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AMSEA Lifesaver Awards

There are so many people in the AMSEA network who deserve to be honored for their work in marine safety, but at this time we wish to honor two women in different parts of the U.S., who have had a long history of providing access and direct training to mariners and future mariners: Sara Fisken and Marian Allen.

Marian Allen

Marian Allen

Marian began as a volunteer, then worked at AMSEA in the 1980s, when our office opened in Sitka. She volunteered to manage our growing inventory of training gear and to maintain and repair immersion suits, PFDs and life rafts, sometimes at her own expense. She soon became involved teaching AMSEA’s Mariner’s First Aid and training marine safety skills to children.


With a degree in childhood education and teaching experience in public and private alternative schools, Marian brought professional children’s education experience to AMSEA. She understood that today’s children will be tomorrow’s mariners and that it is easier to instill good habits on the water at an early age. She also brought many years of skiff, kayak, commercial fishing, and remote, off-the-grid living experience to her classes.


Along with Alaska Sea Grant agent, Dolly Garza, Marian was instrumental in working with Sitka School District parents and teachers, advocating for and teaching AMSEA training in rural communities. Due to their efforts over the last 25 years, every 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th grade student in Sitka public schools receives marine safety training. AMSEA’s marine safety training partnership with the Sitka School District has been has been a successful prototype for a maritime community. Many of the children she taught in school programs, have gone on to take over their parent’s commercial fishing operations. She also co-wrote AMSEA’s hands-on, children’s marine safety curriculum and trained hundreds of teachers in Alaska schools and in Maine.


Marian made her own marine safety puppets for training young children and gained the rapt attention of first graders when she taught marine safety in her marine safety puppet plays, during the Super Saturday programs she taught. She co-wrote AMSEA’s Cold Water Kids (CWK) curriculum with Sue Jensen and AMSEA staff, which contained many interdisciplinary shore survival and hands-on boating safety activities. Eventually, CWK evolved into the Kid’s Don’t Float training program used by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Alaska State Boating Program. Many of these CWK lesson plans were incorporated into AMSEA and Alaska Sea Grant’s four-volume, Surviving Outdoor Adventures, which Marian helped write and field test. Curriculum from Surviving Outdoor Adventures has been taught in 80% of Alaska schools.


Marian and other women at AMSEA developed the Boating without the Boys, boating safety workshops. Taught by women, for women, these workshops have been very popular in the communities where we have offered them. Marian also brought AMSEA training into Head Start programs and to rural SE Alaska communities with support from the Crossett Fund.


Although Marian has retired, she still makes herself available to help AMSEA training and education efforts when she can fit it in around her other activities. Marian has played an important role in many of AMSEA projects over the decades. We are so glad to honor her efforts by this AMSEA Lifesaver Award.


Sara Fiskin

Sara Fiskin

Since 1982, Sara Fisken, has worked as a Washington Sea Grant agent, affiliated with the University of Washington in Seattle. Sara has commercial fishing experience as a salmon troller off the Washington coast, dating back to the 1970s. She worked on a factory trawler in the Bering Sea and for nine seasons was one of a handful of women in the Southeast Alaska purse seine fleet. She is also a competent sailor. Fishing in the days before immersion suits and safety training, she came to appreciate the value of prudent safety measures. This background helps immensely in her work to improve safety and operations on the water in her classes.


Sarah has coordinated and facilitated AMSEA’s Coast Guard-accepted safety classes for commercial fishermen Since 1993. These workshops have been widely credited with reducing fatalities at sea. Of special note is the work she has done in marine safety training with the Makah, Quinault, and Suquamish tribes, and other tribal fisheries. Working with instructors Eric Olsson, Steve Harbell, and Joseph Peterson, Sara has coordinated 131 Emergency Drill Conductor and Survival Equipment and Procedures courses in eleven Washington fishing ports, from Bellingham to Westport, which have trained 1,042 commercial fishermen.


In addition, Sara coordinates classes on marine weather, watch standing, and Coast Guard-approved first aid at sea, a course she helped design. She coordinates hands-on workshops on such essential technologies as marine hydraulics, refrigeration, and small-engine repair, and works with tribal and non-tribal fishermen to upgrade the quality and prestige of their products.

Sara has worked long and hard at coordinating, facilitating, and teaching marine safety courses that have prevented casualties at sea from occurring and helped victims of casualties to survive. In recognition of her hard work and successful training programs, we are happy to honor her with the AMSEA Lifesaver Award. Thank you Sara for your tireless efforts to give fishermen access to hands-on, performance based, marine safety training!

In addition, Sara coordinates classes on marine weather, watch standing, and Coast Guard-approved first aid at sea, a course she helped design. She coordinates hands-on workshops on such essential technologies as marine hydraulics, refrigeration, and small-engine repair, and works with tribal and non-tribal fishermen to upgrade the quality and prestige of their products.


Sara has worked long and hard at coordinating, facilitating, and teaching marine safety courses that have prevented casualties at sea from occurring and helped victims of casualties to survive. In recognition of her hard work and successful training programs, we are happy to honor her with the AMSEA Lifesaver Award. Thank you Sara for your tireless efforts to give fishermen access to hands-on, performance based, marine safety training!

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