‘I feel like I am constantly learning’

Profile – Becoming a Mariner

Kirsten Buccigrossi,
The Great Lakes Towing Co. Training captain & marketing director
Some days, Kirsten Buccigrossi focuses on marketing and communications for The Great Lakes Towing Company. Others, she’s out on one of the company’s tugs assisting ships on the Cuyahoga River.

Buccigrossi, 36, grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio. She began her maritime career in college working on small passenger ships during summer breaks. Working on deck just clicked, she recalled, and she began building experience and pursuing a license. Soon after graduating, she joined Great Lakes Towing in an office role. 

“When I expressed interest in getting back out on the boats, they embraced that idea and have allowed me the flexibility to blend my job to include a healthy balance of being in the office and working on the boats,” she said recently. 

These days, Buccigrossi holds a 200-ton Master Near Coastal and a 500-ton Mate Near Coastal license, as well as an AB Unlimited license. She recently put in for her 1600-ton Mate Near Coastal upgrade and is working toward her Towing Officer Assessment Record.

“I realized how attainable it would be for me to get my license, so I went the hawsepiper route and worked my way up,” she said. 

The Great Lakes Towing fleet consists of historic century-old vessels and newly built tugs designed for work on the Great Lakes. Buccigrossi is working with established captains and crews to master the art and science of towing. 

“There are so many variables, so I feel like I am constantly learning,” she said. “Even if it’s the same captain taking the same boat to the same dock, the weather, time of day and other factors make it unique,” she continued. “Most captains are eager to teach, so learning from some of the best and most tenured boat handlers in the industry is something I look forward to.” 

— Casey Conley