Against The Tide

Tara Bain, The Bahamas

March 2, 2022

As a cadet my job entails learning and operating machinery in the engine room . Whether it’s tracing pipelines, or dismantling purifiers for maintenance. Believe it or not a lot of science goes into this job like testing the pool waters when bunkering to doing a compatibility test on the marine gas oil to heavy fuel oil .

I enjoy knowing that everyday  there’s a new problem to fix which keeps you on your toes . There is no day in the engine room where a machine doesn’t need servicing or maintenance.

I am currently on my very first contract as an engine cadet and so far everything is a challenge, anywhere from communication with persons from different countries to getting accustomed to the whole lifestyle onboard is new to me. Everything involves understanding the layout of each compartment and being able to operate valves and pumps in the correct sequence.

When I first was being toured around the engine room to get accustomed. I remember men just stared at me with various expressions of amazement ,surprise ,shock. Personally, I did not find it out of the ordinary for me being the only woman in the engine room but the waves of emotions made me realize that I’m an unusual sight to see in the engine-room. Luckily, I was quick to realize that I had to set the pace with how I wanted to operate in the Engine space. I knew I came to learn and get as much hands-on experience and knowledge from these experienced engineers, motor-mans, fitters and oilers . After the second week people knew that I came to work and treated me as such.

What I also realize is I represent a demographic people don’t usually see as an engine cadet / officer which is a black Caribbean woman . As I walk around the ship, people would stop me and converse with me about how they’ve never met a Bahamian employee or a female engine cadet onboard. Heads were turned as people wondered who she was, where she was going and what she was doing in the engine room and so I realized that me being in a space that people thought was male dominated was a challenge in itself.  Before I knew it, people were encouraging and cheering me on. Every-time I have a hard day at work, I always look back at the faces of my fellow coworkers as they smile with pride for me. 

I also realized that there are no changing rooms for females as it is customary for you to change your coveralls into a clean one when going to eat or simply clocking out of your shift . Every position is dominated by men and thus have their areas to change while I do not have any.

My advice to other female seafarers is: the first time is always rough, it gets easier as each day goes by and as you continue to take more steps into the direction of your maritime career. Years from now you’re going to look back and say “hey I remember when I first came into this industry and I felt like I did not fit” but you truly belong.

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