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The history behind the CFCC Marine Tech program

READ MORE: The history behind the CFCC Marine Tech program
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Cape Fear Community College's Marine Technology program could soon hit rock bottom. The state is proposing a new budget that would cut the lines to the program's offshore training; the only one of it's kind on the east coast. All this week, we will focus on what makes this program so unique and what's at stake for the technicians-in-training, the college, and the town, if they lose their funding. WWAY's Hailey Winslow begins our series with the history behind the 44-year-old program. The Marine Technology program started in 1964. Back then, Cape Fear Community College was known as Cape Fear Technical Institute, and downtown Wilmington was not the business and tourist hub it is today. Sitting proudly on the docks of the Cape Fear River was the institute's sea training vessel, the RV Advance II. The 185 footer was built by the US Navy in 1943 as a sub-chaser before the college acquired it and began running it in 1965. She could accommodate 55 students and 20 crew members. The early 70's lured a mass interest in the program more than two hundred enrolled. The students, or "cadets", as they were called, wore Navy-like uniforms. Between student training voyages off the southeast coast and international charters by scientific agencies to conduct oceanographic research work, the Advance logged hundreds of days at sea. After nearly forty years, it was time for the Advance to retire from her students. She was sold to a Virginia fishing company, and later taken a few miles off the coast of Oregon Inlet in the Outer Banks to be sunk and used as an artificial reef; a habitat for fish and exploring grounds for divers. In place of the Advance came the RV Dan Moore, a much smaller research vessel but with some years left under her berth. Named after the North Carolina governor of the time, the steel stern trawler was operated by the North Carolina Department of Fisheries in Morehead City for 15 years. In October 1982, the Dan Moore sailed to her new homeport of Wilmington. Mark Miller was a student in the Marine Technology program in the early 70's, and he has never left. After working as a technician at CFCC for eight years, he now teaches the program in a classroom he once sat in as a student. "The first thing that drew me down here was the ship. I came because I wanted to work on the water, I like boats, I wanted to work on boats, and obviously the lure of a ship. The only program that I could find, in the state or really the nation at that time, which had operational ships that would train me, was Cape Fear Community College," remembered Miller. Miller said his fondest memory of the program was heading up the eastern seaboard to Lake Ontario during the height of the Cold War. He was on a three-week training voyage with NOAA to study the Great Lakes. He recalls fighting bone-chilling temperatures, a churning stomach and the unforgettable sound of the RV Advance cutting through the ice hills of the North Atlantic; like fingernails on a chalkboard. They pulled into port in Halifax next to a ship of young Russians. Unable to communicate verbally, they shared an appreciation of a view and experience Miller described as "magical". Miller has seen the name of the school change, the flag ships change - he has seen technology advance, but Miller said one aspect of the program has stayed constant; the success of the college's offshore training. “The one thing that I see that hasn't changed through all the years that I've been here, is the need for a marine technician. To have practical boat skills, be able to work around the water, work on the water, work on vessels, and have the practical knowledge needed to do those things." In order for students to gain that knowledge, they board the Dan Moore for days and weeks at a time, to put their skills and training in the classroom to the test on the open waters. Running the Dan Moore and the tech program's inshore boats, costs the school $571,000 a year. That covers fuel, up-keep, and crew wages. The Senate included funding for the program in their version of the state budget, just as they have done in the past. The House, however, did not. The budget vote has been delayed, and may happen next week. School officials told us training a technician without taking them offshore, is like training someone to be a nurse without that person stepping foot in a hospital. We got the chance to go 30 miles offshore with the students and crew to find out what they do aboard the Dan Moore, and why these voyages are so important. We will have that Tuesday.

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Where's the Private Sector?

Seems like with all the money floating around in the mega industries around Wilmington that someone with the means would assist in the extreme need.... oh, but wait. We expect the government to do it for us....

Are you referring to philanthropy?

Philanthropy...a dinosaur word that used to mean wealthy people/businesses contributed large sums of money for the foundation of schools, universities, hospitals, libraries, research efforts and other substantial community efforts aimed for the betterment of all people. Today, it's too important to be "worth" 5 billion dollars. Millionaires are "passee" and don't qualify anymore. Simple giving just isn't important anymore. What does someone "do" with 12 million dollars anyway? There isn't but so much "stuff" you can buy. If I were to ever win 10 million in a lottery, I may keep a million or so, but I would spend the rest to help others...my way...not the governments way and it would be very effective at true help, not just throwing sensless money at a sticky wall!!!

No, You Wait

have you considered the funds which were pulled back from the state Community College System by the former Governor? Have you considered the funds which would be available had the sitting Governor had some vision as to how this state should be governed? No Wait. Funding for Mrs. Easley's new position at NC State or funding for out of country working vacations were probably critical uses for which Community College funds were diverted. I guess it's called a higher and better use. Keep the only program of its type on the East Coast afloat OR remove funds for such high uses as a job for the former State First Lady? No, Wait again. How about funding cell phones for recipients of Section 8 Housing or Food Stamps. Certainly that must be a higher and better use? Right?

Keep the Marine Tech. Program Funded

It would be a shame to see this program not be funded properly. It turns out a lot of highly qualified and trained people who fill niche positions in the marine industry. There are very few schools that offer this education and it is an essential field. I am a graduate of the program. I live in Wilmington and work out of Houston, travelling around the world to where ever the ship is.

Agreed, it is the only

Agreed, it is the only offshore training of it's kind on the east coast, the quality of the program and attendees experience will suffer.

There are two alternatives

I believe that boatswain's mate is still an enlistment option in both the Navy and Coast Guard. Plus, you get PAID while you're learning!