Kurt Hill enjoys career as captain of the world’s biggest dredge

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New York City is a long way from Washougal, but that’s where Kurt Hill is turning his dreams into reality.

As a kid attending Washougal schools, Hill always wanted to work with his hands when he got older. However, he never dreamed he’d be using those to command the biggest dredge in the world.

“I didn’t even know this kind of stuff existed before,” he said.

A dredge is a machine equipped with scooping or suction devices and used to deepen harbors and waterways, and in underwater mining.

Hill, 30, was offered the job in an interesting twist: While working for a generator company as a technician, he traveled to New York to repair a dredge that had been hit by lightning.

The dredge operators were so impressed with his work that they offered him a job as an engineer, making significantly more money.

“It was a tough decision to make, I felt wrong about quitting on my employer like that,” he said.

However, Hill took the risk. Five years later, he has been promoted to captain at the Great Lakes Dredging & Dock and spends his days commanding a crew on a vessel the size of a football field through New York Harbor.

“I can look out and see the Statue of Liberty every day,” he said.

Hill said the best parts of his job are the challenges.

“I enjoy troubleshooting and management,” he said. “It’s a great challenge dealing with people, training everyone to be efficient and work together.”

Last week, Science Channel viewers nationwide saw Hill when he and his crew were featured on “Heavy Metal Task Force.”

The show is described as one that, “drills deep underground, slashes through ice and soars above the clouds.”

“It was my first time on T.V.,” Hill said. “The filming process was pretty nerve-wracking. I had a microphone in my shirt the whole time and they were chasing us around with cameras. It was also during the hottest days of the summer. I’m pretty proud of it, though. It’s something I can put on my resume.”

His parents, Margaret and Dick Hill, live in Washougal and watched the episode at Heller’s Restaurant with friends.

“It was awesome,” Margaret said. “I thought it was great, but it made me miss him. I recorded it while we were gone and watched it again after we got back.”