MHS making waves in Marblehead

When it comes to marine engines, if it’s broken, fit it! That is what students learn at Marine Technology, a program offered at Marblehead High School and one befitting a town with roots in commercial fishing and yachting and the birthplace of the American Navy.

For more than 15 years, Professor John Payne focuses on teaching his students how to repair rather than discard engines and, in the process, learning and understanding the basic concepts of how marine gasoline and diesel engines work and basic troubleshooting skills.

The nautical elective is divided into two sections. Marine 1 is an introductory program where students learn the basic skills of the different hand tools and how to use them. In Marine 2, students learn how engines work, their individual component, and what they do when they are put together.

In Marine 2, students also learn about the different systems of engines, cooling, and electrical while learning how to run and fix engines.

“It’s all about fixing stuff and it doesn’t matter if it’s an engine, a toilet, a relationship whatever it is, if you know how something works, your chances of fixing it are better,” said Payne.

Even though having a career in Marine Technology requires a great load of manual labor, it’s a career path where students can start at an entry-level earning $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

“Vocational schools, they are kind of the rage right now and I think people are starting to understand that you can make a decent living working with your hands,” said Payne.

Payne and the students are able to work with the help of the public with people donating marine engines or asking for repairs. Payne calls that assistance and the benefits to students a triple win.

“It’s kind of a win, win, win because kids get to work on stuff and actually repair it, customers get a kind discount (all they pay for is parts and a minimum usage fee), and any money we generate stays with the program, which helps supply parts and stuff for the shop,” said Payne.

Every now and then, students get to work on boats.

In a town where most of the students come from boating families, Payne has students who know and have been in boats their entire life, while having students who don’t know much about boats aiming to get all students on the same Plainfield.

Although the classes are mostly male-dominated, Payne said female students are interested in the elective each year.

“All the girls I get, kill it! They absolutely crush it,” he said. “But they take it for a reason. They are not taking it just because it’s something to take. They want to take it,” added Payne.

Payne averages about 70 students this year between the five classes he teaches getting about seven girls.

As part of the curriculum, students will obtain a Massachusetts Boaters License. For three weeks, they will learn basic seamanship and navigation.

Even though in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the age of 16 you do not need a license to drive a boat, Payne felt that the license is reciprocal in other states and can be useful in any of the student’s plan to move or rent a boat in other states.

According to Payne, there are only two other programs offered in the entire state but are in true vocational schools.

Structured as a course offering basic skills in marine technology, Payne said students taking the elective will gain a lot of nautical knowledge once they graduate high school without attending a vocational school.