Academy vs. Hawsepipe

One mariner’s perspective in a letter to the editor of “Workboat” magazine. A great “attaboy” for PMI’s grads, and for hawsepipers in general.

It’s a good article, but I think a lot of it comes down to the person. Yes, there are hawespipers who are great sailors and academy grads that are not, but the opposite is also true. And yes, a lot of academy kids come out thinking that since they have their license they know it all already, and there’s nothing to be learned. Personally, I know I know a little bit, but there’s a ton of stuff that I have no clue on. Just depends on the person and thier attitude.

Absolutely. As I said in a post in another thread, it ain’t the piece of paper, it’s the guy who holds it.


The general rule of thumb in the Navy was that Academy grads made the best politicians (intelligent but not much in the way of common sense), OCS guys made better all around officers (maybe not the brightest but a lot of common sense) and the LDO’s or Warrant Officers were the ones you wanted leading the charge into battle!!! The ROTC guys were somewhere in between.
Now that being said, you could always find exceptions in every group. The best captain I have ever sailed with yet was an Academy Grad but he was definetly an exception.

The best Captain I’ve ever sailed with came through the hawsepipe. He’s not only a great boathandler but a good manager and, mostly, a natural leader. After more than 50 years at sea and 30 of that in the wheelhouse he said his biggest regret was not going to Kings Point.

Funny, the best Captain I ever sailed with was from KP but so were the 6 worst!

New3m, there is an old joke floating around MMP hall, I don’t know who said it but it rings true.
An experienced Captain was giving a speach on how much a Captain needs to know to be good at the job. He said; “As a brand new 3rd mate I knew everything and no one could tell me otherwise. When I became 2/m I realized there might be a few things I didn’t know but when I became C/M I came to find out I still had a lot to learn. Once I was promoted I realized I knew very little in the grand scheme of things but I was ok with that because three doors down lived the 3rd mate and he knew EVERYTHING!”

Thats a good one. Just replace the postions with my ages of 15, 20, 25 and thats how I was. Knew it all, learned that I might not no it all, dont know it all but I can find the answer.

I’ve heard that one john…but the 3/M was always a KP grad <img alt="" src=“” />

My two cents:

I am a certified hawsespipe Captain for the following reasons. They also apply to why I am working in the Gulf versus on one of the two US-flagged ships remaining.

  1. I live in a 9 year-old mobile home in flyover country.
  2. I don’t wear a shirt that looks like I pulled a gun on Captain Crunch.
  3. I can run the Mississippi River from the Southwest Pass “A” to Algiers Point without a pilot.
  4. I can live boat cargo for hours on end without having to have DP (though I can do that, too).
  5. My school (L.E. Fletcher Campus, Louisiana Technical College) doesn’t offer a class ring.
  6. I never gave a demerit to anyone, though I did take names in elementary school and a boy I didn’t like had to stay in for recess.
  7. I can steer a vessel into the Calcasieu Ship Channel jetties with the current running hard to the west MYSELF.
  8. I can empty my own garbage can and clean my own stateroom.
  9. I don’t like Unions. I speak my own mind and when I don’t like what I see I perform the Duffel-Bag Drag.
  10. I learned from the same oft-denigrated Cajuns (I used to do the logs as a deckhand for one who could not even write his name) and found them to be kind, generous people, who according to the US Census Bureau, have the lowest per-capita on Public Assistance of any ethnic group in the United States.
  11. I am an American, not a 130-lb European who enjoys paying $11 a gallon for gasoline.
  12. I like working toward a goal and started as an unlicensed 6-pack Captain for the Army on a 27’ boat.
  13. I enjoy the fact that you can show up as a complete scrub with only a Driver’s License in your wallet and be Master of a 185’ boat making over $100,000 working 28/28 after six and one-half years’ hard work (and wear a t-shirt on the bridge).
  14. I enjoy not owing any college loans.
  15. I enjoy being able to handle vessels not equipped with stern thrusters.
  16. I enjoy being able to “push up” without having a heart attack or thinking I should call the Coast Guard for running aground.
  17. I enjoy the simplicity of “See you on one” coming into Belle Pass.
  18. I enjoy watching the mightly School People looking for work on vessels and amongst people they despise.
  19. I enjoy knowing the aforementioned have run themselves out of work due to their slavish devotion to unions and now want to show us how to Do Things, even though the aforementioned Cajuns who couldn’t read were smart enough to keep this place going.
  20. And finally, I enjoy looking out the windows, whether it be in Port Fourchon or out here somewhere, and know this was all built by those same Cajuns who couldn’t read, whose Academy was an old 80’ wooden-hulled, single-screw shrimp boat, and even though they might not be able to spell Dynamic Positioning or Alpha Centari were able to “live boat” everything out here with only two engines and (maybe) a bow thruster.

This is NOT a personal shot at anyone; there are some School men I know, respect, and have learned much from. I also look forward to learning more from them in the future.

I would really like to thank the post from the guest above me. Now, I have recently graduated from high school this past summer, and I plan on going to sea, unlicensed, as an OS. Now, I did apply at academy’s, and I got into both Massachusetts Maritime, and SUNY Maritime, but I will not be attending either school. I have always wanted to start from the bottom, and work my way up. I like to know how everything on the ship is done, how everyone does their job, and what it is like doing those jobs. I don’t plan on staying unlicensed, I want to eventually get thy Third Mate’s license when the time comes. I may regret my decision to not go to an academy in the future, but for me it’s a sense of pride, knowing that you started at the very bottom, and worked your way up to a difficult goal. I have nothing against academy grads, or hawsepipers, this is the way I have wanted to do it all my life.

Do you have a job yet? Have you considered PMI’s two year program? You’d learn everything from the bottom up there, and get it over with in two years. Only catch is you have to be 21 to take the exam, so you have to be 19 to start. But heck, go to sea until you’re 19 to gain experience.

I have looked into PMI Capt_Anonymous, and yes that looks like a great idea, I haven’t ruled out that option yet. I don’t have a job at the moment, I’m hoping to see if MSC will be hiring OS’s in the next few months (which I’ve heard from many people that they will be). I have been searching for other jobs on US flagged ships, but nothing has turned up yet. Any recommendations?

Also I really want to get into tugs/OSV’s. I live in New England, but I would love to head to the gulf and get some OSV experience. Local tug companies (especially New York companies) are hiring OS’s, so I know I could probably find something local, but it would be cool to get some time on OSV’s.

The winters are BRUTAL!!! in NY.Go somewhere warm like Kachamak or lliuliuk Bay.

Yeah I hear that haha. I really want to go OSV though, should be a little warmer down there :slight_smile:

camthrop: If you want to go to MSC as an OS you will need to already have your BST, MMD and TWIC. If you dont already have your BST but have the rest and a job as a Supply Utilityman (Steward) opens up, MSC will get your your BST. Then once you can cross deck while on your first ship or apply for a promotion when one opens (MSC has many more openings once you’re hired). Best of luck.

Camthrop: I commend you on your sense of pride wanting to work your way up. But what if you don’t like going to sea or 10 years into your sailing career you want to work shoreside for whatever reason. Going to either Mass or SUNY you get the license and the degree. I bounced between shipping and shoreside the first 8 years out of SUNY, I’ve been sailing for the last eight. Without the MT degree from SUNY I would not have had the shoreside opportunities available to me. Give yourself as many options as possible the maritime industry is big business here in the US and globally there are some great careers out there for some one that has sailed a few years but you need that degree to be competitive.
As far as hawsepipe and academy I’ve seen some great ones and I’ve seen some horrible ones it all depends on the individual.
Good Luck to you

I’d have to agree with capnmorgan on this one. Going to Schuyler (as I did), or Mass, or Maine, or any of them, is not only about getting a license, but about getting a degree. Some argue that getting the degree is more important than getting your license. I say it’s about 50/50. I don’t plan on sailing until I’m 75, but having my both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, along with (hopefully) an upper-level license should do some good things for me when I decide that I want to work in an office.
If you have any questions about going to SUNY, feel free to ask - I’m a recent grad.