About to make the career change - specific questions

Hello everyone. New guy here about to jump into an academy engineering program. Hoping to ask a few specific(ish) questions here regarding the engineer side of the house and the career in general that are a bit more difficult to track down in online research. Any knowledge that you might be able to share would be super appreciated!

  1. I love the idea of having at least one month off at a time to pursue my hobbies. Is this still widely available as a mariner? Heard that smaller vessels have shorter rotations - so really want to stick to the larger vessels. Longer on/off. Not sure how hard they are to score with the small numbers of deep sea and larger vessels.

  2. Is smoking allowed inside vessels? I’ll get dirty, sweaty, won’t ever judge anyone for their personal life decisions, but I can’t stand breathing second-hand smoke for hours on end. Not privy to allow other’s health decisions to screw over my own health.

  3. Do engineers get to go out on deck for fresh air? Would it be weird to head up to the bridge to check out the view when not on shift? I originally wanted to be on the deck side, mainly for the views. The academy I’m looking at has a spot for a 3 year engineering program due to my education background.
    Only big concern for me is feeling like I’ll miss the whole ocean views/natural wonders by being an engineer. (Still love engineering, machinery, etc. In my mind beats the hell out of an office job.) When reading other engineer experiences, it seems like it’s engine room/control room/below decks all day every day.

  4. I have family in Hawaii, and hope to move back some day. Any mariners that make living in Hawaii happen and commuting to the job on the mainland port of departure? Travel usually paid for? (Love the thought of shipping out of Honolulu eventually but haven’t heard of many jobs there…)

Yes but that depends on what sector of the industry you find yourself in. Engineers aren’t as sector specific as deck side though so you can chase the schedule as part of your job hunt easier.

Rarely these days.

Never. The door down to the engine room is only un-padlocked for crew change. You’re down below your entire hitch.

The mate on watch would have to figure out who unlocked the engine room and let you out and we can’t have mates doing any figuring, that’s too similar to thinking.


Hahaha. Thanks for the laugh. :laughing: I had that coming! Appreciate the responses. I imagine with the tools in the engineering department and some ingenuity - the real challenge won’t be the door/lock but will be slinking about above and avoiding all the mates.

In hindsight, dumb question. Always enjoyed soaking in the beauty of the ocean and sky on my short stints underway. Some good memories of starry skies and the most amazing cloud formations I’ve ever seen out on the water. Engine room is fascinating in it’s own right too and I’ll be happy to not be sitting at a desk all day. Sure I can get my fix on breaks.

Oh my. Why head to the bridge? I break out in hives up there. Too much time locked in the dungeon does that to me.


Big ship, tug boat company or OSV, it seems to me no 2 companies are the same when it comes to rotations. With an engineering degree/license you would have a leg up in the industry. Try out a few different rotations & find the one you like. My preferred rotation changed over the years.

The last smoking boat I was on was an old tug 11 years ago. I’ve heard that some tugs are still floating ashtrays. Some mom & pop companies that don’t recruit so you would have to search them our to run into it. I hate smoking inside the vessel but it isn’t anything to worry about anymore.

Yes. When you are off watch do what you want, get a tan if you want, but stay off the bridge. Nothing good happens up there. The people who work up there don’t want to be there either. It won’t take you long to figure out it’s for glorified taxi drivers & office managers with maritime licenses.

I work with a guy from Hawaii. He says he’ll never move but complains a lot about the cost of living & not being able to buy stuff? Also, no matter where we work he has to fly to California first so he always leaves his home before everyone else, looks like crap at crew change & it takes him longer to get home. But he’s happy & I guess that’s all that matters.

Good luck.

Since there were already some humorous responses to this, i’ll give you a serious answer from a tug/osv guy.

Some of your engineering responsibilities could very well be outside. Work on a mooring/anchor winch, replace/troubleshoot an exterior flood light, etc…

Same goes for the bridge. Routine maintenance checking emergency lighting, replacing a broken vhf radio, inspecting 12v battery system, etc…

As far as visits to the wheelhouse goes just to say hi? This will vary from company to company and sub-industry. Tugs and osvs are generally less formal than ships. Some captains and mates like visitors, some don’t. There is a time and place for everything. I wouldn’t make a social call in pilot waters or while docking/undocking.


Can only speak for seagoing atb type vessels moving oil. Some responsibilities, in addition to what Ctony mentioned included trouble shooting on the barge when needed. He was also very adept at operating the tow winch when called for. Although I rarely found myself in the engine room, I always welcomed sharing a midmorning coffee with the chief. He would bring me up to speed on how things were going down below , repairs , supplies, etc. Last one I had was a very talented, pleasant Maine grad. Not sure how some work with the engine department, good communication with them almost always had good results.

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On my ATB, I would generally have my midmorning coffee with the Old Man and bring him up to date with any issues that might effect operations. We would also make our calls over the sideband to the office while I was up (yeah, okay, it was a decade or two or three ago). I would also have to tend to maintenance/repairs of barge equipment. Mooring Winches and cargo pumps, among other things would keep me busy, as well as anything else. I generally would work on the barge stuff while I was off watch, in the early afternoon. There were also times on string boats where I would operate the towing winch. That seems to be a West Coast thing, though. In the Gulf, I rarely touched the towing winch other than for repairs and to verify repairs.

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