R/V Thompson A.B., Maria
The R/V Thompson has 24 crew members that make this ship sail smoothly. Among the positions, A.B.s are some of the most versatile. I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Maria, one of the A.B.s aboard the R/V Thompson who was born on a boat and continues to spend most of her time at sea, either contributing to science or better environmental practices around the world.
A.B. stands for able bodied seamen. They take on a variety of tasks aboard the ship such as operating equipment (cranes, winches, rescue boats, etc.) and maintenance. How does one become an A.B. aboard a scientific vessel? Well, everyone has diverse work/education backgrounds. Maria originally went to school for meteorology but decided that a degree in sailing would better suit her interests. Using that degree, she’s gained plenty of sea going experience including circumnavigating the globe (twice!) and even chartering her own sailboat, named Joana, for 18 years as a captain for a variety of clientele, including ambassadors. She even trains people to sail, teaching them navigation and about boat maintenance for those who are curious about owning one. One of her clients in the past, Bernadette, is the third mate of the R/V Thompson, and Maria was told to apply for the position as an A.B. aboard the R/V Thompson.
Maria has worked on the R/V Thompson for about three years, but she’s been an A.B. for a few other ships before. Her favorite parts of the job are the ability to be outside most of the time and travel the world, along with experiencing the interesting science that is conducted throughout diverse environments. In her experience on other boats she’s worked, A.B.s have “kind of a general job every day, but on the R/V Thompson you can enjoy the science and the different people it brings aboard”. When asked what is challenging about the job Maria replied that there isn’t much to complain about, but you’re always with the same people 24/7 whether you’re on duty or not, so it can be hard navigating those relationships at times. But aspects that might bother other people don’t faze her since she has been sailing at sea since she was born, so the time frame (about 2-3 months at sea/working at a time) isn’t difficult her. Though she does miss her family and the weather can be rough at times (on this cruise alone we experienced 15-to-20-foot swells!). When outside of the R/V Thompson Maria commits some of her time to tackling ocean plastic pollution in addition to chartering her sailboat.
“In Mocean” is a plastics upcycling company Maria started with a friend in Germany. Through the program they, and other volunteers, travel through sail boats with plastic shredders and extruders to create new products from ocean plastics, with the products being anything that you have a mold or presses for (such as surfboard fins). They often affiliate with local conservations to aid in dealing with plastic pollutions. In Mocean also hosts workshops in coastal communities with little or no infrastructure, making them a grass roots program. They have sailboats around the world taking them, with the plastic shredders/extruders, to different villages offering to teach people how to use these machines to both get rid of ocean plastics and make products that they can make money from (In-Mocean.org if you want to learn more or support them).
It was a pleasure to speak with Maria about her many seagoing experiences. She is truly an impressive figure who has a genuine love for our oceans, both aiding in the contributions to science, as well as wanting to leave it better than she found it. If you want to learn more about her sailboat, Joana, In Mocean, or learn more about Maria personally, all social media and websites are below.
Maria's Personal Accounts:
Joana the Sailboat: