After the River Bell Awards Luncheon in December, Buddy Compton, Director of Inland Training for the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY, helped a 10-year-old aspiring towboat captain come closer to realizing his dream. After a short briefing, the young man was navigating the Paducah Harbor on SCI’s new, advanced computer simulator. Asked about this river wunderkind, Compton said that he was impressed with the young man’s knowledge, describing him as very bright. “He’s determined to accomplish his goal,” observed Compton.
“SCI takes pride in helping mariners—of all ages—realize career ambitions,” said the Rev. David M. Rider, SCI’s President & Executive Director. “In several years, I look forward to welcoming Austin as another first-rate professional mariner working the United States’ inland river system.”
The following article is reprinted with permission from The Waterways Journal.
Story & Photo By Jeff L. Yates
Austin Brindley appeared quite at home during his first experience between the sticks at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s Paducah, Ky. training simulator last month. He guided a 15-barge tow up the Ohio River toward the foot of Owen’s Island. The ten year old is a fifth grade student at Farley Elementary School and is a participant in the “Adopt A Towboat” program offered by the River Discovery Center in conjunction with various schools in the western Kentucky and southern Illinois area.
In the program, towboats and crews from several area river towing companies provide the school children with an opportunity to learn about various river-oriented careers. The kids spend a whole school year communicating with the crews, following their “adopted” boat’s daily positions and visiting the boats or shore side facilities. Farley teacher Tina Hayes has coordinated the program since its inception in 2001 and has developed a good working relationship with several area towing company executives and vessel management personnel.
She said Brindley had sent several emails to Capt. Spencer Kennedy aboard Ingram Barge Company’s Mary L., asking some very good questions about life on a towboat. She said in each letter he emphatically stated that he wants to become a towboat pilot. Because of his persistent communication and his unequivocal expression about his future vocation, Hayes invited him to read one of his letters at the annual River Discovery Center breakfast honoring its financial supporters. Attending the December affair was Ingram Barge Company leader Craig Philip, who got quite a chuckle when the student read to the room full of industry executives that he wants to go to work for his company when he gets out of school.
The Rev. David Rider, president of the Seamen’s Church Institute, invited Brindley to a private training session with Capt. Buddy Compton, director of inland training. Following the nearly hour-long “watch,” he presented him with a certificate stating that he had successfully navigated the Paducah harbor.