Am I right to view things as grim?

I’m 33, and a hawsepiper through and through. I started in the industry in 2007 as a deckhand at a local ferry company, then in 2009 I switched to decking on platform boats and earned my 100-Ton license. In 2011, I began decking on (small and conventional) tugs and barges (And running the same company’s crew boats and landing craft…) and stuck around long enough to earn my AB Unlimited, my 500-Ton, and my MoT. In 2018, I switched from full-time employment to part-time employment with the tug company I’d been working for since 2011, and took a night shift job with VTS in order to attend my local state university during the daytime. I continued (And continue…) to run tugs, crew boats, and landing craft on my days and nights off.

So, here I am: 33, with an MoT/500-Ton/AB Unlimited, as well as a B.A. degree and an acceptance letter to an online M.S. program at Cal Maritime which starts this August. I’m itching to quit my nighttime VTS job (The set schedule has been nice, and the benefits are cushy, but I just plain miss boats!) and get back to running boats or decking full-time. Trouble is, most of the respectable local tug companies are union, and while I think unions absolutely have their place, the way it works here is a joke: Getting a dispatch with one of them means you’re a part-time employee, with no guarantee of a paycheck, and some very expensive dues to pay. I’m open to working union or non-union, but nobody seems to be dispatching or hiring.

What’s a guy to do? I’ve worked my butt off these past 12-13 years to earn some decent credentials, and I’ve supplemented those with a conventional, academic education as well. At 33, I think I’d make a good investment for just about any company, right? I’m young enough that I’m good for another 30 years of hard labor, and old enough that while I’m no Master Unlimited, I have learned a thing or two.

Maybe I’m being impatient, but it’s frustrating as hell to have done all of this work and then end up either sitting at the hall where there are hardly ever (part-time, casual) dispatches, or reaching out to the non-union companies and being told that there aren’t any openings at the moment. What’s the big secret? How does a guy make his entry into one of the large, established, stable companies here in California? Frankly, I feel pretty defeated, and like it’s all been for naught.

Any insight would be much appreciated. Please and thanks.

Man if you have a job right now with ANY kind of job security right now. DON’T MOVE! Musical chairs on boats and the music has stopped! My 2 cents.


If you want job security then go into the medical field & become a RN.

There’s plenty of recent academy grads who graduated this year, last or the year before in the same position as you except they are $100k+ in the hole & have zero practical experience. There’s hundreds of people who aren’t as smart as you or as hard working as you who desperately wish they were in your position.

My advice, keep doing what you have been doing & trust your own judgment, you’ll figure it out. You don’t sound like a loser IMO.


Not much to add except the two people I know
in the Bay who got jobs within the last year pounded on doors weekly in person until they got in. Both are happy but realize it’s a long slog and variable work until they get seniority.

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As you know, california in the best of times did not have a thriving workboat environment. I would hold on to what you got for dear life for the time being!
When/if things get back to how they were pre-february 2020, look at any and all offshore towing companies. If you have to take an AB job or work somewhere remote, do it for the experience. On your time off, do your networking with the local ship assists companies.
I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know here, just giving my two cents. You are still young and have already showed a lot of patience obviously, just keep at it.

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Pounding on doors , many more than once worked for me. Hang in there, this is just a speed bump right now. You will see many before you retire. Hang on to what you have for now, things will improve. If I were still working, would have a positive view of your employment history, and ask HR to hire you.

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Thanks for the replies, everybody. I know there are a lot of people without work right now, maritime and otherwise, and I don’t mean to come off as ungrateful. I’m definitely grateful for my steady-if-modest check plus benefits from my nighttime VTS gig, but at the same time I’m hungry for more and I miss running boats. Fingers crossed that all of the tanker backup at LA/LB due to COVID will make for very busy harbor tugs in another few weeks, and that maybe that extra work will cause a local company or two to hire/dispatch. Thanks again.