And how is the life aboard a merchant vessel


#1

After some work sailing schooners offshore and a few deliveries between time, I’m considering leaving my desk job to get my unlimited ocean license and join a commerical vessel. I have over 20 years experience on the water with a small limited masters license presently.

In regards to sailing on tankers, research vessel, cargo, etc. can anyone share their experiences, success (and failure), lifestyle, pay, etc. in regards to doing this full time?


#2

First thing about this question is in what rank you will be joining. This will determine your pay grade, and in good part your life-style (or hardships) on board.

Second, it will depend on which type of vsl you will be sailing.
For example, if you are on cape size bulker, or VLCC the life will be easier, more routine, nad only few port calls during your time on board.

On container vessel, it’s frantic life, living on tight schedule like living on a street car.
Manouverings any time day or night, port stay only few hours (no time to get ashore), and you actually live around the clock. My last contract on board (4 months) I made 56 port calls, with anchoring almost every port on arrival. This means roughly 140 manouverings in 120 days.
Frequent manouverings break your normal sleep rate and biorithm, and after 4 months on board spent like this, you are almost like living zombi. All spare time, I spent on sleep. Container vsl is: Work - eat - sleep. Finish contract. Go home.

If you are cook on such vessel - there is not much stress, every day a routine.
If you are master - it’s stressful.
Mate, he got his own troubles with incompetent cargo planners ashore, and for him is probably most stressful.
Engineers, due to frequent manouvering can loose some sleep or rest period, it affects them as well, but in general it is just a little bit easier on them.

Shore leave: just on rear occasion / opportunity. You must have enough free time in between your duties, the center of town should be close enough so a cab can take you there in decent time, the ship must be long enough alongside. (container vsl is alongside anytime between 4 hrs to 24 hrs, but in most of the cases less then 12 hrs of port stay)

Life on cruiser: you have there all it takes. No need for shore leave. However - if you spend too much in crew bar - you will make no money. On the other hand - women come in plenty (waitresses, maids, etc…) Many of femanle crew will be happy to share your bunk. Some say - the vibes of auxiliaries make them crazy. There you don’t mix with passangers. Only ship staff…

Supplier: Small crew. A lot of manouvering. If you get somwhere on north atlantic - bad weather and rolling. In west Africa - Malaria. Good pay. No women on board. Enough time for shore leave.

If I were you, after so much time ashore, I would pursue again a shore job.

Moder shipping is just like a jail sentence, with pay check as the only thing good. Not even that sometimes.


#3

I sailed for about ten years. I was a very young man then. I am glad I did it. I sailed on break bulk ships, container ships, ocean tugs and ATBs. Doing so made me very familiar and comfortable with international travel and shaped me in ways that I cannot describe. At the beginning, when I was 19, it was truly an adventure. Toward the end, it got to be too routine, in an odd way. I have been ashore now for over 20 years. I have no interest in going back to sea. Although I do still work in and around the industry.


#4

[B](Some may be familiar)[/B]
[B]To prepare yourself for a Merchant Marine life, try this:

  1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet.[/B]

[B]2. Replace the closet door with a curtain.[/B]

[B]3. Four hours after you go to sleep have your wife whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and mumble, “Sorry, wrong rack.”[/B]

[B]4. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of your bathtub and move the shower head down to chest level.[/B]

[B]5. When you take showers, make sure you shut off the water while soaping.[/B]

[B]6. Every time there’s a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you’re nauseous.[/B]

[B]7. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it to “High.”[/B]

[B]8. Don’t watch TV except movies in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch, then show a different one.[/B]

[B]9. Leave lawn mower running in your living room 24 hours a day for proper noise level.[/B]

[B]10. Have the paper boy give you a haircut with dull sheep sheers.[/B]

[B]11. Once a week blow compressed air up through your chimney, making sure the wind carries the soot across and onto your neighbor’s house. Laugh at him when he curses you.[/B]

[B]12. Buy a trash compactor but only use it once a week. Store up garbage in your bathtub.[/B]

[B]13. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread, if anything. (Optional: Canned ravioli or soup. Do not heat!)[/B]

[B]14. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator.[/B]

[B]15. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can, then run out into your yard and break out the garden hose.[/B]

[B]16. Once a month take every major kitchen and laundry appliance and electric garden tool you own completely apart and then put them back together. Do this every week with your lawnmower.[/B]

[B]17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for 5 or 6 hours before drinking.[/B]

[B]18. Invite at least 15-20 people you don’t really like to come and visit for several months.[/B]

[B]19. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.[/B]

[B]20. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills on your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit you head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.[/B]

[B]21. Lockwire the lugnuts on your car.[/B]

[B]22. Bake a cake. Prop up one side of the pan while it is baking. Then spread icing really thick on one side to level off the top.[/B]

[B]23. Every so often, throw your cat into the swimming pool, shout “Man overboard, ship recovery!”, run into the kitchen and sweep all the pots/pans/dishes/silverware off of the counter onto the floor, then yell at your wife for not having the place “stowed for sea.”[/B]

[B]24. Put on the headphones from your stereo (don’t plug them in). Go and stand in front of your stove. Say (to nobody in particular) “Stove manned and ready.” Stand there for 3 or 4 hours. Say (once again to nobody in particular) “Stove secured.” Roll up the headphone cord and put them away.[/B]

[B]25. Put a lamp shade on your head, tuck your levi trouser legs into the tops of your socks and sit on the floor of your closet with the light out until some one yells, “Secure from general quarters”. (PS: no smoking either.)[/B]

[B]26. Buy a dumpster, paint it gray and live in it for 6 months straight.[/B]

[B]27. Run all of the piping and wires inside your house on the outside of the walls.[/B]

[B]28. Pump 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your basement, then pump it out, clean up, and paint the basement “deck gray.”[/B]

[B]29. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down, trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.[/B]

[B]30. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays turn your water temperature up to 200 degrees, then on Tuesday and Thursday turn it down to 10 degrees. On Saturdays and Sundays declare to your entire family that they used too much water during the week, so all showering is secured.[/B]

[B]31. Raise your bed to within 6 inches of the ceiling, if you don’t have a closet shelf.[/B]

[B]32. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5 am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Reveille, Reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.”[/B]

[B]33. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6 am and read it to you.[/B]

[B]34. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock the bathroom door for 12 hours, and hang a sign on it that reads “Secured - contact OA DIV at X-3053.”[/B]

[B]35. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 3 pm.[/B]

[B]36. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.)[/B]

[B]37. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes.[/B]

[B]38. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours before going anywhere. This is to ensure your engine is properly “lit off”.[/B]

[B]39. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.[/B]

[B]40. Repaint your entire house once a month.[/B]

[B]41. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.[/B]

[B]42. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, randomly losing every 5th item.[/B]

[B]43. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel.[/B]

[B]44. Sew back pockets to the front of your pants.[/B]

[B]45. Spend 2 weeks in the red-light districts of Europe, and call it “world travel.”[/B]

[B]46. Spend 5 years working at McDonalds, but do NOT get promoted.[/B]
[B]47. Needle gun the aluminum siding on your house after your neighbors have gone to bed.[/B]

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#5

I tried this one at the house. Cat was pissed and wife threatened to flog me before wanting a divorce…


#6

@ Jeffrox

I have been out of the US submarine force for 6 years. I almost forgot how ridiculous everything was. The metaphors can only really be understood by someone who has been there. Strang thing is that now I laugh my ass off rather than justing shaking my head in acceptance.


#7

shipping in the merchant marine is not a job, it’s a lifesytyle.
the normal routines that most people take for granted are gone (that 9-5 job, to name the most obvious). the lifestyle has advantages and distadvantages, as my mother in law so famously put it: “nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems”.
I personally enjoy it but then I am a bias middle aged Connecticut Yankee ship captain: my dad shipped out, his dad shipped out, even my great great great grandfather shipped out (Captain Luke Buddington, New London, Connecticut 1700’s). I like the 6 months off as it gives me time to persue my other activitites with a free rein: raising my 3 kiddos, family vacations, reading, enjoying my Manhattan lifestyle, endless tinkering around my apartment/house, etc. I also enjoy the 6 months away from home: the travel, meeting new people, being out in the elements, seeing things that the vast majority of humans will never see, learning new ways of doing jobs, honing my professional skills, etc.
as with anything in life, it is what you make of it.
professionalism, respect, and open mindedness will surely lead to monetary reward, a solid professional reputation, and a global network of friends and associates.


#8

I like my job , the $$ for no college education, & the time off, but i don’t want my kids in this industry unless they are pilots or on a local harbor tug with the ability to go home during the hitch.


#9

[quote=jolly;20201]First thing about this question is in what rank you will be joining. This will determine your pay grade, and in good part your life-style (or hardships) on board.

Second, it will depend on which type of vsl you will be sailing.
For example, if you are on cape size bulker, or VLCC the life will be easier, more routine, nad only few port calls during your time on board.

On container vessel, it’s frantic life, living on tight schedule like living on a street car.
Manouverings any time day or night, port stay only few hours (no time to get ashore), and you actually live around the clock. My last contract on board (4 months) I made 56 port calls, with anchoring almost every port on arrival. This means roughly 140 manouverings in 120 days.
Frequent manouverings break your normal sleep rate and biorithm, and after 4 months on board spent like this, you are almost like living zombi. All spare time, I spent on sleep. Container vsl is: Work - eat - sleep. Finish contract. Go home.

If you are cook on such vessel - there is not much stress, every day a routine.
If you are master - it’s stressful.
Mate, he got his own troubles with incompetent cargo planners ashore, and for him is probably most stressful.
Engineers, due to frequent manouvering can loose some sleep or rest period, it affects them as well, but in general it is just a little bit easier on them.

Shore leave: just on rear occasion / opportunity. You must have enough free time in between your duties, the center of town should be close enough so a cab can take you there in decent time, the ship must be long enough alongside. (container vsl is alongside anytime between 4 hrs to 24 hrs, but in most of the cases less then 12 hrs of port stay)

Life on cruiser: you have there all it takes. No need for shore leave. However - if you spend too much in crew bar - you will make no money. On the other hand - women come in plenty (waitresses, maids, etc…) Many of femanle crew will be happy to share your bunk. Some say - the vibes of auxiliaries make them crazy. There you don’t mix with passangers. Only ship staff…

Supplier: Small crew. A lot of manouvering. If you get somwhere on north atlantic - bad weather and rolling. In west Africa - Malaria. Good pay. No women on board. Enough time for shore leave.

If I were you, after so much time ashore, I would pursue again a shore job.

Moder shipping is just like a jail sentence, with pay check as the only thing good. Not even that sometimes.[/quote]

Whoa!!! - Cook = no stress?

Sir I ran galley’s for about 6 of my 30 years in the industry, I take pride in doing it very well, and I happen to feel that the best job you can have is being a competent galleyman with a Masters license (which is me) . .

You have apparently never cooked, as there is a significant amount of stress . . You try satisfying 20+ constantly complaining guys and gals, with food allergies, vegans, macrobiotics, etc for 60+ days at a time, 24hrs a day, in a vibrating rolling metal can full of hot surfaces and liquids, and knives etc . . Ordering, sanitation and regulatory obligations, dealing with brokers, budget management, departmental management duties . . Not to mention time actually doing food prep . .

If you think running a galley is some easy routine, you need to try it for a while . . Don’t think me a dick, but you’re outta line with that, and it’s pretty damn disrespectful to a lot of hard working people . . :mad:


#10

Reasearch vessels are what I really dig, You either stand watch or paint or help with the science gear. and go to sleep. and once in the routine ( it takes me a couple of days to get in it) you just count down to the next port call. You get at least 3 days in some cool port usally more. Its four months of that and then as much time off as you want. :slight_smile: with a good chunk of change in your pocket to make your land working buddies envious.:slight_smile: