TRAVERSE CITY — Kelin Hickey is living his dreams fresh out of school.
Hickey, of Williamsburg, is a new third mate for National Geographic/Lindblad adventure cruises.
The Elk Rapids High School alum is a February graduate of Ferris State University and Traverse City’s Great Lakes Maritime Academy. But instead of plying the Great Lakes, he’s finding his little slice of heaven cruising up and down the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to Costa Rica.
“One thing I always knew about school and myself is that they want you to work on the Great Lakes, fill the positions that are retiring,” said Hickey, whose unlimited third mate ships license allows him to work on any size non-military vessel anywhere in the world. “I just knew the first time I was out there that it wasn’t for me. You’re basically running cargo from a foundry in Chicago to Escanaba in the U.P. It’s just not exciting for a 26-year-old.”
Hickey said he got the Nat Geo/Lindblad job a week after researching and applying for it in April. Four days later, he was on his way to the West Coast for orientation, CPR and first aid training.
On April 27 he departed San Diego for Seattle, where he picked up his first passengers on the 150-foot eco-tourism cruise ship equipped with inflatable boats and kayaks for closer exploration. From there it was on to southeast Alaska for one- and two-week cruises between Juneau and Sitka.
Besides navigating the ship for a good portion of each day, his job is to point out locations with spectacular glaciers or wildlife and to drop the inflatable boats via crane – and then pilot one — for daily tours. When the tours require kayaks, he becomes an instructor and guide.