A man and Woman standing in front of a mountain in Alaska
Rachel Crane with her boyfriend, Nate, while in Alaska. CONTRIBUTED

Rachel Crane lives a badass life that keeps her busy, challenged, and fulfilled. The Port Largo resident can sometimes be found in the Keys teaching SCUBA diving courses or captaining boats for Coral Restoration Foundation. Other times, she heads up training for Diveheart, a nonprofit helping adaptive divers experience the underwater world. And if you can’t find her around town, she’s probably leading National Geographic expeditions into Southeast Alaska’s “Inside Passage” with Lindblad Expeditions.

“I tell everyone I do a lot! It’s actually very challenging because I can’t fit my title on LinkedIn. I don’t fit on a normal 1-page resume,” says Crane.

In the same way that Crane doesn’t have a “typical” job, she also doesn’t have a typical day at any of her four jobs. If she’s working a boat, the captain can be on the water from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m — or even 8 p.m. If she’s at home or working remotely, she creates her own regimen: “I try to be at my computer by 9, but in PJs with my coffee and my kitty.” 

When she’s on expedition, Crane’s day starts around 5 a.m. looking for wildlife — from humpback whales to seals to orcas. By 7:30 a.m., Crane and the rest of the expedition staff are finding out their day’s assignments. For Crane, that could range from leading nature hikes to shuttling guests on zodiacs to giving a naturalist presentation to diving Alaska’s pristine waters. 

“Basically no two days are the same — both here and there,” explains Crane. She loves the dynamic nature of her life because of the “mental stimulation” and the “nice balance” between getting out in the world and being cozy in her own home.

Keys Weekly caught up with Crane as she packed for her second Alaska expedition. “On expedition, I love getting up close and personal with everything,” says Crane. “We’re on these little zodiacs next to whales. Just seeing everything you’ve ever watched on TV right next to you is amazing.” 

In all her roles, Crane uses non-confrontational ways of educating rather than casting blame to help people realize the impact their actions can have on the wild places she loves. “We’re beyond talking about what did we do wrong; we need to go into “how do we fix this” mode. I like to help people understand that and care!”

Woman Scuba diving
Rachel Crane teaches SCUBA diving in the Keys.

Full name? Nickname? Rachel Elizabeth Crane. No nicknames. 

Where did you grow up? Upstate New York, on an alpaca farm.

When and why did you move to the Keys? 2013. I was working on coral disease ecology for Mote, but I found that while all that research is incredibly important, the people I was doing research for already knew the problems with the corals, so I didn’t feel like I was making enough of a difference talking about it. So I moved to the Keys to be a dive instructor at Rainbow Reef because I felt like I had more of a platform to make people care and see what’s going on. And that platform just got a lot bigger. Its cool because I get to tell people where I live and what’s going on with our corals. And I tell them, all the way up in Alaska.

What’s something people don’t know about you? I am the, well I was, the grand champion at alpaca obstacle courses while holding an egg on a spoon and not dropping that. You have an alpaca go through a dog tunnel, but bigger —  for an alpaca — over a jump, backup, all without dropping the egg. And I did it the fastest.

What’s a ‘locals only’ secret about life in the Keys that you’re willing to share? Everyone’s favorite key lime pie place is different. There is no one best key lime pie. Mine is at Bayside because it tastes like cheesecake, and I love cheesecake.

When did you begin diving? Captaining? Diving, I think I was 17. Captaining – on my birthday in 2016. My golden birthday too! 25 on the 25th. Right after my last season in Alaska.

Where else have you lived? I was born in Washington state. From Washington we went to Tennessee, Alabama, upstate New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Florida, Alaska.

What’s your idea of the perfect weekend? Anything where I get to hang out with Nate! Typically something somewhat relaxing. If it’s a weekend just for me, I like to relax because so much of my life is lived outside. 

Did you always want to work with the ocean? What drew you in? No, I didn’t. I actually really wanted to be a vet. And I even studied a little bit of vet stuff, but I learned that I’m allergic to everything. So, then my second thing that I loved almost as much as all the animals was being in and around the water. I grew up landlocked, so my experience was pools and lakes. I decided, “The largest body of water is the ocean, so why not go there?”

What’s your go-to drink after a long day?Water. Or a mojito with lemonade.

What are you most proud of? Probably the fact that I’m happy. That through all of it, at the end of the day, I can say I’m happy. And even in those tough times when I’ve had a bad day, I’m happy my bad day was doing something I like.

If you had the chance to take anyone to dinner, who would it be? Dr. Robert Paine. He did some of the original research that brought ecology into the mindset of keystone species and trophic cascade. His ideology spurred that entire movement that environments can be regulated from the top down, not just bottom up (available food source). 

If you had a superpower, what would it be? Shape shifting. I wanna experience what all the animals experience. Because then I could fly, then I could be invisible; super strong; super fast; breathe underwater; communicate with the fish. 

Finish these sentences….

The Keys life is… chill.

The ocean matters because… it’s the blood to our planet. 

My legacy will be to…To inspire others to live their lives differently. You don’t have to go corporate. You can have fun and make a difference at the same time. And you can be happy.  You know?

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