Getting discouraged as an OS

Hey everybody. So as the title says I’ve been having a tough time finding a job with a tug company with only my OS. I’ve applied to a handful of companies with very little or no response back. The most promising response was Vane Bros back in November where they said they’d put me in the list of applicants and call me if management has an opening and approves my application. For reference I’m pretty much green, I have a lot of recreational boating experience, I worked at a marina for a long time and learned a lot of electrical, plumbing and carpentry skills there, and helped out as a relief deckhand on a survey boat. When I turned down a full time job with them because of low pay, I ended up in an office job in the healthcare field and after just shy of 2 years here I know for certain I’m tired of it, and I miss working hard and being challenged. Without going back to school I’m pretty much stuck where I’m at and raises are almost non existent here.

So I’m decided I’m going to go back to working on a tug, and I’d love to get some opinions from some more experienced guys. I see my options as keep pounding out applications and hopefully get a company to take me on, go back to the company that I did the temporary deckhand job with and see if I can go back there and take a significant pay cut, or try one of the vocational programs, mainly either Piney Point or MITAGS maritime apprentice program. I’m trying to find out more info on the MITAGS program if anyone had info on possible cost, stipend, and any other info about the program that would seem helpful, as I’m leaning towards that route. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Where do you live? Age? Male or female? What is your expectation as to length of hitches? What are your salary expectations? How many days of small boat seatime do you have?

Can you cook? Are you willing to learn?

Have you taken, or are you prepared to take short courses, such as BT, Lifeboatman, SA, VPDSD, First Aid, etc?

Do you speak any foreign languages? Play an instrument? Play any sports? Have computer skills? Etc. etc.?

Have you tried Coastal Transportation in Seattle? Or the Seattle fishing and fish processing companies?


Tugsailor’s advice is good, you may also want to look into Seattle Central’s program

One more place to look would be MSC, try this link

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It’s a tough nut to crack right now, your not the only one. You may have to take the shitiest job out there for a while, kirby’s hiring guys on the river, it’s a start. Google local tug company’s in your area, pound the phone. I just watched 1 boat get tied up, licensed guys on unemployment, your fighting the tide buddy.

Bro don’t come out here. It’s a dying industry

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The tugboat business is growing, NOT dying. It’s a big business with thousands of boats doing a lot of different things in different places. New boats are being built. New contracts are being won (and lost) everyday. People quit, retire, flunk drug tests, don’t show up, get sick, get hurt, or get fired, or get promoted everyday.

There is a shortage of GOOD deckhands who will show up on time ready, willing and able to work, without drug or drinking problems, and who are not too weird. You should see some of the idiots we get stuck with on the boats.

It’s often a matter of being in the right place at the right time, ready to go. Most companies do a poor job of planning and crewing. It often comes down to hiring the first warm body that comes to mind, answers the phone, and is ready to go.

Read ads. Send resumes. Call people. Send texts and emails. Go talk to people in person when you can. Go to career fairs. Etc.

The bigger companies with HR departments have a long process, lots of delay, and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. They often screen out good guys due to some sort of HR bullshit that really does not apply to the tugboat business. Small mom and pop companies often need to hire today and get the new kid out to the boat.

A few more pointers for finding a job: speak English, learn to be a good cook, go to the gym and get into shape, practice knots and splices, practice throwing lines, have standard USCG physical and drug test reports (not over six months old), and be clean. AVOID: visible tattoos, piercings, smoking, vaping, excessive drinking, drugs, and getting into trouble. Don’t look, dress, or act like some type of weirdo.


I’m a guy just turned 26 a few weeks ago and I live in South Jersey. Right now length of hitches don’t matter, eventually I’d like an even time spot but just to get in I’ll take anything and pick up hitches where ever needed. Recreationally, more days than I can count, I’m usually out sometimes as much as 3-4 days a week in the summer. For that temporary deck job it was a 10 day hitch.

I know how to cook pretty well if I do say so myself and enjoy it a little and would like to learn more.

I have my basic safety training and security awareness already, and I’ll take more for sure.

I haven’t looking into fishing out west just because scallop fishing in South Jersey is a huge industry here so I do have commercial fishing options less than 10 minutes from where I live.

Ok. You are already a serious and competitive candidate for a tugboat deckhand job. Seek and ye shall find.

If you can document 180 days of seatime (120 -12 hour days) you can get AB-OSV right now. No further exams required to upgrade to AB unlimited - just more seatime. That would probably be a significant advantage in the job hunt, but it’s not a requirement. It’s not the correct version of AB for a tugboat, but that does not matter for a job as OS.

If you can document 360 days (240 - 12 hour days) of seatime you can get Master 100 tons, Inland Route (tonnage May also be limited). In the job hunt, you will probably find that having any kind of license is an advantage.

Scalloping is very hard work, but it pays better than a tugboat, and it will give you seatime. Try to get on a boat over 100 tons.

Supposedly, the bayou OSV companies are “hiring for all positions,” but you’ll have to show up in person and go door to door. It’s good place to get training and seatime.

Chesapeake VA

Hang in there. Keep trying.
Knowing how much more sea service and endorsements you need to get to AB may be enough to convince a Port Captain to give you a job.

Your the right age, and live in a good area of the country, 2 positives. Alot of this honestly has to do with being in the right place at the right time, yrs ago I shit you not we had a couple deckhands hired who a captain bumped into one night getting pizza and said “you guys want a job”, literally getting guys green out of high school, the industry goes in cycles like this. Its just connecting the dots out here and knowing who to call when. Theres ALOT of smaller tug companies around always looking for guys you just dont hear or read about it, some of it is seasonal. Sometimes the pay really blows but it’s a foot in the door. Are you willing to go work for shit money for a while with an unknown schedule ?

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That’s good to know thanks. Just so I understand correctly I can use my recreational time towards the AB-OSV? Because if that’s the case I’ve definitely got the time.

It does seem like smaller companies are the way to go. I feel like this big companies have tons of applicants so it would be easy to fall through the cracks. And to answer your questions, yeah, I’m willing to work for cheap and get a foot in the door than make alright money where I’m at but have no potential to grow. And the unknown schedule doesn’t bother me right now either, I’d rather work more anyway to speed up getting sea time and experience.

You’ve got Dann not to far away in the canal, theres a couple companies in Philly I dont really know about but be worth a search, not sure on Moran Philly / Baltimore but being south Jersey that’s not a bad ride. In NY you’ve got Dorthy, Coeymans, NY marine highway, Don Jon, Weeks, be worth it to even try Mac in NY. Norfolk tug ? Robbins in VA ? Dann ocean in Tampa ? Hell I would even try Bouchard in a bit if they get the shit straightened out. I’ve been out of it for a while so I cant name all the small companies off hand but the jobs are out there especially if your honest and explain you’ve got time on a boat already, alot of these small companies have turn over and keep a list of names going, you may get what you want sooner than you think.

Gotta pound pavement, sending apps is not enough in most cases. These office guys for OSV and tug companies do not think about next week or next month. They crew the boat that needs guys in the next 72 hours, if you walk in the office, that guy is you. Sad but that’s the way it is for the most part.

Also they want to get a look at you and see how you look, what kinda shape you’re in, if you can hold a conversation, etc.

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Woods Hole has been running an ad for an OS. Once your application is in Find the Port Captain’s # on their web site and call him.

Yes. You can use small boat time toward Master 100 and AB. Requirements are in 46 CFR 12.403. No minimum tonnage is mentioned. Check further with one of the “USCG license consultants”

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Most of these fellows are giving good advice. The hawsepipers started out with the jobs nobody else wanted, just to get a foot in the door. A very few got the great paying job in the beginning of their career.They moved on to better jobs later on after proving themselves, built up credentials, and learned more about the industry/companies they were pursuing. Many of the companies a few posters put up are worth looking into to get a shot. I worked for a few of them in the past. It is not a “Dying” industry. One company goes out, others scamper to take their place. Be persistent, it will happen. Have a bag ready at a moments notice, when they call, they want you NOW. Good luck!

A good deckhand is an experienced one. An inexperienced deckhand is inherently bad or unreliable. There’s a shortage of experienced deckhands.

Good deckhands were green at one time and have to start somewhere. To get good. Sounds like this fellow has got his feet wet a few times. It will show rather early whether he can make it or not to the next level. Just needs a shot to prove or disprove it.