Charting their own course

How five female technicians found the work they love

By Jaclyn Vincenti
ABYC Marketing Coordinator

Women have a growing place in the marine industry – not just in numbers, but in the range of their occupations. We see more women every day encouraged to learn more, get involved, and seek out what they love to do. Need proof? Here are five women using the knowledge from their marine service technology schools as launch pads into their dream career. Working all across the country, these women send a clear and unified message to others: there is a place for you in the marine industry.

The Pathfinder


Ashley Ripley
Skagit Valley College (Mt. Vernon, WA)

Ashley Ripley is all about using her specific capabilities and finding new places for herself in the marine industry. She co-owns Mocean Yacht Charters, which initially ran bareboat charters and now specializes in transporting expedition yachts that need work before delivery.

Beyond her career moves as Mocean evolved, Ashley enrolled in the Marine Maintenance Technology program at Skagit Valley College. “The more I know, the more I can utilize my skill sets.” She has also picked up writing manuals for businesses, yacht owners, and Mocean’s own vessels, something she would not have expected to enjoy as much as she does. Ashley continues to find herself surprised by how uncomplicated marine systems can be when she takes the time to learn in areas that play to her strengths.

Her best advice to women seeking a career in boating is to think about what they enjoy doing day-to-day and see where there might be a need for that in the industry. “There is so much room in this field for growth, accountability, and all types of people… Women see things that men don’t, we plan and think differently,” she says. As she continues to grow in the marine industry, Ashley is excited to “continue to learn, chase my passions, and see where the wind takes us.”

The Doer


Gabriella Inman
Great Lakes Boat Building School (Cedarville, MI)

Gabriella Inman has not let her time in the classroom slow down her work in the field. Accepted as the first female student in the Marine Service Technology (MST) program at Great Lakes Boat Building School, Gabriella found technician work while attending classes that led to her current position as a Service Technician at Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales in Holland, MI. She has been in the industry formally for two years, but started performing small tasks as a teenager: cleaning out the bilge and checking and replacing spark plugs. To Gabriella, however, these responsibilities weren’t small; they became her calling. By shadowing her father (another Marine Technician), she says, “I fell absolutely in love with working on boats and decided I wanted to make a career out of it.”

A recent graduate of Great Lakes Boat Building School, she is an ABYC Master Technician, and wants to increase her knowledge in various marine systems. Her drive stems from making a difference for others. To Gabriella, marine service technology work is a way to provide others with the best experience on the water.

Gabriella’s advice to women entering the marine industry? “You and your coworkers are not all equally skilled, and that is OK. You do not have to be perfect. Making mistakes is the best way to learn.” Additionally, she wants to reassure other women that “it doesn’t have to be intimidating to work in a primarily male-dominated career when you work for or with the right company and coworkers.”

The Instructor


Athena Vieira
IYRS School of Technology and Trades (Newport, RI)

Like many technicians, Athena Vieira has been engaged with the marine industry since high school, involved in educational programs for children and adults, teaching sailing and wooden-boat restoration. She holds degrees in Marine Affairs and Political Science from the University of Rhode Island, where learning about the impacts of coastal hazards from shipyards pushed her to find a path as a marine engineer. She is newly graduated from the Marine Systems program at IYRS School of Technology and Trades — although her passion doesn’t end there.

Athena now spends much of her time on the water as an Apprentice at 59° North Sailing, assisting adults with developing skills in offshore sailing, and is looking forward to focusing further on education and training newer members of the marine industry. “My overarching goal is to educate both children and adults on marine engineering and help others work toward earning their licensing. I hope to make strides in developing curriculums that allow students to become more hands-on in marine systems at an earlier age.”

To women entering the marine industry, she strongly advises to take initiative in their learning. Seeking out a positive learning environment, she says, “will not only develop your skills but build confidence in yourself.” The enthusiasm of the students she encounters constantly inspires her to find creative ways to present the complex topics of marine systems.

The Small-Business Owners


Jennifer King and Monica Reiss
Skagit Valley College

Jennifer King and Monica Reiss are co-owners of K & R Marine (based in North Puget Sound), specializing in marine electrical/electronics installations and repairs on recreational vessels. Both are graduates of and instructors at Skagit Valley College, and are celebrated ABYC Certified Technicians (Marine Service Technician Week 2022). Though they’re in similar places now, the paths they took to get to their current employment differ.

As a Midwest kid, Monica did not have a lot of contact with the marine industry growing up, but found herself studying Marine Geology and Oceanography as a young adult. She spent six weeks on a tall ship through the SEA Semester training program, became a volunteer deckhand for an additional four and a half months, and was totally hooked. After a few more career stops, Monica found Marine Maintenance Technology at Skagit Valley College.


Jennifer, on the other hand, grew up on the ocean, and always longed to be a marine biologist. After graduating with a degree in Marine Biology from California State University, Long Beach, she spent time in various capacities working with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Realizing the time away from home wasn’t for her, she began looking into other career options in the marine industry, and landed in Skagit’s Marine Maintenance Technology program as well.

To the K & R Marine founders, marine service technology programs really assist in learning some of the best industry practices in a controlled environment. While the hands-on skills are definitely reinforced on the job, they learned (and now teach) boating-safety practices in the classroom. Regardless, they value the real-world application that comes from MST programs. “One of my favorite parts as an instructor and business owner,” says Jennifer, “is seeing the students actually start to understand how their knowledge applies to a real-life boat project.”

They concede that some of the paperwork aspects of their job aren’t always as appealing as the technician work, but they love the freedom owning their own business provides. Monica says that one of their favorite parts of being their own boss is the flexibility. “When we decided that we didn’t want to do any more plumbing work, we simply started referring those customers to other companies. We also have the freedom to refuse jobs that we don’t think are a good fit for us or just are not interesting.”  

The schools listed are all ABYC Foundation Marine Trade Accredited Schools (MTAP).

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