I’m considering entering the maritime industry as a mariner. I’ve been sailing on boats of all sizes for a few years, and have discovered that I really love being on the water. I didn’t discover this fact until I was well into adulthood, and now I’m serious about it. If I had to do everything over again, I would have skipped college and entered the Navy or Coast Guard first. Now it’s too late for that!
I eventually would love to gain a Master’s license, as far as I can go. I know that takes years, but I’d like to know the best path for someone who already has a college degree. I’m mentioning the college degree not because I think it’s worth anything (my grades were poor at the time and it isn’t worth anything as a result) but to give a bit of background to anyone that wants to give me advice about maritime academies.
I have no problem starting at the bottom somewhere if that is my best course, and doing whatever needs doing. I’ve searched online, for example at NOAA jobs. I’d love to work for NOAA, and I saw they required a MMD and TWIC card. Because of that, I’ve applied for the TWIC card and am about to send in my MMD application. Other places that advertise jobs, like Scripps, mention that you need the STCW to apply, even as an OS. Now if I paid for that on my own, it would cost me at least $1000. Should I do that and apply at places like NOAA, or is that a dead end for someone with little experience?
Does working as a cook or something other than in the deck department gain you sea time? The lady at the Coast Guard hotline couldn’t answer this question definitively, which surprised me.
I’d love to work on a tall ship to gain sea time. In fact, I’ve spent a total of 27 days as watchkeeping volunteer or guest crew on 3 different tall ships, but I’ve usually had to pay something. This is where I got the idea to be a merchant mariner in the first place. However, I can’t afford to pay for sea time experience anymore, and it seems unless you’re a 20 something year old skinny white guy with dreads and a snooty attitude, you don’t have a chance to work on a tall ship! If you have any advice in this department, please share. I’d work for free just to earn sea time. I just don’t want to pay any more.
Unlicensed vocational school:
I called my local SIU union, and they basically told me that you don’t have much of a chance of getting a job if you do it on your own. The guy there recommended I check out their school at Piney Point. I viewed a video they had and it looks promising. My problem with Piney Point, is that in some ways it seems to be like prison. You can’t see your family except one day per week and you can’t leave the premises, even while you’re waiting for an assignment. You’re away for 9 months. (the lady on the phone couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to come back to the program if I had to leave for a significant emergency) If I’m wrong about this, please advise. I think in the real world, I might not take on a job at sea that doesn’t allow me to go home for 9 months even if my parents die or get extremely ill. The only way I’d do that is if I had no family or partner or if I was going to Antartica. The jobs I’ve seen online talk about 2-4 weeks at sea, which is completely within my comfort zone. Other than the 9 month away from home thing, the SIU program looks very attractive.
I’d consider a maritime academy, and that’s the only option I haven’t explored as far as I could. The downside of the maritime academy option is that it’s expensive and I think I might not get in if they base admissions on my previous GPA. The websites I’ve looked at don’t mention any test scores for transfer students or grad students. (I do well on standardized tests) Do the academies generally count previous sea time as credit? Have you ever heard of someone doing SIU and then an academy later on? Do the ships you serve on while you’re at the academy pay you enough to cover the cost at the academies?
Oh, by the way. I have never gotten seasick. Never. There have been quite a few times on a boat in rough weather where the seasoned crew turned green and I felt fine. The closest I’ve come is when I was in a hammock below reading a book in very rough weather. I started feeling queasy, and I thought: “So that’s what it’s like…” I put the book down and the feeling passed!
Sorry for the long winded post. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!