INTERVIEW WITH MARBLEHEAD PUMP OUT CREW—MATT THOMPSON AND SAM WORTHLEY
“Overall it’s been a great job. And it can be fun at times, too. It is really hard to complain about being paid to be on a boat!”
How long has a pump out boat service been operating and how do you hail it?
The Marblehead Harbormaster has provided a pump out boat service since 1991, funded through a grant. It was actually the first pump out boat in the state. It has been operating since then, but the current way that we run pump outs started with our hiring in 2018. Before we started working on the pump out boat, boat owners would have to call the Harbormaster’s office and schedule a pump out, and every Tuesday and Thursday the Assistant Harbormasters would go out and pump the boats out. Now, all you have to do is to hail us—we monitor VHF channel 9, hailed simply as “Marblehead Pump Out.” We service all of Marblehead Harbor, Barnegat, and the West Shore/the Marblehead side of Salem Harbor. Anywhere the town has jurisdiction.
How did you get the job?
We first got the job through our Marine tech teacher, John Payne, who is an Assistant Harbormaster in Marblehead. Mr. Payne had posted a flyer for the job in his classroom, and a few people interviewed for the job. We both were hired early in the summer of 2018 and started working in July that year.
What are your responsibilities?
Our main responsibility is of course operating the pump out boat and providing the service, but there are also many chores and responsibilities that go along with working for the Harbormaster Department that we take part in. Tasks may include painting or fixing different things on the docks, in the office, or helping maintain the town boats. Supporting our Harbormaster is also a part of the day. Also, during emergencies or other Harbormaster calls, if assistance/backup is needed we’re asked to meet the call. Towing boats, dewatering, and other work can all be a part of our work, which can vary every day. We report to Assistant Harbormaster Craig Smith, and occasionally Harbormaster Mark Souza.
When do you work and how busy does it get?
We offer the pump out service every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 0900-1600. We actually work until 1700 as we have to put the boat away for the day. In terms of demand, every day it is different. In the early season it is not very busy, but in late June through August, we have at least 6 or 7 pumps a day, sometimes as many as 15. A busy day is around 10 pumps.
Is there a name for the boat, and what kind of boat is it?
The pump out boat doesn’t have a name. It is a 1991, 21’ Alcar Environmental Pump Out boat.
What equipment is on board?
Mainly the Edson electric diaphragm pump which can be plumbed either into the onboard 200 gallon holding tank, or overboard for non-sewage applications like dewatering boats. We have various fittings, and tools to provide the best service Besides tools like Banjo fittings and wrenches that we keep aboard, the boat is very bare-bones. Also on board is the standard equipment such as life jackets, fire extinguisher, and first-aid kit. The boat is powered by a 115 HP 2007 Honda outboard engine.
How often does the boat’s holding tank have to be emptied and how does it work?
The tank is emptied every day, sometimes on the busiest days it has to be emptied twice. We usually empty the holding tank at least once a day, sometimes two on the busiest days, but that rarely ever happens. We drive the boat down to the Cliff St public dock where this is a publicly available pump out that empties directly into the sewer system. It starts with unraveling the hose, turning on the pump, and connecting it/holding it to the holding tank pump out on the boat. We then use the stationary pump out to empty the tank into the town waste system.
What’s the best thing and worst thing that’s happened over your three seasons doing the job?
Being on the water so much we see a lot of cool stuff, like a whale off of Peach’s Point or notable boats. One of the worst experiences has been when a customer’s holding tank was far past full and upon removal of the cap on deck.. Well…you get the story. Another tough experience was probably when the tank was completely full and we could only travel at 5 knots coming back from Salem Harbor.
Have you enjoyed the job?
Overall it’s been a great job. And it can be fun at times, too. It is really hard to complain about being paid to be on a boat! It is also cool to be around the Harbormasters and see how they do their jobs. The majority of people tip us, which we greatly appreciate.
What are your plans after you graduate next spring?
Sam: I plan to enroll in Mass Maritime Academy and possibly study Marine Engineering. Matt: I plan on going to college in the fall of 2021, but I have no idea where.
Any advice for the Pump Out crew who will one day succeed you?
People can wait for their pump outs if we’re eating lunch. And keep plenty of gloves on board.