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Eunice Cadorette Young’s maritime career was a dream worth pursuing

By Hilary Reeves

A younger Young operates a Survey Vessel.
Young onboard a Survey Vessel as Third Mate early in her career.

Boston-native Eunice Cadorette Young’s dream of a career spent at sea sailed to the forefront of her imagination in high school. She never met her grandfather, a sailing coach in Annapolis, Maryland, but grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories about him.

“I don’t know what it was about wanting to be at sea,” she said. “I think hearing my grandmother’s stories kind of pushed me toward the maritime thing. Years later, I found out that she, too was an avid recreational mariner in a navigation club.”

Young applied to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a paramilitary college where she expected to solidify her interest in joining the Navy. Instead, she felt increasingly drawn to the merchant marine track, and began studying marine transportation. Four years later, she graduated with her Third Mate’s License and set sail on her first official job in August of 2001.

“I boarded my first ship – it was a Navy research vessel – in Gulfport, Mississippi,” she said. “We sailed through the Panama Canal, and were scheduled to turn up the coast to Washington State where we would conduct survey operations.”

Young’s ship exited the Canal a few days before Sept. 11th. That fateful morning, she was the mate on watch on the bridge. The ship was making good time, located off the coast of Southern California, headed north.

“At the time, we didn’t have the kind of technology that we have now. We had e-mail, but we couldn’t send a receive in real time,” she explained. “We happened to have a radio officer on board. He came out onto the bridge and told us what was happening. I was one of the first people on the ship to know the World Trade Center had been attacked. Later in the day, we ended up pulling in close enough that we could get a television signal off the coast of San Diego.”

Young conducts mooring operations on a training ship at Mass Maritime.
Young, a 1st Class Cadet conducting mooring operations on training ship at Mass Maritime.

Young’s first eventful sail gave way to a four-and-a-half month rotation. The company she worked for had eight ships, which allowed for different onboard environments.

“I think (living on a ship) is an adjustment for everyone, but going to school, we had an idea,” she said. “It was an adjustment being a young woman out there with men who had been sailing since before I was alive, but I think that because I grew up with (two older) brothers and went to school with mostly males I handled it well.”

Young sailed for three years before deciding to take a break, relocating to New Jersey, where her husband grew up, in 2003. She sailed on the occasional short job until 2006 when she was recruited for a Third Mate position on the SBX-1, or Sea-Based X-Band Radar, a floating early-warning radar station operated by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency. For her first hitch on the SBX-1, which operates in the Pacific Ocean, it took four days on a crew boat to board. But her rotation – two months on, two month off – was perfect. She worked on the SBX-1 for two years.

SBX-1 at sea preparing for resupply and passenger transfer from OSV
SBX-1 at sea preparing for resupply and passenger transfer from OSV.

“I was starting to get tired of sailing again,” she said, “and I believe that before you hate your job, you should do something to change it.”

Young left the Pacific, accepting a Port Captain position in New Jersey with Interocean American Shipping (IAS), but was out of a job when the contract she worked on expired. After another stint on the SBX-1, in 2011 she again left for a position as a Port Captain with IAS. Later that year, when the SBX contract changed, her worlds collided, and she was designated as Port Captain of the SBX-1. The following year, IAS became TOTE Services, and in 2014, she relocated to Jacksonville, Florida with her husband and daughter.

Young smiles in a yellow reflective vest in front of container crane rollers.
Young at the TOTE Maritime terminal in Jacksonville, near where she works today.

“I still go out to the SBX, for a week or so at a time, a couple of times a year,” she said, but added that she’s thoroughly enjoying this shoreside season of her career. “I do think it’s becoming more normal for women to be onboard ships. As generations change, we look at what other people went through before us, and it helps. As women, we have to work a little differently, a little harder to prove ourselves.”

Looking back on her career, Young remembers being on her first ship, getting ready to tie up for the first time. She was the Mate on deck, and was issuing orders to the unlicensed men about. She had a safety concern, wanted things done a certain way, and one crewman in particular wasn’t listening.

“He started stomping around, complaining and talking back in Spanish, saying that I should be at home taking care of babies,” she laughed. “He apologized years later. I feel like in this industry, as a woman, you really have to earn respect over time.”

Now she has the best of both worlds – and no regrets.

“I most likely will never sail again,” she said. “I have my daughter, and I want to be home for her. I keep my (Second Mate) License up and active, and I could sail again if I wanted to, but I don’t think I will because time at home with my family is more important to me.”

But she still remembers the moment when she knew for sure hers was a dream worth pursuing.

“I was a Freshman at college, and I was on my first training ship and we had to stand watch. I was on bow lookout by myself just before sunrise. When the sun came up, it broke through the clouds. It was just amazing to me. There’s nothing like that beauty and the solitude that you can only experience at sea.”