The First-Person Project

Seth Alie ’02

Northwood, NH

New Hampshire Marine Patrol

Major: Communication

I was born and raised in Deerfield, New Hampshire. In third grade I had difficulty reading – to this day I have vivid memories of a teacher yelling at me because I was mumbling and not reading proficiently. Back in the mid ’80s, getting coded for learning disabilities was kind of new. My father was a huge proponent of that; he got involved and got me tested – it turned out I had a learning disability, dyslexia with some ADHD. So for fourth through seventh grade, I went to a private school, a learning skills academy on the seacoast, where I learned how to sound words out and how to successfully read and write.

I went to public high school – Oyster River in Durham – where I played hockey along with lacrosse and soccer. A guidance counselor there worked with me to make sure that I was keeping up to speed with classes. At one point, he sat down with my parents and told them he didn’t think I could score high enough on my SATs to get into college. But ultimately I did fairly well.

My father worked for New Hampshire Fish and Game. My mom was a teacher. I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps and work for Fish and Game. My dad said, “Seth, teaching is a great avenue should you enjoy that. It’s a good plan if you don’t get hired by New Hampshire Fish and Game.”

The summer before I started college, I got interested in the Marine Patrol, and got a job with the patrol as a maintenance helper, painting buoys, delivering boats, and changing engine oil. I decided I’d like to apply to become a seasonal Marine Patrol officer. That involved a physical agility test and a written test.

My first year at Keene State, I majored in elementary education and picked communication as my second major. I also went to the part-time police academy, the last step in getting certification as a part-time officer. I did seasonal Marine Patrol work for three years down on the seacoast, working summers during college. When school was in session, I worked at many restaurants in Keene: Martino’s, The Stage, which is still there. I enjoyed Keene because you could get around everywhere. I didn’t have a vehicle the first two years; I rode my mountain bike. Keene as a whole was very receptive to college kids. It was just a good community for me as an individual coming from a small town. I brought my fishing rod, and freshman year the Ashuelot River was right behind my dormitory. On the second or third day of school I went out fishing. I found relaxation doing that. I did my own thing and I still had great social interactions.

In the fall of my senior year, 9/11 happened and, as we all know, the world changed. That morning, I was in an elementary school in Keene, teaching, as part of my Methods class. The Marine Patrol called me over to Portsmouth to help secure the infrastructure there. Soon after, the Department of Safety decided to add year-round patrols on the Seacoast. I put in for the job, and was hired full time.

I hadn’t done my student teaching, so I dropped the education degree. I needed just one class to graduate with a communication major, and I picked that up at Hesser College in Manchester a couple of years later, so I earned my Keene State degree in 2002.

9/11 really changed things. Fishermen can’t tie their boats to a bridge anymore, for instance. Marine Patrol officers now carry firearms. Anything suspicious can shut down a major waterway or highway. One time a guy stole a backpack in Maine and threw it off the 1-95 bridge over the Piscataqua River. It got snagged up under the bridge, so we had to shut down the bridge and shut down the river traffic. People who used to duck hunt or fish near the Seabrook Power Plant might find they’re in a security zone now. It is sad. One of the things that’s discouraging to me is that with the security we’ve now implemented, the terrorists have won. It’s a different world we live in.

Of course, technology has made things different, too. Back then, we had pagers, and if I needed to talk to dispatch I had to find a pay phone. The boats we use have changed, too. They’ve got electronics on board, bigger motors, and they’ve really amped up, speed-wise. The Marine Patrol is now part of the Department of Safety, Division of State Police.

It’s been a great job, one I’m very happy to have. I’m a very positive guy. I get fairly good reports back from the people I work with. They tend to say I’m pretty easy going, they can communicate with me. I don’t tend to get frazzled, although some folks do like to see me get fired up. The stern side comes out, but only when it needs to come out. I can turn that switch on and off; it’s all part of the job.

I’m working out of the Gilford office now, on Lake Winnipesaukee, but I started out on the Seacoast. The Marine Patrol keeps its boats there at the Coast Guard station in New Castle, on Portsmouth Harbor, and has an office on Pierce Island, where we do our paperwork. It’s a beautiful area, one of the hidden gems of the state. On the coast, we deal with homeland security, boat accidents, recreational boaters, commercial fishing from tuna fishermen to lobstermen to gill netters to commercial dive operations. Enforcement of personal watercraft, or Jet Skis, at Hampton Harbor. Dealing with death – suicidal jumpers on the I-95 bridge. I spent many many days on the Piscataqua River looking for the body of a young woman who was murdered and tossed in the river. One day you could be dealing with an oil spill, the next a horrific boat accident, and the next you’re giving a talk at a local marina about boating safety.

Here on the lakes we see mostly recreational activity. We tend to deal with folks who can afford expensive boats, and some see paying a fine as part of the weekend festivities. On the water, there are no yellow lines or traffic signals to direct you. Distracted driving is a problem, just like on the road. Fancy electronics are a distraction, guests on the boat can be a distraction; boaters texting is a distraction. Drinking alcohol and boating is a prevalent problem.

In New Hampshire we have a mandatory boater education certificate for anyone operating a boat with a motor over 25 horsepower you have to have a boating certificate – which is great, but just because you have a license doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing. The general rule of thumb for passing another boat is port to port – left side to left side – but that doesn’t mean that every boat out there passes port to port. You see people zig-zagging back and forth pulling a tube doing circles.

Two years ago I was promoted to sergeant and moved from the Cheshire/Hillsborough County area, where we’d tow a 16-foot boat around from lake to lake, up here to Gilford to cover Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam. It’s been a great experience for me to take on the busiest lake that we have in New Hampshire – Winnipesaukee encompasses many many towns and many many islands. It’d be hard to circumnavigate it in a day, that’s for sure.

I do administrative tasks, like meeting with command staff, evaluating seasonal officers, and reviewing paperwork, and also going out on the water. I wish I was out on the water every day, but it doesn’t always happen that way. There’ a pile of paperwork in law enforcement, and I’m all about making sure I do it right. During the warmer months, we have 35 or 40 seasonal officers. In the fall, the recreational activity on the lakes and coast starts to wind down, and I find myself spending a lot of time dealing with court cases. I prosecute a lot of the cases that come out of Lake Winnipesaukee. For instance, BWI – boating while intoxicated – brings the same penalties as a DWI on the road. You lose your right to operate a boat for one calendar year. I travel to courts around the state to handle cases. In the winter months we do much of our hiring for the coming summer season. I do recruiting work, like going to the Keene State job fairs. I’m also in charge of equipment, so I make purchases during the off-season. And of course, we have training, so in the fall I’m thinking about things I might want to learn about in the winter. Then when spring comes, we’re ramping up here, holding classes for new hires to teach them boating laws, all the things specific to the Marine patrol that they don’t learn in the Part Time Police Academy.

It adds up very quickly, and before you know it, it’s Memorial Day, then, oh my gosh, here comes the Fourth of July.

My wife, Angie, is an RN who works at Concord Hospital. I met her when I went to the doctor’s office with a minor back injury, and the receptionist said, “Angie is single; you should ask her out.” We have three boys, Joseph, Jackson, and Charles, ages 11, 9, and 4. I’m a huge outdoor advocate. We don’t have any video game in the house, no Xboxes or Playstations. We’re outdoors every day. We ski. We go canoeing down the Merrimack River. I’m just all about the water. My three boys enjoy fishing and swimming, snorkeling, and doing anything on the water. We do our own recreational boating.

My wife says she has four boys, me being the fourth I can’t sit still; I need to do things.

I want to hype up Keene State because they did great things for me. I got to know a vast majority of the students and the teachers were supportive of my learning disabilities. I played lacrosse, which was a club sport when I first started. I took advantage of skiing, hunting, and fishing opportunities in the region. I’m glad I get to go back to campus now and do PR and recruiting for the Marine Patrol.