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Merchant Marine Captain Shares Experiences

  • A Port-o-Call in Sayville High School


    Merchant Marine Captain Ted Bernhard briefly pulled into port at Sayville High School to share his experiences with the Marine Science students in the classes of Mrs. Cindy Giannico, Mr. DeAngelis, and Mr. Daleo. As the Captain of a Merchant ship that transports cargo between California and Hawaii, Captain Bernhard had more than just fish stories to share about his job and what it has been like to be a Captain.


    Originally a Levittown High School graduate and currently a Bayport resident, Theodore Bernhard was educated at Maine Maritime for what became a nearly 30-year career. Captain Bernhard, who has traveled the world working on various cargo ships, currently captains his own vessel with a crew of 25. However, he added, when he is “carrying pigs or cows, there are cowboys aboard to tend to them.”


    Safety onboard is vital to survival at sea. He showed the students dramatic photos of a fire that occurred while he was onboard a ship for which fire drills prepared the crew to respond.  Other safety exercises included practices for procedures when a man goes overboard. Captain Bernard explained,"the drill includes throwing a dummy into the water to monitor how the crew performs in the rescue/recovery operation."


    Knowing how to use mariner tools that predate modern technology is still an essential part of navigating the oceans. Captain Bernhard stressed the importance of the Sextant—especially at times when the onboard computers fail. He demonstrated for the class how the Sextant works and showed pictures of how the ship navigates through storms as well.


    While the work hours vary for each merchant, Captain Bernard works eight weeks onboard ship and then returns home to Bayport for eight weeks. Although the Captain’s responsibilities are great, privileges afforded such a high rank include having his bed made for him everyday and having a chef who gives him three choices for each meal. 


    “Overall the students were very impressed with his career,” remarked Mrs. Cindy Giannico. “Not many of them had ever considered the merchant marines for career opportunities before his informative visit.”

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In California, Capt. Ted is visited by his daughter while in dock.