Best Maritime Training Class Ever?

What’s the best training class you’ve ever attended?

My pick is Major Emergency Management Training… with manned models being a close second.

Manned models

Fast Rescue Craft


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Honorable mention: the burn room for Basic and Advance Marine Firefighting.

I took it a while back at Treasure Island and due to a mixup, I was sent to the Navy course of the same name on the same island instead of the MARAD course even though I was not in the Navy.

So I took them on back to back weeks. The actual practical activities in both classes were great.The

The MARAD burn field used all kinds of stuff to give us plenty of thick black smoke to work with. The Navy has what amounted to a three story propane oven that looked like the inside of a ship.

Good time with lots of good oversight as well.

I would have to say that my OPA 90 “Qualified Individual” training and Mass was the best. I had some doubts about it back when it was thrust upon us field surveyors at ABS and the way the program was operated and THOSE were correct, but that was an ABS issue. The training at Mass was very good and the simulations were pretty accurate. I had a similar course as a refresher at TAMUG, and while still effective, I thought that the Mass training was a bit more authentic.

I actually loved MEM - my favorite class after the well control stuff - and I love that only because it’s different and full of applied science in this red neck flavor (the drilling guys there were so anal about their mechanical pencils calculators and etc. Every time I take that course it’s like I’m in this other dimension with red neck Mensa members. Kind of impressive)

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It may have been my best training or it might have been my worse.

When I was in the CG stationed in Kodiak I got sent to a firefighing/OBA practice session. Up to that point I had only been though basic training

The training took place in some kind of WWII concrete bunker. Maybe 20x20 foot in size. It had two openings, a door in one side and an about 1x1 foot opening in the top. Inside, around the three edges, old tires, scrap lumber had been piled then diesel poured on. Then it was lit off.

There were a couple Damage Controlman ratings there from my ship, a DC1 and a DC2. The instructors told the DC men to go in first. They refused to go in. So the instructions told me and one other crew to go in.

I hadn’t been in the CG very long, a few months and I felt safe within the loving embrace of the Coast Guard. I’d never heard the term “training accident”. I figured the DC men were pussies. It didn’t occur to me that they were smarter than I was.

So we went in, it was friggen hot. I mean H, oh fucking T hot. And zero visibility. We slowly moved in while crouched with our charged fire hose. I encounter a 2 x 4 or something and when I raised up to go over I thought my head was going to burst into flames. So I got down and crawled over.

Once we both got in I turned on the hose, the visibility was so poor I couldn’t see the water stream. But after a bit I could see the hose stream, also I could see a glow from the flames. I redirected the hose and in few more minutes put the fire out. Then we came out.

Been to MSC and commercial firefighting but nothing close to what I experienced in Kodiak.

Went in that one when I worked for MSC, controlled, very well ventilated, not much smoke. It was cakewalk for me.


GMDSS Operator was probably the best two weeks of my life.

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My best training was also DC. When I was going through SWOS in Newport we had a day in a wet trainer (“Buttercup”). Essentially it is a mock compartment that’s floating in a large tank of water. We had a variety of DC tasks to complete (pipe patching, shoring, etc.) before it “sank”. When the sim starts though, and water is rushing into this windowless space, and then they kill the lights, it suddenly feels very real. The training was good practice, but the real value for me was confronting that first rush of fear, and finding focus and being effective in the dark and neck deep water.


Yes, I was in the Buttercup as well, West Coast. But not nearly as intense, MSC. Lights were on, only one task at a time IIRC. Water was up maybe halfway to my knees when we got finished.

I agree about finding focus, it’s almost like multi-tasking. For every cycle of work on the task there’s one cycle of the awareness of the rising water and one cycle of telling yourself to stay calm and focused.

Pound in one wedge, notice the water is getting higher (and cold water), tell yourself everything is OK, pound in another wedge.

All ones I’d love to take but never have.

My favorite training ever was back when I was a young Captain back in 98. It was a course called VOS (Vessel Officer Seminar) It was a class on psychologically profiling and identifying people in the work place.

It taught you how to identify leaders such as Dominants and Influentials and followers such as your S and C types. It taught me how to recognize behavioral patterns and how to interact with different type individuals. I honestly believe it has helped shape the success I have had through the years dealing with different types of people.


Butter cup is also mine. Never forget the force water has on a WTD only a quarter of the way up. Shoring Timber floating banging in your noggin.

Best part I did it in summer on the pier in mayport florida. Best school AND the most fun.

Damage Control School at Norfolk Naval Station in 1977. First day in the USS Buttercup simulator -chest deep cold water with only faint light from a battle lantern, shoring collapsed bulkheads with 4 x 4’s and wedges and stopping leaks in pipes with clamps and various sized holes in bulkheads with DC plugs and mattresses. Next 4 days were on the fire fighting grounds - engine room simulator with real fire beneath deck plates and us in our dungarees, work shirt and OBA, 75 foot smoke tunnel with smoldering wet hay, diesel fuel fires, burning tires…you name it we did it. Far cry from the present day fire fighting training, it was the real deal.


AMA management and leadership courses (I’ve been to several and it’s not anything like the STCW crap). If it was up to me, I would have never let maritime schools get into teaching this subject matter. It should have been the other way around.
And MEM (best one I took was at Petrofac, but they’re no longer around)…I was not impressed with Falck in Metarie.

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I agree, that was a big mistake. The culture in the schools is a holdover from fifty years ago. But the same was true in the union classes as well.

Not necessarily disagreeing or stating an opinion one way or another, but… What basis would the Coast Guard have to say “no maritime schools need apply?” If not the usual suspects of maritime schools, who would give the training? Would a business or management school find it worthwhile and cost-effective to seek Coast Guard approval (or approval of another flag, if the Coast Guard would accept training approved by another country) and be subject to audits, etc?

Yes you’re right of course, the only way I can think to defend it is in “if I were king” I never would have…

But on second thought the mistake was not letting the schools do it, it was the schools letting the crusty old salts who survived the war teach the classes. In my experience they made it clear they thought it was all new age nonsense.

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I do not think the USCG has any basis to deny course approvals per se, by stating “Don’t Apply” to any institution. But, there is a basis to further evaluate these courses based upon experience and effectiveness with some years behind us. I’m not sure exactly how these data points can be captured by the USCG or IMO, but one thing is for certain - you will see almost zero sustainability in development of management and leadership skills actually being practiced on board a working vessel after taking these STCW courses. Surely, that was not the point when these requirements were still in the discussion phase between flag states.
From an end user perspective, after going to a STCW management course, and being exposed to a summation in management and leadership taught by an individual that had no true professional leadership training experience prior becoming a USCG approved instructor (or power point jockey, which anybody can do), and then comparing that to AMA courses, professional coaches, where you actually develop situation leadership skills that you find yourself using on a daily basis long after you’ve taken the course, it becomes quite embarrassing when you look back at your own development and what was gained by STCW in regards to this subject matter. What’s ironic, is as you truly develop certain management and leadership skills and gain that awareness through actual practice in the workplace, those same skills give you the tools to necessary to actually highlight the fact how wrong the USCG got this one in practical terms. Of course, this is only my opinion based upon my own personal experience.

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Definitely this:

But note, you have to do a prereq - Bartending 1…