Meet two scientists who rely on our tactical rainwear to get the job done.
Long before it became a ubiquitous fashion choice, a yellow rain jacket was a tactical piece of gear relied upon by people (usually men) who made their living on the water. The colour itself is actually a product of that environment: Scottish maritime workers used to coat their jackets in linseed oil to repel water, and, over time, that waxy substance transformed into a distinctive, bright hue. And while it originally may have been an accident, that high vis yellow colour became an essential safety feature, especially when the fishermen were working in stormy weather or out on the ocean at night.
We named our newest colourway after that tactical heritage, but “Overboard Yellow” is just one of dozens of details on our rainwear inspired by people who rely on our gear to get their jobs done. In fact, we have an entire gear-testing program that sees our products put through the paces by professionals in extreme environments. Their crucial feedback is incorporated by our design team and inform the products that you end up wearing.
In celebration of Overboard Yellow, we wanted to introduce you to two of those gear testers. Both are women of the sea—maritime professionals who spend much of their working life on or around the water—and both know what it’s like to wear a raincoat like your life depends on it. Because for them, it often literally does.
Alexandra Rose Vance
Marine scientist and expedition coordinator
Have you always felt connected to the sea? I have! I learned to swim before I could walk, and I was lucky enough to have the ocean as my front yard. I always felt this immense sense of calm by the sea, even on her stormier days. Growing up, we would spend our entire days in the water, exploring the beaches and cliffs, trying to identify marine wildlife with my friends. I guess I still do that now!
Did you ever think you’d get paid to do that as a grown-up? Not at all! I thought only a few idols had this kind of job (hi, Jacques Yves Cousteau and Sylvia Alice Earle!) and that was it. As a kid, everyone wants to be a marine biologist—to save the dolphins and study coral—but I had no idea that anyone, especially women, could get the opportunity to go out on vessels and do this research first-hand. I’m so grateful that narrative changed over the years.
What’s the short version of what you do in your role? As an expedition coordinator, I manage most of our logistics for getting out to sea and some of the operations to make sure we’re hitting all our targets. We usually have a big and diverse team working with us, so that usually translates into always carrying around a big clipboard to keep track of everything and everyone! Most days I sit next to the captain to help problem solve as we go, keep records of what we did or didn’t achieve; otherwise, I help in the laboratory or on the deck as needed. As a marine scientist, I help shape the research questions and the conservation objectives with my team. Once we collect data, we have it analyzed, then use the evidence to make conservation recommendations. The two roles are really quite complementary!
What is it like to be a woman in this field? It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. Science is still a bit of a man’s world, but I know lots of women who are gracefully changing that paradigm. It keeps me optimistic about the future of marine conservation science, and science in general.
A typical day out on the research vessel is… There is nothing typical about a day at sea! The sea-state and weather will change every five minutes, so you have to be flexible in your plans and operations. I love making a good schedule — but I also have to be prepared to rewrite it about five times a day. Normally a day it starts with breakfast by 6AM and a daily briefing, morning operations with a break to bring you to lunch, then afternoon operations with a break in between until at 6PM. After dinner, we debrief about the day and enjoy a cup of tea together before getting ready to start all over again!
Did you go to school for this? Yes and no. I have a biology and environmental sciences degree and a master’s in marine management. I also co-founded and co-coordinate a community-based organization (hi, Oceans Week HFX!) in my spare time. But I think it’s a combination of all my experiences together that gave me the right skills to do this kind of work!
How long is the average expedition? Usually about 10 days, although they can range anywhere from seven to 21 days. The days are long, about 12-14 hours, but each day is so incredibly rewarding.
How important is it to have proper gear when you’re out there?The science doesn’t stop if you get wet! Having good equipment that I can rely on and not think twice about means I can get through my day and be the most successful I can be.
As a maritime professional, what do you look for in a raincoat? Something durable, long, breathable, and has room for lots of layers underneath. It needs to be able to cinch in where I need it—like around the cuffs or the hood for those blustery days. And pockets! I need lots of big pockets.
You’ve gear-tested our Seaboard Jacket. How did it perform on the job? The Seaboard Jacket was everything I ever wanted, all in one piece. I was fully protected from the harsh elements, and stayed dry all day – and had all the pockets I needed for all my belongings. As a bonus, it was also so stylish. I got tons of compliments!
Were there any particular technical features that stood out? The reflective hits were great, especially when we work into the evening. The hood was great because it was big enough for me to fit my thickest toque underneath and not feel tight. I also loved that the pockets were right on the front—and that I could fit all the gear I needed for the day in them, including my gigantic coffee thermos.
Is there a moment in your career that you’ll still be talking about when you’re 90 years old? I have a memory from my first expedition that I’ll always cherish. One night, when we were eating dinner, the captain came over the radio and shouted, “Whales!” We all jumped up and, sure enough, twenty feet off both sides of the boat were North Atlantic Right whales. There are only about 400 left in the world, and there were three right next to me! I felt like I could reach out and touch them. I remember just having this moment, thinking, “There are so few of these animals left in the world, and so few people get to see up close like this.” It was rainy and cold, but I didn’t care. I knew if I went inside, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
Director of Aquatic Research, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources
Tell us a bit about the organization you work for. We represent five First Nations communities on Cape Breton Island [off Canada’s eastern coast]. I’ve been there for ten years, although I’m currently on leave as I wrap up my PhD.
How do you fit into that as a scientist? As a biologist, my job is to research culturally significant species, both from a natural science and a Mi’kmaq perspective. We’re doing what we call “two eyed seeing”: Bringing together the best of western science and Mi’kmaq knowledge for the benefit of all.
How does that come to life in the field? Alongside traditional research, I learn from our fishers, shadowing them, and also mentoring them. It’s not just a book job.
How does your job take you onto the water? A lot of the work we do requires going out on a boat or standing around in the rain by the shore.
Given all that time in the rain, what are non-negotiables when it comes to your rainwear? I need to be comfortable. You have to be able to drive in it, go from site to site in it without needing to strip down. And I do like to keep water from running down my neck—and I don’t like water going up my arm. That’s why a hood and sleeves I can adjust are good.
You’ve gear-tested our raincoats. Did anything stand out to you? That I didn’t get wet!
What would you like people to know about your job? You know, you can just look at water and know there’s stuff in there—but it’s amazing when you realize what actually is under the surface. And you don’t have to be in the middle of the ocean—there’s so much life in our lakes and rivers.