Meet Captain Erin Rice from Baldwin, New York. Captain Erin is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), holding both a Bachelor’s Degree in Logistics and Intermodal Transportation and a USCG Unlimited 3rd Mate License. As a cadet at USMMA, Erin spent part of her education at sea, traveling the world on car carriers, container ships, and tankers.
Today, Captain Erin Rice has 3 years of experience working on the water, much of it on offshore supply vessels. She has seen, first-hand, some of the hardships of working in the offshore energy industry downturn. However, that has not kept her from pursuing a career on the water. Currently, she is not only a Master of two motorized passenger vessels in Charleston, South Carolina, but also a Mate on a gaff-rigged schooner.
Women Offshore interviewed Captain Erin to find out more about her career and what inspired her to dedicate her life to working on the water. Here’s what she shared with us:
Captain Erin, please start out by describing what your duties are in your current job.
“I only started at this company 2.5 months ago as a Mate Trainee on the motor vessels. With the guidance of training staff and crew I progressed to flying solo, as Captain, a little over a month ago. As tour boat Captain on the motorized vessels, I am responsible for all boat-handling, ensuring an enjoyable experience for passengers, and providing a 90-minute live narration of the sites around the harbor on the guided tours. As Mate on the schooner, I help with sails, get passengers involved, and talk one-on-one with passengers for a more personal sailing and tour experience.”
What inspired you to work on the water?
“Growing up on Long Island, I was never more than 15 minutes from the water. To add to that, my mom would always take my brother and I to visit my dad when he had watch at the USCG station. I spent a lot of time at the station playing around on the docks and going out on boat rides, whenever I was lucky enough to do so. I knew for certain, I wanted some type of maritime career one day due to the feeling of pure joy would hit me whenever I was on the water. It just felt like coming home.”
Please share a sea story with a lesson learned.
“A lesson learned turned into a lifetime lived for me. There was a woman (who was about the same age I am now), stationed at the same USCG station as my dad, who took me under her wing when I was little. She taught me so much about the USCG and the boats with such passion she and those memories were hard to forget. Fast-forward to my recent training to run one of the passenger vessels: A little girl about 7 years old, came to the wheelhouse and asked if she could steer the boat. She was so well-mannered that I agreed. What really impressed me was her devout interest in learning about the boat, harbor, and my job. She demonstrated on multiple occasions that she understood what I was teaching her and was so reverent toward the responsibility of being a captain. It was truly amazing to have come full circle and be able to give her the same experience I had as a child, that greatly shaped my life and career.”
What motivates you to continue working on the water if it’s a long-term career for you?
“I thrive on new challenges and responsibility. Working on the water provides just that. Personally hating routine, it’s fun for me to start fresh everyday and work on building my skills in the same, yet ever-changing, environment. By working on smaller vessels I get to perfect my ship-handling techniques daily and learn the harbor well enough to one day hopefully progress towards a career as a harbor pilot. Each tour allows me to meet new people and create memorable experiences for them which I absolutely love. One of the most frequent comments I get at the end of a guided tour as Captain will be from women about how much they enjoyed having a young, female captain. They beam at me with smiles so big it’s hard not to feel their pride – like hundreds of fleeting mothers watching their own child succeed.”
What challenges have you faced in your career?
“Aside from the slow down and resulting pay cuts in the Gulf (of Mexico), I’ve faced the typical challenges of working in a male-dominated industry. The majority of harassment I had to deal with came during my cadet sailing. From those experiences I learned different ways to, respectfully, dispute sexist remarks about my qualifications/abilities and prove myself as a worthy shipmate.”
What do you think can be done in your industry to encourage more women to pursue similar careers?
“I think early exposure to the maritime industry would be most beneficial in encouraging more women to pursue similar careers. In addition, the articles highlighting specific women and their careers written by Women Offshore really shows the diversity of positions women are working in on the water. Highlighting all facets in such a positive, empowering manner and getting to hear personal stories, makes the career choice feel more relatable and achieveable by women of all ages and backgrounds.”
Thank you, Captain Erin, for sharing your career with us! We are inspired by your perseverance to work on the water, despite the offshore downturn. We look forward to following your career as a leader on the water.
The Women Offshore Foundation is an online organization and resource center for a diverse workforce on the water. Its mission is to propel women into meaningful careers through access to a worldwide community and professional development resources, while raising awareness amongst industry leaders and decision makers about issues affecting women on the water. Contact Women Offshore today: firstname.lastname@example.org.