Every Captain hopes for a Chief Mate that is smart, dedicated, motivated, hardworking, and able to get along with the many personalities that work aboard a ship. Captain Campbell has all that and much more in his Chief Mate, Melissa Turner.
Chief Mate Turner is not an easy person to track down. Throughout the day, she is constantly on the go – working with the cadets and crew to help the TS Kennedy in the best that it can be. We finally caught up with her on the Helo deck last week. At first, she was reluctant to talk about herself, preferring to shine the spotlight on the cadets, fellow crew members, or the ship. When she learned that the interview was for Follow The Voyage – Share The Experience, she was kind enough to answer a few questions. We know that you’ll enjoy learning about Chief Mate Turner, a woman who plays such a vital role at Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Q: Where did you attend school?
A. Elementary School: East Bridgewater Central School, Middle School: East Bridgewater Middle School, High School: East Bridgewater High School
Q: What science activities or projects did you enjoy when you were an elementary student?
A: I enjoyed projects having to do with nature.
Q: What mathematics lessons, etc. did you enjoy as a middle school student?
A: I don’t remember specifically, but I met my favorite math teacher in 5th grade, Mrs. Debbie Cournoyer. She was fabulous. An absolute amazing woman and teacher who loved learning and teaching. I used to visit her often before and even after I graduated and last saw her a few years ago when I drove with my parents to vote in a town election.
Q: Which high school science class had the greatest impact on you?
A: I would have to say of all the classes I took in high school I enjoyed physics and advanced physical science the most. It was taught by a very engaging teacher, Mr. Parsons, and I enjoyed the chemical experiments we did.
Q: Which high school mathematics class had the greatest impact on you?
A: I would have to say that taking pre-calculus and calculus as a high school student while not something I would say I enjoyed was beneficial that it gave me a firm base which made taking other math classes in college much easier. And the teacher for one of the classes, Mrs. Russell, was also one of my favorites as well which made the class somewhat better.
Q: How do you develop your love for the ocean?
A: When I was little my maternal grandparents bought a cottage that my great uncle owned in Manomet (Pop had helped build it in the 1950’s) and my sisters and I spent a lot of time down there as we were growing up. My twin sister and I would make Pop take us for walks on the beach every time we went down there. As we grew older, he also taught us to canoe and kayak. I own that cottage today and I find it peaceful to walk the beach even though I spend a lot of time at sea.
Q: What led you to choose Massachusetts Maritime Academy?
A: I developed an interest in going into the Coast Guard at a young age and found that as I went through high school that interest only intensified so I ended up applying to Mass. Maritime. Once I started at MMA, I discovered that due to being fairly near-sighted I wouldn’t qualify for a CG or Navy commission, but that I could still get a Merchant Marine license.
Q: Why did you choose to major in Marine Transportation?
A: I came to Mass Maritime knowing I would major in Marine Transportation from the very beginning (I would also end up with a minor in Marine Safety and Environmental Protection). I had grown up really interested in ships and reading histories and stories of people that went to sea and knew that was what I wanted to do.
Q: When did I begin working at MMA?
A: I began working at MMA in early January 2014 and was hired literally days before the Sea Term. I graduated in 2000 and went to work for Tidewater Marine in the Gulf of Mexico for about 6 months. I knew that I wanted to work on research vessels which had always been my goal when I graduated from school. I was hired by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as a Third Mate in January 2001 and worked for them as Third, Second, and Chief Mate until I came to MMA. It was a great job that I absolutely loved. I made so many great friends, travelled all over the world on really great ships and learned a lot about ship handling and DP.
Q: While you were a cadet at MMA, did you ever think you would work here after graduation?
A: In all honesty, no. I imagined when I went to sea as a young Third Mate, that eventually after a certain amount of time I would go back to graduate school, get a degree in history, receive certification, and go teach high school history somewhere on the South Shore in Massachusetts. But, I was enjoying sailing so much that time kind of flew by and I realized that while I still loved my job and most everything about it, I wanted to be home more. I had been sailing for on average 7-10 months out of the year since graduating and started in 2012 to look into MMA as jobs opened up as I still had an interest in teaching. I felt that my experience at sea might make MMA a viable place for me to work if I came shore-side.
Q: What are you duties as First Mate?
A: While in conjunction with the Captain and the other crew members, I coordinate the deck maintenance program for the ship that all the cadets at MMA participate in. We maintain the ship for MARAD in case of their activation needs while also training cadets in how to perform routine maintenance on ship’s equipment.
Q: Do you look forward to Sea Term?
A: Yes, I do. I still enjoy going to sea and the routine of it, but I also appreciate the balance that I am able to have now between Sea Term, activations, shipyard periods, etc. and being home.
Q: During Sea Term, how much interaction do you have with cadets?
A: Well, I think as I have gone from being Third Mate to Chief Mate on here that in some measure I have less interaction with large groups of cadets.
Q: What do you enjoy most as your job as First Mate?
A: My favorite part of my job is interacting with cadets so I try and make time to stop by work areas and see what is going on and introduce myself so I know who the deck cadets are as they go through their time here. I primarily interact with the Cadet Chief Mate and the Senior Deck Rates.
Q: What is your biggest challenge (or challenges) as First Mate?
A: I think the biggest challenge is to make sure that the groups of cadets we send out to do maintenance are doing that jobs assigned properly, but also and far more importantly that they are doing it safely. !8-22 year olds have a certain measure of invincibility in their mindset and you constantly have to remind them to wear protective equipment. I also think as well that it is a challenge to find ways to help guide (especially on Sea Term) when cadets who are in leadership roles are struggling to deal with conflict and issues they are having with their classmates or underclassmen.
Q: What is role during the anchoring drills?
A: My role during the anchoring drills is really to provide ship support to the faculty and cadets and to ensure that the equipment is working properly. I would say anchoring is just one of many things a future deck officer will learn in their careers. I think for the cadets the most challenging factor is the coordination required from the Bridge Team to the cadets on the bow who are physically letting the anchor go.
Q: What is your role in the docking process?
A: Generally, with the Bosun and a group of cadets we will rig the pilot ladder to get the pilot(s) onboard. I then go to the bow (again on the training ship I’m usually with the Bosun and a group of cadets) where we clear the anchors and provide an anchor watch in confined waters and start getting the lines ready for getting to the dock. I’m in charge of tying up the bow.
Q: Do you get much free time while the Kennedy is in port?
A: Sometimes, it depends on what we have going on during each port stop. The day to day process of the ship on Sea Term doesn’t vary a whole lot from sea to port. There is always maintenance to supervise, etc. In some ways getting to port is busier as there a things we do in port like take of trash or load more stores that we don’t do once we get into a routine at sea.
Q: As both a cadet and an MMA employee, how many Sea Terms?
A: I did three Sea Terms and one Commercial Ship as a Cadet and 2018 will be my 5th as an employee.
Q: What are you top three ports that you have visited.
A: Aruba, Barbados, Key West