Harbor masters organize, direct and control the operations of the waterfront.
They assign space for incoming ships and enforce the rules concerning the
water. They also plan and develop future operations of the harbor according
to economic conditions.
Ted Warburton is a harbor master. He says harbor masters are laborers,
managers, boating safety consultants, emergency planners and sympathetic ears
for disgruntled boaters and water-based businesspeople.
Because harbors tend to be established, and few are built, there isn't
much growth in the industry. Most job openings come from people retiring or
moving to other fields.
Kathy Messier is a harbor master. She says harbor masters are also politicians,
whether they like it or not. "A big part of my job is [having] a good relationship
with the people," she says. "For a lot of people, especially the [commercial]
fishermen, the harbor represents their roots."
Most harbor masters work for small to mid-sized ports. Some are employed
by municipalities or other government bodies. Some work for private businesses.
Rarely do harbor masters have any regulatory power, although Warburton
says he often writes port regulations for the Santa Cruz Port District Commission
Warburton says some heavy lifting is part of his work and physical dexterity
is a must.
"You pull on ropes a lot," he says. "You need to pull things out of the
water, plus there's pushing and pulling things along the docks."
A harbor master must also have a sharp eye for potential problems and disasters,
he says. "Whenever I walk around on the dock, I'm asking myself, 'What could
go wrong and am I prepared for it?'"
He says if he isn't prepared for potential disasters such as boat fires,
he immediately makes plans in case they happen.
Sheila Best manages a private pier. She agrees that harbor masters must
"The work is completely unpredictable," says Best.
Control the operations of the harbor
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