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Marine Mechanic  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotMarine mechanics operate, inspect, test and perform corrective and preventative maintenance on marine equipment. This goes beyond simply repairing engines that keep your boat zooming along the water.

Machinist Mate First Class Matt Bailey is a marine mechanic on board a U.S. Navy Trident submarine. Working on engines is just a small part of his busy job.

"I'm in charge of everything that nobody wants," he jokes. Not only does Bailey have to make sure the engine is running properly, but he also works on the sub's seawater cooling and firefighting systems, as well as hydraulics, pneumatics and diesel support systems.

In addition, it's his responsibility to be sure that the refrigeration and air conditioning systems, ventilation and atmosphere control equipment are all working perfectly. He also looks after the divers' life support equipment.

"On board a submarine, marine mechanics also work on main propulsion equipment, such as steam and gas turbines, reduction gearing, nuclear support systems and diesel propulsion systems," he says.

dotBeing a marine mechanic isn't an easy job. However, Bailey says it's a very unique experience. "If you like working on mechanical things, don't mind being physically and mentally challenged, and like not doing the same thing day after day, then this can be a rewarding profession," he says. "I've always been mechanically inclined and this just seemed to fit."

Bailey explains that tinkering with the sophisticated machinery on a nuclear sub isn't as easy as you may think. "Picture your [car] engine while lying underneath it, while working on top of it. That's what working in a submarine is like.

"Physically challenged people could perform some portions of the job, such as shop production work," Bailey says.

"But the shipyard environment is a dangerous place and it is not safe for someone with severe physical disabilities. On ships, there is a lot of climbing and crawling into tight places. At times, this can be arduous. Being able to see, hear and move quickly is essential. There is also a lot of heavy lifting involved."

dotThe job takes a lot of improvising, and it's up to the mechanic to use his talents to solve the problem. This is especially true if you're out in the middle of the ocean, where you can't just run out to the hardware store.

Bailey knows that for a fact. "We've had to make parts," he says. And in the tight spaces on the sub, "if a wrench won't fit, we have to heat up the tool and bend it."

dotThe smooth hum of a finely tuned engine isn't the only thing that makes a marine mechanic smile. "Most junior people have the ability, but not the knowledge. It's a trade, [and] in a lot of ways it's an art," Bailey says.

At a Glance

Operate and maintain marine equipment

  • You can perform a multitude of tasks
  • Start with courses in small engine repair or automotive maintenance
  • Hands-on experience is as important as in-class training