Making Waves

From creeks to oceans, water covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. For these East Carolina graduates, that’s plenty to create a career.

Looking for a unique vacation?

The Boruffs have the answer: A week in the Caribbean aboard the 56-foot catamaran Viramar.

“Our job is to open our home and host the best vacation ever to complete strangers,” Erika ’15 says.

Tyler ’15 is captain, dive guide and instructor, bartender and maintenance person. Erika is the chef, provides dive support, and cleans and entertains. They offer scuba diving, snorkeling, water sports, hiking, paddleboarding and other activities.

The Boruffs run about 15-20 charters each season (eight to nine months of the year) with trips ranging from five to 10 days for up to eight guests.

They manage and maintain the Viramar while generating revenue from trips. Since they are basically their own boss, they have freedom to run the business their way.

“We had no idea that you could live and work on someone else’s yacht and get paid to do it,” Erika says.

They met freshman year when both lived in Garrett Hall. They worked at Rum Runner Dive Shop (owned by ECU faculty member Dr. Peter Wagner) and were officers in ECU’s scuba club.

“I ended up working in logistics — a career path I did not expect — which would become a trend for me,” says Erika, 26, who majored in communication with a concentration in journalism and a minor in business. Tyler, 27, majored in business administration with a concentration in finance.

After graduation, they worked corporate jobs in Texas and Florida. Then, Erika got a phone call that changed everything. A dive shop owner in the British Virgin Islands was looking for someone with dive and retail experience to become buyer/manager for four stores.

“I called Tyler, since he was traveling for work, and told him I was putting my two weeks in and if he wanted to come then he could find me on an island,” Erika says. “It didn’t take long for him to go for it.”

They moved to Virgin Gorda, got married and discovered the charter yacht industry. “We realized that there was no monetary amount or level of success that could match the time we were missing with each other,” Erika said.

“We have worked our ‘real’ jobs, but now we just want a real life,” Erika says. “We know now that we can do both, and that we can work for ourselves or manage others’ assets properly because of what we learned at ECU.”

The Navy keeps the oceans secure. Capt. Roderick Boyce ’91 makes sure their water is safe.

Boyce has spent his career keeping sailors and Marines healthy. As a preventive medicine expert, it was his job to provide immunizations, health inspections and water testing services to Navy bases and hospitals all over the world.

“Preventive medicine is the mechanism to ensure a healthy, ready Navy,” Boyce says. “A strong naval force is necessary to defend American freedom and security, protect our nation’s global influence and deter any adversary.”

His assignments took him to Illinois, Virginia, Hawaii, Spain, Japan, Iraq and Kuwait. In Iraq, he supported Operation Iraqi Freedom as an environmental health officer. In Hawaii, when concern for avian influenza was high, he worked with the World Health Organization to develop a military plan for handling a potential pandemic. In Japan, he was responsible for leading more than 400 Marines and sailors in global health engagements as an executive officer for the 3rd Medical Battalion.

But the basis for his career started at ECU. Boyce graduated with a degree in environmental health, where he was trained to ensure the safety of what people eat, breathe, touch and drink.

“The environmental health program was outstanding,” the Kings Mountain native says. “I owe a lot to my education.”

After graduation, Boyce spent several years as an environmental health specialist and registered sanitarian for the state of North Carolina, doing permit testing for septic systems and wells and health inspections for restaurants. But the Navy was always in the back of his mind.

“I always wanted to go into the Navy. My grandfather was a World War II veteran. I grew up listening to his sea stories,” he says.

Boyce enlisted and received a direct commission as an environmental health officer in 1995. His job took him many places, just not on ships.

“For my specialty, we don’t have jobs on ships. We have jobs that provide direct support to the fleet, but in Navy medicine we man the hospitals,” he says. When it comes to water, the Navy has instructions and policies governing safe drinking water to align with EPA standards, whether it’s on a ship, a shore-based station, or in a deployed environment.

Boyce is now a commanding officer for the 2nd Medical Battalion at Camp Lejeune. It’s his terminal rank, or the level he plans to retire from, and “hands down the best job I’ve had in my military career,” he says. That’s because he gets to mentor other officers and help them achieve their goals. Often that includes encouraging them to pursue more education.

I always wanted to go into the Navy. My grandfather was a World War II veteran. I grew up listening to his sea stories.

“It’s important that people understand your educational foundation is really the instrument that sings your song throughout your career. ECU was the foundation of my career,” Boyce says.

His daughter, Makayla, is also pursuing her degree at ECU in the College of Nursing. She plans to join the Navy, just like her dad.

Donna Creef ’88 protects Dare County water and property.

With a new business degree from ECU, Creef moved to the coast and started working for Dare County. Today, she’s the county’s planning director, working with citizens and property owners to oversee the development of unincorporated areas of the county, which include Hatteras Island, the mainland, Roanoke Island, Colington (west of Kill Devil Hills and where Creef resides) and Martin’s Point. Her husband is a commercial fisherman.

The protection of our abundant natural resources is important since our local economy revolves around our beaches and sounds.

“Water is part of everyday life here on the Outer Banks,” she says. Residents and visitors drive over it, work on it, play in it. They also deal with flooding — some moderate and mainly an annoyance, and some severe and destructive.

Thus, she stays busy protecting water quality. “The protection of our abundant natural resources is important since our local economy revolves around our beaches and sounds,” Creef says. In addition, the Dare County Board of Commissioners has been active in efforts to prohibit offshore gas and oil exploration off the North Carolina coast. “Such activities could threaten our natural resources and our water quality, so that is always a big issue for us,” she says.

Mitigating flood risk is another priority and making sure construction mitigates flood risks and complies with Coastal Area Management Act regulations and state building codes.

“The big issue for us right now is new flood maps for Dare County, which will be effective in June,” she says. The Federal Emergency Management Agency created the maps that reduce by 41% the number of unincorporated Dare County properties included in the flood zone.

“Many of these properties are oceanfront properties and other properties that have flooded in the past,” she says. “There is a concern that property owners will not realize the flood hazards associated with their property.”

In response, Dare County is adopting a local regulatory effort to treat the reclassified properties as if they were still in a flood zone. That means owners will have to raise structures to a locally applied elevation mark. “This is a progressive approach in North Carolina and an example of the dedication Dare County has to ensuring our communities are resilient from flood hazards,” Creef says.

“We have been successful with securing FEMA mitigation grants over the past decade to elevate close to 100 homes in unincorporated Dare County,” she adds. “Many of the homes elevated on Hatteras Island did not flood during Hurricane Dorian last year because of these mitigation efforts.

“Many people in other areas believe the residents of Dare County should simply move inland or retreat. This is not a practical solution; many of the people here on the Outer Banks have lived here for generations. Familial connections and ties to the community are not easily severed as some believe.

“Dare County is known for our beaches and historical places such as the Wright Brothers Monument and Fort Raleigh, but it is our coastal villages and neighborhoods that represent the true spirit of the Outer Banks.”

Submerged historic sites need saving. Joe Hoyt ’04 ’08 is doing that.

Hoyt grew up on the Ohio shores of Lake Erie, diving on Great Lakes shipwrecks with his dad.

Today, he’s national maritime heritage program coordinator with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in Washington, D.C. The program covers the National Marine Sanctuary System — sites ranging from American Samoa to New England.

He’s a graduate of ECU’s maritime studies program, in which students put theory into practice through field schools and internships.

“They really provide practical hands-on experience working with a number of partners in state resource management programs and federal managers,” Hoyt says. “So, you not only learn how to be a good historian and archaeologist from an academic perspective but come out really prepared for working in the field.”

While at ECU, Hoyt worked on submerged historic sites in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Hawaii and Bermuda. He also worked alongside professionals from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which led to his first job after graduation.

“This translated into me securing a position literally the day I defended my thesis,” he says. “I defended in the morning and started my career with NOAA that afternoon.”

He worked with the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, studying and protecting the Civil War ironclad submerged off the coast of Cape Hatteras. He led the 2014 discovery and 2016 exploration of German submarine U-576 and the Nicaraguan-flagged freighter Bluefields, sunk off the N.C. coast in 1942.

Leading the national maritime heritage program, he said, “feels like a validation of more than a decade of hard work and dedication to the field of marine archaeology. It also feels like a great deal of responsibility to ensure our program continues to deliver the expected level of excellence and resource protection and stewardship.”

He says the main issue affecting historic resources in the marine and freshwater environment is lack of awareness. That translates into a number of threats ranging from support for research to unintended as well as deliberate damage from recreational and commercial uses.

Our challenge is to develop ways to capture stories and engage people in a discussion on valuing these places and the importance of preservation.

“It takes a lot of effort for the general public to be able to interact with sites, particularly those in deep water or far from shore,” he says. “So, our challenge is to develop ways to capture stories and engage people in a discussion on valuing these places and the importance of preservation.

“One thing I learned through my time at ECU that I plan to carry forward is to focus on partnerships. I am hoping that I can build strong connections with programs that have overlapping interests, and that we can come together to do more and share more resources and expertise. I’d love to see my efforts translate into increased interpretation, awareness and protection of threatened archaeological sites.”

Hoyt serves on the Advisory Council for Underwater Archaeology.