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Meet the Crew: Leslie Allen, Chief Boatswain

A NOAA boatswain on a small boat.

NOAA's professional mariners play a key role in improving our understanding of the ocean and atmosphere. They also bring a mariner's know-how to NOAA's scientific research by directly participating in the operation and handling of scientific gear in the tumultuous ocean environment. Meet Leslie Allen, Chief Boatswain on NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler

What is your role at NOAA and what do you do?

I am the Chief Boatswain on NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler and in charge of the deck department. I ensure that all deck operations are carried out safely and efficiently. I procure supplies for my department and train new crewmembers on deck machinery, such as the loading crane, A Frame, survey launch, fast rescue boats and boat davits. I oversee all maintenance items regarding anything above the deck plates.

Where did you grow up?

I am from the southside of Chicago.

Where did you get your training and experience before joining NOAA? 

I began my maritime career as a deckhand on a dinner cruise boat on Lake Michigan. I later became a docent, narrating architectural cruises on the Chicago river. My introduction to blue water sailing began when I crewed on the S/V Amistad. My experience there subsequently sparked a love of sailing traditionally rigged sailing vessels, which I did for three years prior to joining NOAA.

What inspired you to work for NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations? 

I was inspired to work for NOAA while completing a semester at sea aboard the Sea Education Association's Brigantine Corwith Cramer based out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. I was working on my semester project, Identifying Orinoco River Runoff in the Caribbean Basin, and was given access to the Woods Hole Oceanographic library. There was a NOAA ship docked at the pier, and the rest is history. I started working for NOAA in October 2006. 

What was one of your favorite missions or experiences? 

One of my favorite experiences was surveying Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve at the closing of the tourist season. The park was void of any visitors, the glaciers and fjords were beaming in the sun and there were humpback whales everywhere. I was a seaman surveyor on NOAA Ship Fairweather at the time and drove the small boats quite often. What made this moment memorable was the pod of whales we encountered while in an 18-foot skiff. They were hunting using what's known as “bubble net” feeding and were a mere 300 feet from where we were floating. It was exhilarating, as well as terrifying, but definitely one of the coolest things I’d ever experienced.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for NOAA? 

One of my favorite quotes is from Bob Marley: Love the life you live. Live the life you love. 

To be successful with NOAA you have to love it, as it’s not only a job, but more of a lifestyle and commitment.

What do you like to do outside of work? 

Interior decorating. I have a condo in Chicago and I absolutely love remodeling, design and decorating.