How does an economist get a job on a research vessel? Determination and a well thought-out plan of attack, that’s how!
Ken Kenerson will tell you himself that he’s not a typical seaman, in many respects.
After a full career in public finance and administration (with a B.A. and an M.A. in Economics and almost three decades experience, including stints as Rhode Island state budget director and the vice president for business and finance at the University of Rhode Island), he decided to pursue the life-long dream from which he had become side-tracked years ago. That’s what led him to his current position on board a research vessel with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Kenerson acts as either an Ordinary Seaman (OS) or an Able-Bodied Seaman (AB) on cruises aboard WHOI’s research vessel Atlantis. “An AB’s responsibilities are very similar to an OS’s in port,” he explains, “however, they differ at sea, where an AB’s primary job includes watch keeping and helmsmanship.”
"Ken Kenerson will tell you himself that he’s not a typical seaman, in many respects"
Kenerson couldn’t be happier. He loves the shipboard camaraderie, being part of WHOI’s research efforts, and the diversity that his job entails. “A typical day for me at sea might include being a swimmer or a small boat operator for the submersible Alvin during launch and recovery operations, operating the crane for deployment or recovery of scientific equipment, doing some chipping and painting for exterior ship maintenance, taking care of assigned cleaning stations on the interior of the ship, being a line handler, being a watch stander on the bridge, and last but not least, watching a gorgeous sunset before starting our night ops,” Kenerson enthuses. “It doesn't get any better!”
“Because of my love of being at sea and my deep interest in ocean science, I decided that once I had retired from my previous career, I wanted to be involved, in some way, with this field,” Kenerson explains. “In order to do that, I had to get qualified.” So, in 1998 he set out to do just that. Working on a commercial lobster boat in Rhode Island proved that he had the stamina and good health to endure long hours and difficult circumstances. He also learned skills that are still important in his job today, such as line handling.
"Kenerson couldn’t be happier. He loves the shipboard camaraderie, being part of WHOI’s research efforts, and the diversity that his job entails"
“In order to work on a research vessel, I thought I needed two things,” he explains. “I needed ‘blue water’ experience and educational training in seamanship.” The blue water experience came in 1998 when Kenerson was hired to crew on a motor yacht, which he took from South Carolina to Cork, Ireland. He stayed aboard for six months, visiting thirteen European countries. “For the second requirement, I attended Northeast Maritime Institute and got my U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner document as an Able Seaman,” he adds.
With all this experience under his belt, Kenerson called WHOI and made an appointment to discuss job opportunities. The rest, as they say, is history.
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