high school at The Oceanics. They would charter large traditional rigged sailing ships and we got to sail around the world on them. By the time I finished high school, I was set on spending my life at sea (hopefully, sailing like that) and becoming a ship captain.”
Please share a memorable experience you’ve had at sea.
“One of my most memorable experiences I’ve had was Captain on the tuna purse seiner, Pacific Breeze. I was the first female tuna boat captain in the South Pacific. Probably, still the only one. No one could believe I was the captain. It was like the wild, wild west! I loved it! That experience is much more of what I went to sea for, than all the stuff we have to deal with in the oil field, nowadays. I did enjoy it a whole lot more, back in the late 70’s, before the lawyers and accountants took all the fun out of the job. Even though it was hard as hell to get on a boat as a woman!”
What motivates you to continue working on the water if it’s a long-term career for you?
“I keep hoping for a chance to sail around the world again. Or, just to have the chance to go to some interesting, out-of-the-way places, by sea. I keep hoping for a nice long voyage where I can see the stars at night.”
What challenges have you faced in your career?
“Having to fight the prejudice for so long. ‘You can’t come out here, you’re a woman’. It’s SO MUCH better, now, than when I started. But, it still needs improving.”
What do you think can be done in your industry to encourage more women to pursue similar careers?
“We need more exposure to the industry, with more explanation that it does not require as much physical strength [as was the case before technology progressed the industry]. Including, shorter hitches, better communications at sea so we can keep up with life at home. Lastly, better pay and benefits: I was earning more ashore teaching – with benefits – than I am making right now, being paid as dynamic positioning operator and working as chief mate/marine section leader! No woman (or man) wants to work offshore for such poor compensation.”
Thank you, Captain Jill, for sharing your career with us! We greatly appreciate the trail you’ve blazed in this industry!