ABYC is certifying more women than ever before. Here are some of their stories.
By Sarah Devlin
ABYC Content Director
The number of women seeking certification as marine technicians continue to increase. Here, we profile five female technicians who show us that Certified Marine Technicians enter their careers for a variety of different reasons, from a changed career to a well-timed bit of advice from a career counselor, from responding to a job posting to turning their favorite pastime into a job.
Regardless of gender, all Certified Marine Technicians are trained to provide the level of service boating manufacturers or repair facilities require. To quote Cindy Tufts, who is profiled in this article, “I’m really excited to see more women out here!”
ABYC Master Technician, Compliance Specialist
Brunswick Technology Center, Edgewater, Fla.
ABYC Standards Certification;
- Diesel Engines; Gasoline Engines; Marine Corrosion; Marine Electrical; Marine Systems
- USCG Master Merchant Mariner
“Running a boat out on the ocean for an endurance run or compliance tests is usually my favorite way to spend the day.”
A graduate of the Chapman School of Seamanship (Stuart, Fla.), Kim Horn launched her marine-industry career as a towboat captain and marine surveyor. Two decades later, she is the Compliance Specialist for Brunswick Technology Center, the product development center that opened in 2019 to focus on technologic advancements on methods and materials, electronic technologies, connectivity, and autonomy, specifically for Boston Whaler and Sea Ray.
“I have a crucial responsibility for the compliance development of new models,” Horn says. “My company recognizes that the compliance and safety of all our Brunswick products is paramount, so they support my involvement of receiving additional training and attending conferences.”
Regarded as a key compliance resource for all of the Brunswick brands with knowledge for CFRs, ABYC, ISO, and NFPA regulations and standards, Horn serves on several ABYC Project Technical Committees (PTCs), the ABYC Technical Advisory Group committee, and the NMMA Boat and Yacht Certification Committee. “Not only does participation in these groups further the development of safe boating standards for recreational boats but it enhances my training,” she states.
ABYC Master Technician
NW Explorations, Bellingham, Wash.
- ABYC Standards; Diesel Engines; Marine Corrosion; Marine Electrical
- NMEA 2000
“I love electrical troubleshooting, particularly AC electrical troubleshooting. The addition of ELCI breakers on dock pedestals has brought a lot of boat AC electrical issues to light.”
Jen Haaland wanted to live in the San Juan Islands and entered the marine industry through an ad for a marine technician. “I did a lot of data entry in the beginning,” she says. “After a month or two of sitting at a computer I raised my hand to do some actual technician work.”
Cue the Skagit Valley College Marine Maintenance Technology program (Anacortes, Wash.) where she says she received “everything I needed to get a job in this industry. We are so fortunate to have this program in the Pacific Northwest. It is a wonderful school with fantastic resources at community college prices.”
After receiving her ABYC Standards Certification at a special session at the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition & Conference (IBEX) in 2019, Jen Haaland went on to win an ABYC wiring challenge that same week. Already an ABYC Master Technician (“I really wanted that ABYC Master Tech hat. No joke.”) and a self-professed lover of troubleshooting, Haaland was merely flexing her brainpower during the challenge.
Her favorite troubleshooting moment was on a 5-foot yacht when a worker was shocked when cleaning the propeller while the boat was hauled. “For years [the boat] had small AC mysteries that no electrician could figure out,” she says. “I found 60 volts AC between the propeller and the ground. I ended up finding a tiny indicator light neutral was miswired to the wrong side of the isolation transformer. Moving that tiny white wire from one screw to another was the simple solution.
ABYC Master Technician, Lead Technician
Diversified Marine Services, Inc., Annapolis, Md.
- Gasoline Engines; Marine Electrical; Marine Systems
- Airmar Certified Installer
- Yanmar Mechanical Engine
- NMEA Basic Marine Electronics Installer
“The company I work for really encourages techs to pursue continued education, training and certifications.”
Colleen Moore grew up around boats on the eastern shore in Maryland, and knew she wanted to work on or near the water. Her initial instincts lead her to a degree and the beginnings of a career in Environmental Science, but her jobs in the environmental field “ended up being more desk work than I planned,” she says. “When I decided that I wanted to work in the marine industry, I found out about ABYC certifications after some research and started studying for the electrical test. I took the electrical course through ABYC, which helped me get a job at an electronics installation company.”
Now employed at Diversified Marine Services (DMS), Moore was encouraged to become an ABYC Master Technician through her management team. In fact, DMS pays for her training, which includes Airmar Certified Installer, Yanmar Mechanical Engine Certification, and Basic Marine Electronics Installer (MEI). “DMS really encourages techs to pursue continued education, training and certifications,” Moore says. “It definitely gives our customers more confidence in our work when they know that our techs are ABYC Certified.”
ABYC Master Technician
Crowley Maritime, Houma, La.
- Air Conditioning and Refrigeration; Diesel Engines; Gasoline Engines; Marine Electrical; Marine Systems
- NMEA Basic Marine Electronics Installer
“I like any type of project I haven’t seen before. Getting to be creative or learning something new keeps the job interesting.”
Caroline Chudy grew up sailing Lake Superior in Marquette, Mich. “I was always on the water as a kid,” she says. “This definitely helped push me into a career in the maritime industry,” where she landed her first job at a small company that built luxury yacht tenders. “I did a bit of everything there, including inboard, outboard and electrical installations.
I really wanted to learn about the systems on board boats as a whole, and how they work together so that I can be better prepared to build and upkeep my own boat one day,” she says. “This led me to pursue multiple certifications across different disciplines, instead of focusing in on just one.”
A recent graduate of Broward College (Hollywood, Fla.) with a Marine Engineering Management degree, Chudy is currently part of a large team with Crowley Maritime building a 328-foot commercial fishing and processing vessel, the Arctic Fjord, scheduled to be launched later this year. Crowley Maritime boasts a notable level of engagement with marine-focused students, dedicating a great deal of time to getting the trained workers they need through summer internships, part-time work for enrolled students, and development programs for recent graduates.
ABYC Master Technician
Waypoints, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
- Diesel Engines; Marine Electrical; Marine Systems
- EPA Certified
“When my youngest started high school, I realized for the first time in my life, I would be able to do what I wanted to do.”
A bit of a nudge from an astute career advisor put Cindy Tufts on track to her life as a Certified Marine Technician. As a low-income single mother, Tufts was looking for a job that fit her skillset and her passion. “My advisor asked ‘have you ever thought of becoming a marine mechanic?’… I had been doing my own car repairs out of financial necessity for years,” Tufts says.
“Within days I had registered for a marine technician program” at IYRS School of Technology & Trades (Newport, R.I.). These days, you can find Tufts in the U.S. Virgin Islands where she is in her fourth season working for Waypoints, formerly CYOA, on St. Thomas. She is the only ABYC-certified member of the crew.
Tufts recalls a specific story when asked about her certifications. At a job previous to her current position, she been tasked with installing three new thru hulls: a head intake, a head discharge, and a sink discharge. “The components for the head discharge did not fit together properly,” she says. “I could only get two threads together, not enough to safely hold it together. I refused to drill the 2.5-inch hole until the components met the standards.” She received pushback from her former management team.
Although she could not remember the exact ABYC standards, she knew she was correct, so she called the ABYC Technical Department directly for clarification. Once she had that validation, she was able to secure the right components with management approval. “I drilled the hole and completed the installation.”