Most land lubbers stop at a gas station or two when they be travellin’ ‘tween Pennsylvania and Florida. This lass, however, dropped anchor in Virginia t’ help weld up a pirate ship.
“It was a real good thing I showed up when I did. I made a lot of repairs from the welders that were there before me then I helped build the deck and above. It was probably the best job I ever had,” said Terri Asby.
Terri’s interest in welding was sparked at a Norfolk, Virginia high school in the late 70s. She took all the elective classes that were offered: cooking, sewing, small engine repair, wood shop and then welding, where her teacher James Reynolds took a special interest in her. “I could go to his class anytime I wanted….to build things. I built a rabbit cage, go cart, a six- foot shelf, and a coffee table to name a few,” she said.
The next year, Terri went to a vocational school where she learned even more about welding. Then a classmate brought her an application for the Newport News Shipyard. She applied, got the job and worked there for two years. “They certified me for many different techniques– ones that a lot of people never heard of, and I have not used since, but it made my resume look good!”
Terri didn’t feel a lot of resistance regarding her career choice from family, though her dad did caution her that she would be blind by the time she was 30, “but that didn’t stop me,” she said. Besides, her grandfather told her she could be anything she wanted to be, and her dad always told her to work hard at anything you do and know in your heart that you are doing your best work.
It was this advice that Terri took to heart, “I didn’t think about being a woman doing a so-called ‘man’s job’ [instead] I was, and still am a real good welder,” she said.
At the shipyard there were a few other women welder, Terri says, and those two years were probably the best learning experiences she has ever had. “After that, I was the only woman welder in the shop.”
Terri handled being the only woman by not coming into the shop and telling the guys what to do. “I listened and watched and asked a few questions. Guys love to talk about their jobs and how they do them.”
One experience that surprised Terri was when she applied for a job and the man interviewing her said that her fingernails were too long, which in his eyes meant she wasn’t a hard worker. Terri swaggered out and never looked back. Another time, Terri went in for an interview, was asked to go into the shop and put some metal together. All the guys in the shop were peeking around the corner, in shock to see a woman applying for the job. They really made her feel uncomfortable. “I welded up the plates—very well I might add—took them back into the office then left. It was very clear to me that they were still in the Stone Age and they were not ready for me at all.”
Since that first job at the shipyards, Terri has had a lot of jobs. Twenty-eight to be exact. She loves to MIG and TIG weld on steel, aluminum or stainless and she’s helped build boats, carriers, tanks, submarines, yachts, a tug boat and that pirate ship. “I’ve learned something from every company I have worked for. That’s what I like, a little of everything.”
EDITORS NOTE: Terri worked on Pieces of Eight (pictured, right) which was custom designed by pirate captain, Devious Dave, a naval architect. She was built in Virginia Beach to U.S. Coast Guard requirements.
The ship is steel hull and 64’-10” in length, with a 23’ beam and 5’0” draft. It took 16 months to complete the construction (with Terri’s help) during the period November 2004 through March 2006.
So next time yer sailin’ the high seas on the Pieces of Eight prowlin’ fer treasure, think of the welding wench Terri, and shiver me timbers ye best be prayin’ those welds hold up!
And remember, September 19 is always TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY!
and over on JoeWelder.com get TIPS on how to WELD LIKE A PIRATE…. ARRRRR!