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A day on the job in South Pinellas County

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 3, 2002

Dan Harris, 28

Ship's engineer for the sailing barge Amara Zee and sound technician for Caravan StageBarge, a St. Petersburg-based theater troupe that tours the Atlantic and Gulf coasts aboard the 90-foot ship.

How long have you been doing this?

About a year and a half.

How did you get the job?

I heard about it through a friend who did it before me.

So what do you do?

Pretty much everything as far as keeping the ship running and maintained, and then I also set up and run the sound for all the shows. I cook, too -- I'm the barbecue man.

What kind of skills do you need?

Well, I actually went to school to be a sound technician, so I have that background. And maintenance work is really easy for me. I grew up on a farm in northern Ontario, so I'm used to fixing anything.

What other kinds of jobs have you had?

I've been a logger and a tree planter and a forest firefighter. I tend to take bizarre jobs.

Why is that?

I always look for something different. I did sheet metal work once, and the guy I worked with, he'd been pacing the same 100 feet of shop for 30 years. No, thanks. One day you wake up and your hair and your teeth are gone, and you never left that shop.

What's the best thing about this job?

Definitely the travel. Seeing new cities, meeting a lot of people. I know the best places to drink on the whole eastern seaboard.

What's the worst thing?

Living with 25 people can sometimes be a drag.

What do you make?

Anywhere from $75 to $150 a week, plus room and board on the ship.

What kind of hours do you work?

About 14 hours a day. Sometimes more.

Have you had any surprises in the job?

When I heard this was a barge, I thought it would be a big tin box. It's actually a beautiful ship -- I fell in love with it the moment I came aboard. The funny thing is, my grandfather worked on a Thames River barge. I grew up hearing all these sailing stories, but this was the first time I'd ever been on a ship.

What's the best day you've had on this job?

We were in Bay City, Mich., for a tall ship festival, and it was two weeks of people just looking after you and making sure you had everything you need. It was like being a celebrity.

What's the worst day?

Oh, there have been a few of those. Those would be days when you have to strike the show and set sail immediately, and you know you're not going to sleep for 36 hours.

What would be your dream job?

I'd like to work on a tall ship -- sail across the Atlantic or Pacific.

What advice would you give to your successor?

Don't take out all the fuel filters at once!

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