Ferry Captain job a step forward

Long time reader, first time poster. . .
I have a dilemma regarding work for the remainder of the year:
I am licensed as 1600GT Master Oceans with a towing endorsement, and work as 1st Mate on an ocean tug towing petroleum barges on the west coast. I’m contemplating a seasonal Ferry Captain position (10 months of work) that requires a 100GT Master license. The title of “Captain” seems good, the expected gain in experience at the helm seems better. The difference in pay from my current job is huge though (about 50% less), but it seems to take that title of Captain to get the next job as Captain. I’m not getting younger and I don’t see much potential for advancement at my current job for another couple of years at least.
Any advice as to how to go forward would be great.
Thanks in advance.

How is a 50% pay cut going forward?

Sounds like a huge step back to me. Tug mate > ferry captain. It seems to me that being a competent mate who can do everything the captain can is no different that being the captain except for a little less pay and responsibility. I wouldnt take a pay cut that big no waaay!

lemurian says, “The title of “Captain” seems good, the expected gain in experience at the helm seems better.” Are you saying the “operational affirmation” is of more value than the pay at the present time? Go for the experience gaining opportunity.

Having come from that direction, ferry to tugs, There is a huge difference in boat handling, time spent learning and perfecting your skills and of course the pay.

I know of many guys I respect who are ferry captains. But they are pigeon holed into that after a short while. And it is NOT a resume enhancer as far as a tug company is concerned.

You may do just fine, and like the different job schedule. That may be an overriding concern to you. Cash is my concern. You already have the knowledge about pay. What else is driving you to the other job?

The reason I got out of ferrys was the fuckin’ passengers. Human cattle suck! Dirty, rude, inconsiderate and obstinate. And that was on a good day. As Captain you won’t have to deal directly with them, but the deckhands that can tolerate them are usually jaded, and become like the passengers.

KennyW brings up a good point of consideration. If you are at a conventional tug Mates position where you stand your own watch, and actually run the boat on your watch that is one thing. But if you are a ‘watchstanding’ sea buoy mate, that has to call the Captain when the throttles are touched, then you may indeed be a long way to getting a promotion where you are.

At the company I work at some of the recently promoted Captains were Mates for 10 or 15 years and patiently waited their turn. A long time? Perhaps, but they are making 125000 a year now for that patience.

Thanks for the comments.
My current 1st Mate position affords few opportunities to be at the helm for the most interesting maneuvers like flopping. I do act as Pilot to call in by radio the tug/barge unit when mooring or unmooring since visibility from the wheelhouse is blocked by the barge (especially when light). And I take have a navigation watch when underway.
Admittedly, my post reads like I’m crazy for contemplating a big pay cut. An old friend of mine once explained there are three things to consider for a job: 1) Position, 2) Title, and 3) Pay. Mate => Captain seems like a step up in Title and Position. Big step down in Pay in this case.
“What else is driving [me] to the other job?” Lifestyle change, a little sense of adventure, and the chance to build experience, pretty much. I could also go into a long rant about a general lack of planning for the future at the company I currently work at (I’m not confident that contracts will be renewed given the aggressive investment in equipment our competitors are making). So, I consider the job change to further build a resume and to force myself to try something new. And maybe try to get to the GOM next year on an OSV?

Although this is a complicated subject, and depends upon individual qualifications and abilities: I believe your friends advice was correct when moving laterally in the industry. (The old russian proverb ‘One step back, Two steps FWD’) But you are thinking about moving both backwards and lateral. You already have a 1600 ton license. why not move into an aspect of the industry that requires (meaning more $$) the license. There is a reason 100 ton licenses are paid less. they are easier to get. Personally I don’t see moving from where you are down to ferries at a huge pay cut. BUT, if Momma want you home that can be a huge reason.

Having grown up on ferries I can still (30 years later) recite the compass courses, the minutes from buoy to buoy and have the RADAR picture burned into my retinas. BUT, as much as that did help me learn to run a boat, until I got into tugs, and started to drive something which varied each and every time I was hooked up to different barges, different makeups, and different drafts did I LEARN how to drive a boat. With the Ferry I learned how to come into 3 slips. same way each time. same channel. same schedule. same (relative) draft. high horsepower to draft/tonnage ratio. ho hum ho hum.

Personally, I would recommend to you to either find accommodation on your vessel to GET the wheel time, or move on to another towing company to get it. I am surprised that no one else is commenting on your phrase “that it takes the title of Capt to get the next job as Capt.” I have NEVER seen someone come to my company as a ferry Captain and even be a Mate here right off the street (even before the TOAR). On second thought, I don’t believe there are ANY here who have done that. IMHO, it takes a license, and a proven track record ON the type vessels you are looking for a job on to get promoted.

If you think about it, this is why the TOAR program was started, because guys were ‘crossing over’ from the 100 ans 200 ton licenses and crashing tugboats. After all a tug is just a 100 to 200 ton vessel right? It must be easy. It’s just a 200 (or less) license! That was proven wrong. further proof was necessary (ala TOAR)

Now for the caveat I referred to in the first sentence… If you don’t feel comfortable running a 200 to 400’ vessel (tug and barge together) then by all means go get comfortable on a smaller vessel. that may be what you need to ‘boost’ not just your confidence, but your competence.

Simply it’s either

1] if you’re young go for what you WANT

2] if you’re old stay with what you HAVE


3] if you’re in the middle then flip a friggin coin

You mentioned maybe moving to the GOM next year on an OSV. Why not attempt to join one of the utility vessel companies out there? I’ve seen some of these companies give people from different backgrounds opportunities on older vessels to get “wheel time”. This way you’d actually get experience that you could use on your resume.

All thoughtful comments. Thank you, and thanks for your time too.