Well, looks like I did my part to confuse things as well!
Regarding Conspearasea’s point. They’re right, BST is helpful in the job market. And yes, there are very limited opportunities for inland ABs.
From my own experience, BST was helpful because it allowed me to get a STCW certificate for Proficiency in Survival Craft. Doesn’t mean much, but at least it was an STCW certificate for something.
However, again from my own experience, and perhaps someone can point me in the direction of some jobs, but I’ve found that BST plus PSC plus AB means also means very little in the job market without RFPNW. And you can’t get RFPNW without [U]a lot[/U] more time on over 100 ton vessels…(simulator training notwithstanding).
So, anyhow, I think the consesus seems to be, and I agree, take all the courses that your seatime allows, get the most cerficates and training. That would be BST, PSC, and the AB class.
Regarding job opportunites in the bay area, most of my experience there was through a union called MMP. With MMP you can contact companies directly (Blue and Gold Fleet (tour boats), Westar Marine(crew boats), Bay and Delta (escort tugs), and get on their casual lists. It doesnt start as real work, but its a way to get a toe in. Wintertime will be slow. Also, you can sign up at the IBU hall now for their intro class (pretty much the only way in) which will take place sometime this summer. They have most of the union deck work throughout the bay, and your AB might be worth something there.
Besides that, there is all the non-union work: Hornblower, Five Star, Angel Island Tiburon Ferry, Commodore, and all the small boats that go out with tourists. Check pier 39, fisherman’s wharf area. Again, there will be more work in the summer.