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.