Separately, they are two yacht captains, an engineer and a chef. Together, the four yacht crew are the Marine Eco Solutions (also known as MES Clean) team.
Like the Fantastic Four of comic book fame, they have a plan to clean up planet Earth. Instead of fighting crime, they fight dirt with their year-old business, which sells multi-purpose cleaners.
And, just like many superheros, they lead double lives. By day they are active yacht crew. By night they mix, bottle, label, market and sell MES Clean products.
“None of us ever imagined we would be soap salesmen, but some things only come around once in life,” Capt. Scott Schipske, 28-year-old CEO and president of the company, said.
Schipske has enlisted Eng. Brian Sheridan as vice president of engineering, Chef Cassandra Bruno as vice president of marketing, and Capt. Adam Sturman as vice president of business. Each one brings their own special power to the mix.
The team’s primary weapons are four formulas in the MES Clean arsenal: an all-purpose cleaner and degreaser, an oven and grill cleaner, a wastewater/water and odor treatment, and a multi-surface interior cleaner. They mix their own recipes by adding ingredients to a strong bulk product they buy from a manufacturer. The varieties originated from years of working on yachts and seeing how products are used on both the interior and exteriors.
“Crew use MES on glass, wood, plastic, even stainless,” Schipske said. “The sky’s the limit.”
Schipske and Sheridan were introduced to the original product when they worked on the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010.
“This is the only product that was allowed to be used post oil-spill,” Schipske said. “I went to the company and said I wanted to buy shares.”
The manufacturer declined the offer but did allow Schipske to buy the product in bulk. The base product comes in 55-gallon drums to which the team adds its ingredients, bottles and labels their MES Clean brand in a warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. All of the products are pH neutral, biodegradable and non-corrosive, they said.
The secret formula is engineered proteins that bind with water to decrease surface tension, Sheridan said. This makes dirt and grease easier to remove.
“The original product was fine, it just didn’t need to be so strong,” Schipske said.
But it takes more than special powers to solve problems; it takes the strengths of each unique personality to create a team.
Schipske likes to be in charge and get things done. He used to be a dynamic positioning officer on rigs in the oil fields, cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina. He got his DPO license from the Nautical Institute in Great Britain.
“I worked ’til I got the largest license,” Schipske said. “Then I realized that 120 days at sea with 120 guys was not the greatest lifestyle for me.”
He knew about yachts from growing up in South Florida, but it wasn’t until he reconnected with his friend Sheridan that he found a new course. The two first met at the Maritime Academy in Texas.
“He did engineering before me and was working on a yacht,” Schipske said. “He said it was the worst boat and he loved it.”
That’s all it took for Schipske to switch to yachting. He started as a deckhand/officer of the watch and said he did a lot of cleaning on a 190-foot yacht. Next, he served as first officer on M/Y Party Girl, a 145-foot Christensen.
“During the last four-five years, I’ve gone down in size and up in position on yachts,” Schipske said.
He became captain of an 80-foot yacht for about six months and hired a woman he was dating. That woman was Bruno.
“It was just the two of us and we loved it,” Schipske said.
Schipske instigated the MES idea and brought together the team. He now leads them to fulfill the clean mission.
Chef Cassandra Bruno has the creative eye. She designs logos, labels and packaging for MES products. She is the 26-year-old chef on M/Y Kakawi, the 100-foot Marlow she works with Schipske. With four years of studies in media communications in her native Sweden, she decided her major in graphic design could be put on hold.
“No, I never worked in that,” Bruno said. “Eight hours by a computer?”
Instead, she flew to Florida. She had a friend who worked a season in the Mediterranean and told her about his career on yachts.
“I flew to Ft. Lauderdale with $20, a backpack and went straight to a crew house,” Bruno said. “It was the day before the Lauderdale show five years ago.
“I never thought I would be a boat person, never mind a soap salesperson.”
She worked on a M/Y Insatiable, 100-foot Broward, for two years on a busy charter schedule. And more than four years ago, she and Schipske started dating.
“Plus, I loved the product and couldn’t get it on the boat,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to use it and help other stews.”
Although Bruno is often behind the scenes, her work is out front. She’s the clever artist of the group.
Eng. Brian Sheridan likes to learn and share his knowledge. Sheridan, 31, talks about teratogenic effects and reads material safety data sheets (MSDS) for entertainment.
“I speak CFR,” Sheridan said of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, which govern much of U.S. yachting. “I am the go-to-guy for regulatory compliance.”
Currently on M/Y Amica, a 105-foot Azimut, he works on MES Clean in his spare time. He got serious after the Texas Maritime Academy when he went to oil fields to work with Trans Ocean.
“The nickname on my hardhat was ‘College’; I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau,” Sheridan said.
He next worked as a safety man at a scraping yard, as a health safety and compliance officer, and on a 400-foot container vessel in the Indian Ocean as 2nd engineer.
His course changed when he met Smiley and Elona from SXM Marine Trading in St. Maarten. They told him they needed engineers to crew on yachts.
“Six weeks later, I packed up my stuff and had an interview on M/Y Capella C,” Sheridan said. He has worked on M/Y Chevy Toy, M/Y Allure Shadow, M/Y Seawolf and M/Y Braveheart. He and Schipske have been friends since the Maritime Academy.
Sheridan brings his brain to the project. He is in charge of keeping products within regulations and compliance.
Capt. Adam Sturman, 31, likes to manage things. He handles the business end of MES Clean and currently runs M/Y Child’s Play, a 105-foot West Bay Sonship.
In his teenage years, Sturman worked on a live-aboard dive boat in the Bahamas. The Miami native attended the University of Florida business school and soon put his business skills to work on a redevelopment project in Vail, Colo., as a general manager.
“Once that project wrapped up, I knew I wanted to get back to the ocean,” Sturman said.
He worked as captain for two years on two boats for one owner. Next, he started his own yacht services company managing smaller boats.
“I like the business of making plans, creating a model, setting goals,” Sturman said.
Sturman met Schipske after watching him dock a yacht in the Bahamas during storm force winds.
“You know how everyone watches, waiting for a mess up,” Sturman said. “He got it in; I caught the line.”
Sturman later reconnected with Schipske and Bruno in Nassau.
“We all met for dinner and we just clicked,” he said.
Sturman brings his strong business background to the group. He creates the plans that keep the team on track.
The Clean Crew
The comic book Fantastic Four got superpowers after exposure to dangerous cosmic rays. The strengths of the MES Clean team became apparent after the toxic oil cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico after Deepwater Horizon’s explosion.
In the beginning, Sheridan had a job with a crew agency for commercial vessels. When there was an opening for professionals with commercial backgrounds that also knew about cleaning and documenting damage, he and Schipske signed on.
“We were the youngest on the decontamination,” Schipske said. “We were decon superintendants.”
Then came the oil incident in the Gulf of Mexico.
“BP rushed to get crew out for the spill,” Schipske said. Both were sent to the job. After oil cleanups, vessels needed to be returned to their original condition.
“There were 6,000-7,000 boats covered in crude oil and they were spreading oil like dirty feet in a kitchen,” Sheridan said.
The U.S. Coast Guard mandated that everything be cleaned to levels before exposure to oil. That meant ballast, the seawater cooling systems, bow thrusters, swing thrusters, everything, Sheridan said.
There was only one product authorized to do such a job, Schipske said. He set out to get it. He knew he could sell it with some help.
Schipske remembered Sturman talked of having several businesses and said he was bored without two or three going at a time. Sturman liked Schipske’s idea and joined the team.
“The group knew what they wanted, but didn’t know how to get there,” Sturman said.
During the past year, the products have made their way onto more megayachts.
“This has the possibility to go well, especially as yachts head into more regulatory compliance,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan sees yachting adding more rules on which cleaning products can be used in the industry. That will fuel changes onboard yachts.
“For example, imagine a mate being detained for not having an MSDS onboard,” he said. “Once forced, they will pay attention. Because who really learns anything they’re not required to learn? Nobody.”
And Schipske feels good that the team’s mission is about more than money.
“We want to make the industry more aware,” Schipske said. He said he previously didn’t know how environmentally unfriendly some cleaning products are, on the sea and for crew.
“We’re trying to educate crew on new, green products that out perform what they’re currently using,” he said. “Education is actually the hardest part in bringing this to success. People are content with the products they are using, but they are not thinking about the ramifications.”
“A few boats have switched because their other products were so caustic,” Bruno said. “I know a girl who was pregnant, so she uses our stuff.”
“The ocean does right by us and we do right by it,” Sturman said. “We’re not super green but we try to do the right things.”
So for now the clean team — the two captains, the engineer and the chef — continue to pull double duty.
“We’re not quitting our day jobs,” Sturman said, “but I wish we were all in town together. We all work really hard and that’s why this will last. We’re still a group of friends first.”
For more information on MES Clean visit www.marecosol.com or contact National Marine Suppliers in Ft. Lauderdale.