By Adrienne Hurst
ABYC Marketing Coordinator
Before we are able to make waves in the marine trades, most women start out in the kiddie pool – and that includes me. Here, I am honored to profile female students and recent graduates of ABYC Accredited or Affiliated Marine Service programs.
Most of these women have changed careers from positions as crew members, stewards, even hair stylists, and their experiences in navigating the waters of marine services could help set courses for the next generation of students. Each of these women found themselves at a crossroads, then found a career that not only pays the bills but fulfills their passions. With examples like these, maybe you can too, and make some waves along the way.
ABYC Master Technician & IYRS Dean of Education
IYRS School of Technology & Trades
Newport, Rhode Island
Marine Diesel Engines
Lisa Esposito grew up sailing the Long Island Sound with her family, leading her to enroll in a semester aboard a tall ship through the Sea Education Association program while pursuing an undergraduate degree from Trinity College. During this time, Esposito realized she wanted to work on sail boats. So for the next decade or so, Esposito bounced between teaching and sailing jobs. When the pandemic hit, Esposito found herself teaching in Italy. “It was really weird,” she said. Esposito packed up and headed home to the States where she enrolled in the Marine Systems Program at IYRS School of Technology & Trades (Newport, R.I.). Many of her friends and peers in the marine industry studied there and used that education to move from crewing roles into engineering roles.
Esposito is not only a recent graduate, but also the Dean of Education at IYRS. During her time as a student, Esposito unsurprisingly found her knack for marine electric and electronics. “I kind of knew I wasn’t going to love engines because I had been shoved in engine rooms before. But the electrical side was fun, like complicated LEGOS,” Esposito said. After a little under the year working as a marine-electronics technician, she returned to IYRS as an instructor with ABYC Master Technician credentials as well as several other certifications through NMEA. “It felt like the two things I had been bouncing between for years could finally be combined into one.”
Esposito shared some advice for other women who may be considering a career in the marine services. “Go for it,” she said. “Identify the things you think may be a challenge and find the right support. Find a mentor.”
“There is so much work to be done and it is so fun. If you really want to see the fruits of your labor at the end of the day, working in the marine industry is great for that.”
Shore Power Marine
Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding
Port Townsend, Washington
“Trust yourself, believe in yourself, and stick to your passions.”
Erika Ensminger started her career in commercial fishing, primarily out of Alaska. After nine years of that, “I was at a crossroads deciding if I wanted to get my own fishing boat or start my own business,” said Ensminger. “Fishing got me started. During off seasons I worked in various boatyards and from there made connections and just got to know people.”
Ensminger decided that a certificate or education in marine services would be helpful down either of those paths. So, she went back to school and graduated from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding’s Marine Systems program in the spring of 2022. Upon graduating, Ensminger started her own marine electrical business, Shore Power Marine. “I have a mobile shop in my van now but have plans for something bigger in the future.” She also has plans to earn her ABYC Marine Corrosion certification in the future.
“It’s really gratifying finishing an installation and seeing the customer go off and have whatever adventure they’re wanting to have,” said Ensminger when asked to share some of her most memorable moments in her education and career as a marine electrician. “I’m an adventurous person, and whatever I can do to help other people to get to have those adventures is so gratifying.”
Along with an ABYC Marine Corrosion Certification, Ensminger said she is also “working towards helping to build an organization of women to address some of the issues in the industry.”
“We have a solid community and good platforms here in Port Townsend like the Wooden Boat Festival,” she said, “and being so close to Seattle, there are ways we can bring some change.”
Marine Service Technology Student
Fort Myers Technical College
Fort Myers, Florida
Marine Systems (In progress)
“If you love the boating environment, the people and the atmosphere, definitely look into this industry as a choice for a future career.”
Like many other women who find themselves in the marine industry, it was not Annette Nelson’s first career. “My background started in the building industry,” Nelson said. “I worked for three prominent home builders after earning an AS in Computer Science. I did the permitting of communities, some accounting and purchasing in the field of home building construction.” Before earning her Associates Degree, Nelson had also attended cosmetology school. “The recession hit our building industry very hard. I returned to hairdressing for many years before deciding to make this big change.”
“While hairdressing, I had a client who would often talk about her son who is a local Marine Mechanic. She would speak of how well he is doing and the fact that he loves what he does. I love boats and boating, so I decided to look into it.” And looked into it, she did! Nelson is currently enrolled in the Marine Service Technologies Program at Fort Myers Technical College, in Fort Myers, Florida. As a student at FMTC, Nelson is in the process of earning her ABYC Marine Systems Certification, along with certifications from Yamaha and Mercury.
Nelson’s most memorable day so far is her very first day of class. “I was terrified I would be the only woman, which I was, but my instructor (Mr. Esterline) was excited that I was there! It made me feel like I belonged and still, every day, I feel like it was the best decision I’ve made.” After she completes the Marine Service Technologies Program at FMTC, Nelson is most interested in pursuing engine service work and plans to remain in the Fort Myers Beach area.
Marine Maintenance Technology Student
Skagit Valley College
Friday Harbor, Washington
“Some of my most valuable experiences have come from the things I’ve accomplished while incredibly anxious.”
Laura Moon bought her first boat in 2020 with the intention of fixing it up on her own, but quickly found the task overwhelming and difficult for one person. She had worked around boats in the past, though not necessarily as a service professional. Still, most of her career had been “anywhere [she] could get on boats.” Feeling inspired after buying the boat and talking with friends in the marine industry, Moon decided to enroll in the Marine Maintenance Technology Program at Skagit Valley College. “I don’t think I would have found [the program] on my own,” she shared as a nod towards those friends and peers who directed her to SVC.
Like many others, Moon never saw herself going down the college or higher education path. And yet, Moon will graduate in mid-June with an Associate’s Degree in Marine Maintenance Technology. “The people I have met there and worked with have been so wonderful and I have learned so much from them.” One of her most memorable moments as a student, Moon said, was going into a practical engine exam, so nervous and thinking she was completely unprepared, only to realize once it was her turn to show off her skills, she knew everything she needed to know.
“One thing I’ve learned from fellow students – a lot of others have grappled with perceived barriers to the industry. Whether it’s age, unfamiliarity with boats, language, educational, or financial struggles. But we showed up and learned most of it was in our heads,” said Moon. “I’m still scared sometimes but I’m doing it anyway.”
Moon recently started working for Northwest Rigging, where she is excited to continue working after graduation alongside Quinn Olson, one of her instructors from SVC. “I am going to miss engines eventually, so at some point I will switch back.”
Adrienne Hurst is the Marketing Coordinator at the American Boat & Yacht Council. She spent her childhood and adolescent years boating on the Chesapeake Bay with family and friends. Adrienne worked at a local ABYC Member marina as Dock Master throughout college. After graduating from the University of Mary Washington, Adrienne chose to pursue a marketing career in the marine industry and landed at ABYC in January 2023.