By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun
4:55 PM EST, February 16, 2013
Captain John Martino, the founder and president of the Annapolis School of Seamanship, will lead seminars during this year's Baltimore Boat Show at the Baltimore Convention Center from Feb. 28 to March 3.
Along with a 20-year career in marine training, Martino has sailed from the Chesapeake Bay to Panama. He has served as captain on ocean-going vessels up to 105 feet, while also doing extensive yacht delivery work.
The Baltimore Sun spoke to Martino last week about the VSTEP simulator he is helping to develop, as well as other topics regarding recreational boating.
Since we last wrote about the VSTEP navigation simulator at last year's show, what, if any, improvements have been made to the product, and how popular has it become?
The Annapolis School of Seamanship has been working with VSTEP to develop an inexpensive, yet powerful desktop simulator for recreational boat training. Our goal is to have these desktop simulators available for national distribution by this summer. Both the desktop systems and the larger console trainers are built in Annapolis. This month, we delivered our first full mission ship bridge simulator to a maritime school in Jacksonville, Fla.
Has it become more difficult to get a captain's license since you first got yours? Is there more of an emphasis these days on certain aspects of sailing than there was years ago?
It has become easier to obtain a captain's license than when I did it. Qualified candidates can attend a U.S. Coast Guard-approved course in lieu of having to home study and take the exam at the USCG Regional Examination Center. I believe the quality of the seamanship training has improved, as well as becoming more accessible.
A year ago, Matt Rutherford sailed around North and South America in a 26-foot dinghy. What is the feat of which you're most proud? Have you ever considered doing what Rutherford did?
I have spent most of my time at sea in a professional capacity as a mate, captain or instructor. While I love going to sea, it has become clear to me that my role as a maritime educator is the most important thing I do. Our students have reported back to us that they not only enjoyed their time learning with us, but they enjoy boating much more due to the confidence they have gained. Because they feel safer, they spend more time boating with their families.
I am also very proud that my peers have elected me to become president of the Maritime Education Standards Council. This is an organization of 35 schools throughout the U.S. that work closely with USCG on issues pertaining to the training and education of professional mariners.
Has safety on the Chesapeake Bay and other local waterways become an issue for even those as accomplished as yourself? What more can be done to cut down on the number of injuries and even casualties that occur for those who don't follow the laws?
I feel that safety on the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding inland waterways has always been a major concern. While great progress has been made in some areas (such as educating boaters about the dangers of alcohol and boating and the importance of life jackets), we really need to focus our efforts on basic seamanship and safe boat handling. Currently, there are no requirements for skills training and the requirements for knowledge training are inadequate at best.
I fear that the emphasis of any legislation will only focus on wearing life jackets. While that is very important, we need to imagine if there was no driver's education or road test for drivers so long as they are wearing their seat belt. Clearly it is just as important, if not more important, to avoid accidents through training and education than it is to just equip folks to survive the accident. We need to stop the accidents and injuries before they occur … that is the essence of seamanship.
If you weren't a boat captain, what do you think you'd be doing with your life right now?
It is funny you ask. This has been the subject of many conversations between my wife and me. I can't imagine being anything else. Some call it a passion … others call it an obsession … either way, I love what I do and I don't want to do anything else. I just want to do more. I guess being a mariner is a vocation for me … not just a job.
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