You’re actually the exact type of person that PMI and MITAGS seek as applicants to their 2 year Mates program. Have you been in touch with Gregg Trunnell at PMI? He would be your first poiint of contact.
Be advised, the PMI program is no walk in the park. You have to want it to work, and make it work, and you’ll earn your success there. They don’t just shove the guys through, it is demanding and you come out having actually learned some good stuff. The caliber of the cadets that I’ve had contact with is quite high.
Even with the current state of the economy, there are good opportunities in the towing industry right now, especially because it has become so difficult to break into towing. While that may seem a somewhat contradictory statement, the truth is that the people who are willing to do what it takes to get into towing will reap the rewards down the road as there will be room to move up.
As to your questions about what we expect from guys walking on the boat, I always tell people that you usually make whatever impression you’re going to make within the first hours or days of your first trip, and if you make a bad one right out of the gate it takes a long time to correct it. The best thing to do, I think, is to find the hardest working guy on board and work just a little bit harder than he (or she!) does and you’ll be just fine. Show some initiative and find something to do every day that makes that boat a little bit better than it was when you came aboard. Don’t buy into the griping and complaining that you’ll hear from the guys who, for whatever reason, go to work and bitch about how much the job sucks, or how that office has it out for them, or how much their relief fucked them over again. I think I said in an earlier post that this job is so hard on our bodies, our minds, and our families that we are either crazy or we just find so much joy in being out on the water that it makes it worthwhile.
One of your biggest challenges right from the start is going to be dealing with the absolute mess that the Coast Guard has created with the NMC and the new medical standards. You will literally wait MONTHS to get an application through NMC, and if you don’t act early you’ll wind up on the beach like many have recently.
With all of it’s faults, pitfalls, and downside, I absolutely love my work in this industry and I encourage anyone who is interested in this life to join it. But you must come into it with your eyes wide open. The informed Mariner is the successful Mariner. Buy Lenny’s book “The New Hawsepipe”. Read it cover to cover, and then use it as a guide through the process. Make connections, network, build a group of contacts and use them for the help they can offer. Then turn around and do the same for someone else. This industry is built on who you know, who you’ve worked for, who you’ve sailed with. I will guarantee you that after you’ve been in it for a while you’ll find that someone you sailed with, even if for only one hitch, can be instrumental in helping you out. Don’t burn any bridges. Be honest. Take the best of what you learn from your more experienced shipmates and fold that into your own skillset. Be safe! Be willing to admit when you’ve fucked up, and learn from it. Open your eyes, open your ears, and ask good questions. Be prepared to find that some of what you may learn at school may not be applicable in the “real world”, and accept that. Be a good shipmate. Work hard, work safe, and be the kind of Mate that by his skill and competence allows the off watch to rest easy. It will pay off for you in the end.