As some others have stated, I would have gone the academy route.
Breaking in when I did in the very early 80's, I did not realize the industry was changing drastically and mariners like me that desired to be pilots, were going to fall in between the cracks.
I mean, I've done ok out here, learned my trade on tugs and became a skilled boat handler at a very young age. I also had the opportunity to sail deep sea and gained more than enough sea time to get that unlimited tonnage license. But, I never had the desire to join that rat race competing for offshore work with the MM&P though.
But, the ultimate goal, that dream of becoming a Chesapeake Bay pilot never materialized for me.
I'm 51 now, with some 35 years afloat, a chequered past and staring down many years until retirement.
Would attending an academy have made a difference? Possibly. Then again, I have always been somewhat of a fuck up, so, I have my doubts.