I want to go merchant marine


I wouldn’t worry too much. I started as an OS at 56 with a bum right knee and hip. Half the people I work with are my age or much older. I’m the youngest AB in my click. The oldest is 67 and stills climbs and works like he is 40. Hell, we all do. We all have the same problems, bad back, shoulders, feet, eyes, hips, ankles, knee, etc… And most are pretty chronic with other age-related health issues.

I sailed for a year with a rather large AB with a prosthetic leg. That was 2 years ago and he was 62 years old then. He didn’t have a problem with any of the work, including climbing ladders lifting/hauling heavy cargo and wearing SCBAs during fire drills. He is still sailing…smokes cigars chases women where ever he goes and loves to drink…too much. In foreign ports, I would follow him around because he knew where all the easy fun was.

Maybe that is the secret. Cigars, booze, and women.

Buy boots one size too big or for more comfort, over-size steel toe sneakers. Adjust with inserts…or not. I don’t. By-the-way, We had a Cook and Cheif Eng that wore steel toe slippers.


I chose the deck route. Engineers, for the most part, have a much more physically demanding job than someone in the bridge. Now as an AB, you will have physically demanding work, but once you make it to Mate status, life gets a lot less physically demanding. When I worked Deckineer back in the mid 90s, and was having to install starters and replace impellers and all I could hear was the sound of the generators or engines, and all I could smell was diesel, I decided I did not want to be 50 years old doing this. I wanted to be like that prick up on the bridge wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts warm and cozy with a space heater while the rest of us were on deck wet and freezing.


I’m an engineer. I am in my 50’s and have arthritic knees that occasionally bother me if I use them a lot, but that’s after a lifetime of work walking and kneeling on steel decks (Navy, shipyard, merchant marine).

I have lost a fair amount of weight recently (25 lbs) and have a pretty good workout regimen that helps keep my legs fit so that my knees have stability and support. Working on a ship can be pretty strenuous and being in shape goes a long way to help especially at my age with several years till retirement.

For you coming in with a problem knee, you should look for a good quality, well fitted shoe with the right insole that will give you support and alignment. Don’t go for cheap Walmart shoes. Check out Red Wings or similar and get fitted. You won’t regret it.


Flip flops seem like the accepted attire for the Deckhand’s on tractor tugs, maybe that is your true calling


5 years of standing watch on the steel deck of a navy ship did a number on my feet, ankles, and knees. Comfortable shoes are a must. I currently wear wolverine brand pull ons. I forget the exact model, but they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever had save for a pair of crocs.


After sending 30+ years in all types of Engine Rooms, I found that Red Wings are the best with Durango coming in a close second. I only wore pull on’s as they were easy on and off. Whatever you decide on make sure that they fit properly and are broken in before joining any vessel any vessel. Nothing is worse that having to stand watch with ill fitting footwear. Remember you can’t just run to the store and get a new pair as it might be a long time before you get ashore.

After all those years of working and walking on Steel Decks, my knees, hips and back are shot! I can’t even imagine climbing a moving (think bad weather) ladderway with the way this old beat up body of mine is now a days.


I currently wear wolverine brand pull ons.

Pull ons are clutch when answering all-call alarms, whether you’re deck or engine.


If you can swing it and really WANT to do the career change, the grad program at SUNY is probably the best path forward. Because you live near, you may be able to commute and minimize costs. The upfront costs can easily be made up in 2-3 years of the higher pay you will receive right out of school.


Well I’ve been thinking about it alot. And I came to the conclusion that I think itd be a mistake financially if I changed careers right now.


Fuck yeah you would.