I am speaking only from personal experience and may/may not represent the typical Alaskan mariner’s view. Other than a little taste of Puget Sound & the Bay area, coastal & river Alaska is all I know. I have not worked for Crowley, but know several folks that have & pass their boats/barges regularly. For the most part, there are two types of towboaters that work up here… line haul & shallow draft. There is some ship assist work in Dutch & Anchorage…a little in Southeast too. The linehaul boats bring the cargo (fuel/or general freight) up from the PNW & the shallow draft boats deliver it to the villages. My guess is you’re inquiring about the shallow draft, village deliveries. The weather drives a huge part of the work that gets done. Roughly half the villages are exposed to the sea, many of the others are up small rivers that require bar crossings in decent weather. I enjoy running the rivers the most because it is nice not to have to stress about sea state in a small boat towing a bigger one on a wire.
I’m not sure if Crowley allows their crew to hook up to boat internet…but if not, DO NOT forget your kindle & a deck of cards. You can spend days at a time crossing “dead spots” in coverage. Dig around a bit to find out which carrier is best for the region you’ll work. Bottom line is be ready to be disconnected. If you are a fit, hard worker with a solid sense of what is safe and what is not, (and have all the other personality traits that work well on a small boat) you’ll do well in Alaska. Also, if this is you, you won’t have any problem picking up work elsewhere if you decide the Alaska thing is not for you. It is true, good help is hard to find. There are several good, safely managed companies up here…there are just as many of the opposite. Crowley is certainly one of the favorable ones. I would also venture to guess work in Alaska is more challenging as an AB than elsewhere, but don’t take my word for it, I only know this place & am not trying to talk up Alaska as a “tough guy” environment. Discovery channel throws out enough of that BS. Every place brings unique challenges that require different skill sets.
I have no idea what your current employment situation is, but if you have decent pay, a good schedule, benefits, a solid training program…think twice about leaving it. I will say I sure have enjoyed long stretches of time off. I’ve taken some amazing trips with my family because of the schedule. Do your homework and compare your situation to others you’re thinking about. Good luck!