I am 19 years old and I’ve always found myself fond of the ocean, ships and boats. For me personally, I don’t mind the challenge of working. I’ve always worked hard at any job and gone past my limit. I’ve always given it my 150%. I also realize I am young and some may say that I don’t know what I’m saying, but I really think I do. I have no wife or a personal family and I am willing to sacrifice my time with my own family (mother&father) to pursue this career. I was thinking and researching a lot about the maritime industry and read many threads and stories about this career. I’ve also read a lot of different opinions ranging from positive to negative. So, I now want to personally ask for everyone’s thoughts on being a seaman/officer. I plan on starting off as a hawsepiper as I feel that experience will surpass the “book smarts” of someone coming from an academy. I was also looking into doing offshore jobs, but I’ve read that jobs are scarce for this as well. What are the chances of me finding a boat/company to start off as an OS? What are working conditions for you personally? In terms of jobs, are they really that scarce or is what I read outdated? I’m very confused because I also read maritime jobs were supposed be growing by 16% from 2010 to 2020. Could anyone clarify this for me and perhaps give me insight on everything about the whole business? I am aware I have to get my TWIC and STCW 95 too.
Thank you all for your time and hope to hear your responses.
I’m also 19 and just got my first job about 4 months ago.
Do you have your MMC yet? Just to give you a heads up, when you go for you physical, make double sure that the Doc fills the form out completely. Some of them seem to think that a quick “Looks okay” scratched on the form is sufficient but in my experience, it wasnt. The CG kept returning my physical with corrections that needed to be made. And also, dont bring up anything medical that you dont have to! I simply mentioned a bout of wheezing I had 2 years ago and it cost me about $200 extra to prove it was no longer a problem.
As far as getting a job, try tugboats. I found a job in NY through this forum with a small “mom and pop” company and so far I love it. We mostly push mud barges in and around the harbor (assisting the Dredges) so it isnt a job “on the high seas” like I wanted but it’s a first step! I stand two 6hour watches. Being the new guy, I get the 1200-1800 and 0000-0600 watches. Some weeks you work your tail off every hour of your watch and then some. Sometimes, you hardly ever fire up the engines and it gets pretty boring!
Well, as the deckhand, I keep the boat clean and I’m also the guy that climbs up on the barge as a lookout and I throw the lines when mooring a barge or the boat. Since I stand the 1200-1800 watch, I cook dinner for the crew. Usually, the next deckie cleans the dishes but sometimes I help him out if we are busy.
The boat I was on these past hitches was only 84’ and we had a pneumatic wheelhouse (you can lower it for bridges) that took up a lot of room leaving little for berths. The two deckies and the mate shared a small cabin with 3 bunks. Being tall is not really a good thing in tugboats, and Im 6’6". The bunks were cramped but you get used to it. I sleep like a baby now.
Do your best to get along with everybody. I didnt get along with the Skipper my first hitch but looking back, I could have changed my attitude and avoided the bad situations. I apologized to him the next time we worked together and now we get along great now. Mistakes are going to happen but never let one happen becasue you tryed to get out of work. Sure, sometimes things will go wrong because you didnt know what to do, but if something goes wrong because you chose to shirk your duties, you’ll have heck to pay (rightly so).
Best thing I was ever told by the skipper was “If you ask ‘Should I do…’ then you already should have.” Be proactive and look for work that needs doing.
Just be amiable and do your job and then some.
I have had some fun and cool jobs in the past, but so far, I love working in the Merchant Marine. Honestly, I dont know if I’d ever want to be an officer. I’ve steered the ship before and its pretty boring. Being out in the weather on deck working is where the fun (IMO) is!
One more thing… Do more listening then talking. We had a mate come aboard during my first hitch and he turned out to be a really great guy. IF there wastn anything to do, he would take you aside and show you how to tie knots, splice lines, explain how to navigate, etc. He always had some great stories to share (he had been doing this for almost 50 years I think).
Learn what you can before stepping aboard for the first time. Know your port from starboard, bow from stern, and learn a few knots and splices (bowline, eye splice, especially).
Anyhow, best of luck to ya! I assume some of this advice would pertain to blue water vesssels. Hopefully those guys will chime in with some advice (I wouldnt mind reading it too).