Teens launch careers on the beach

Posted: Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Summer on the beach can be fun and hard work, all at the same time.

Marine Services in Ninilchik runs a boat launch service on the beach by Deep Creek. Seven of its 10 workers are teen-agers.

Brieanna Leman, a junior at Ninilchik School, is only 16 but does not consider herself a new member of the work force because she worked temporary jobs at age 14 for a restaurant and for the Ninilchik Traditional Council. She could have returned to restaurant work or opted for a cannery, but she set her sights on the launch job months before it started.

"I like it better down here," she said.

Leman spoke about her job last week in Marine Service's seaside office set amid a cluster of summer trailers and heavy equipment. Out the rain-streaked window, her co-workers prepared to retrieve the last incoming boat of the day and get it onto its trailer.

She answers the phone, monitors the radio, collects payments and handles paperwork.

"And I spot boats," she added.

The schedule is dictated not by the clock but by the tides, the weather, the fish and the visitors who pursue them. Her work day has begun as early as 4 a.m. and, although the service is supposed to close at 10 p.m., there have been times straggling boats have shown up after midnight. The days are long, but often they go by quickly, she said.

"I don't have a usual shift," she said. "Today was 10 hours and 40 minutes."

She advised that other teen-agers considering such work brace themselves for the time commitment.

"You have to be prepared for how much work you have to do, how many hours," she said.

Leman gets paid by the day, but she declined to say how much.

"She makes more money than I do," chimed in her co-worker, Brandon Gee, also 16.

Leman plans to save her earnings and go to college after she graduates.

"I don't know what I'm going to do after that -- yet," she said.

When business is slow at the boat ramp, the teens on duty take naps or play cards together in the office, they said.

But sometimes it gets hectic, and Leman finds herself hard pressed to keep track of which boats are coming and going.

"We've had boats backed up the hill and down to the bridge," she said. "The numbers vary. It depends on the day and the tide."

Leman deals with charter captains more than tourists, but the job provides plenty of opportunities to meet people. She has even caught glimpses of celebrity visitors, such as former football coach Mike Ditka and television host and former football star Larry Csonka, who, so the rumor goes, landed a 300-pound halibut on his Ninilchik excursion.

"I meet new people," she said. "This is my social life."

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