Meet Tugboat Captain, Michelle Walford. She’s been in the industry for 10 years and currently works for Pacific Tug Boat Service out of Long Beach, California.
Michelle was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. After high school, she applied for colleges all over her home state, with her sights set on International Relations so she could travel and work in other countries. This dream was fueled by her desire to explore and be by the water.
“I applied for Cal Maritime with a Global Studies Major and was accepted. My very first day of orientation someone in the grade above me asked my major. I replied, ‘Global Studies,’ and he immediately shook his head and said, ‘You don’t want that. You want to be Deckie. You want to drive boats.’ I immediately walked over to the orientation table and changed my major to Marine Transportation. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what a ship really was.
I graduated with a BS in Marine Transportation and a 3rd Mate Unlimited License. Since then I have upgraded to a Chief Mate Unlimited along with my 1600 Ton Master.” -Walford
“I can be treated differently because of my gender, usually when I first start a new company, and not necessarily treated negatively, just different. I overcome that with mountains of patience.” -Walford
“I believe if you have to tell people how great you are at something, you’re generally not that great at it. I’m not a yeller, especially with a crew I’ve never worked with. I treat everyone with respect and ask for the same in return.” -Walford
Michelle encourages women with a bit of wanderlust and a penchant for adventurous vocations to consider maritime professions.
“I don’t think our career is advertised as much as it should be. Lots of women want to travel and do something outside the norm, we just need to get the word out.” -Walford
As captain of her own tugboat, Michelle gets to be her own boss, use her gut and her knowledge to make tough calls, and occasionally bask under the northern lights if the location is right.