First Mate Mitzi Crane
Being the First Mate of RV Atlantis
carries a great deal of responsibility. Besides being the second-in- command of the ship and in charge of
it's daily operations for part of each day, Mitzi is also responsible
for crew training, deck maintenance, and any medical attention that is
needed. Although she originally worked in banking after she graduated
from Juniata College, Mitzi returned to the Maine Maritime Academy to
get her Third Mate’s License. She has worked on commercial vessels and
cargo ships for the better part of 17 years but has only recently
gotten involved in supporting oceanographic research which she likes
doing very much. Julie Barber spoke with Mitzi today about what it
means to be a First Mate and how she came to work at WHOI.
What are your main responsibilities as the First Mate?
Mitzi: I have command of the vessel for eight hours each day. This command involves making decisions for navigation, deployment, and whatever else we are doing for operations that day. I am also the Head of the Deck Department. This means I schedule different people to do certain jobs. I basically take care of the deck maintenance. I make sure that all the gear and chemicals onboard are checked and stowed. Depending on who the Captain of the vessel is, I share or have full responsibilities of the medical response in case someone gets hurt or needs medication. I am also in charge of training. This includes all the fire, boat, and hazardous materials drills. I am the on-scene leader during all of these drills. As the First Mate, you wind up becoming the navigator, firefighter, doctor, and really just a little bit of everything.
What did you want to be when you grew up and how did you get to where you are now?
I think around the age of fourteen, my hero was Jacques Cousteau. He had such a fascinating lifestyle! It was exciting and I thought about what wonderful opportunities he had! So, I entered college thinking I wanted a degree in oceanography. I wound up with a degree in French and a minor in biology from Juniata College, and no job. So, my first job was in banking as a teller, although I eventually moved up to branch manager.
I left this job at the age of 30 and enrolled in Maine Maritime Academy. At the time I didn't even know if I got seasick! I graduated in 1983 with a Third Mate's License. The first job I took was with a tramp tanker operation. I worked for them for 13 years, until the company went out of business. Then, I moved on to work with a bulk carrier company. Finally, in April 1999, I came to work for WHOI and I have been really enjoying my work in support of science.
What do you like most about your job?
The dynamics of the people are wonderful. The crew members are so professional and easy to work with on this ship. They are so interested in their jobs and science activities on board. There are a lot of fun things on board that allow for this interaction between people, like the ping pong games! We also go to some pretty nice ports of call. Visiting different places is definitely something I enjoy a lot about my job.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I’ve been working on ships for 17 years! When I retire I would like to go traveling to some of the places I want to go to, rather than the ship’s port of calls. I would like to write and buy a beret and take up painting. I want to make all my memories into pictures or words. I would love to have a little farm where I can grow flowers or herbs. Out here you can't plant a garden and watch it grow. So, when I retire I want some acres of land and plants.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to sleep or read in my leisure time on the boat. Many times, I find that my spare time on the boat needs to be used for medical work, training, and clerical work on the computer. Not all of my spare time is always spent in a fun way! In port, I like to explore, shop, go out to dinner and go to some of the crew parties. I always find a lot to do on shore in my spare time!
Originally published: February 2, 2000