If you had to do it all over again?

If one had an opportunity to sail on any ship for a living, which type of ship would it be and why? What deck side career path does the industry hold in highest regard? Lowest regard?

Summer of 2010 I’ll be sailing on my commercial cruise, and I am looking for a little hindsight wisdom from experienced sailors on deck side career paths.

Thanks in advance for your posts.

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I wish I would have got started in oil drilling ships as a dpo when I graduated in 2006. Sure your not going to visit exotic ports in that line of work but that is the only segment that I see any growth in the American merchant marine.

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The only regard or esteem you should worry about comes from the condition of your bank account and your happiness. What some other sailor thinks about your type of ship or industry segment should be the least of your concerns.

Many of us have a “love of the sea” but we all need to make enough money to make up for spending half our lives waiting to go home, or get so much pleasure from the job that the money and time really doesn’t matter.

Plan a career path that allows you to decide when, where, and for how long and how much you are willing to sell your youth.


It’s been a long time since I have been on a ship where all the deck officers were not all licensed unlimited tonnage Captains. On the other hand we are always needing engineers. You checked the wrong box young man.

I’d go back to the Western Pacific and run a purse seiner. Believe it or not.

Now that you know how…YOU can go back as the “Fish Master”!!!:eek:

[QUOTE=Jeffrox;23927]Now that you know how…YOU can go back as the “Fish Master”!!!:eek:[/QUOTE]

Yeah man! :cool:

deck engine DPO tanker yacht lawyer doctor garbageman whatever. do what makes you happy. if you don’t enjoy your job then it doesn’t matter how much you are getting paid, in the end you are wasting your life and you’ll end up an unhappy grumpy fool with a substance abuse problem. look around you: you see them everywhere.

your question leads me to believe you have no preset agenda (“I’m going to be a river pilot in Missouri when I grow up”) so my recommendation is to graduate and then go out exploring. try different types of vessels & work. don’t worry about the money, just look for jobs that you enjoy. my youth spent on sail training vessels, research vessels, cruise ships, & back-packing around South America were not great money makers, but in the end they were rich with experience.

life is short, so make the most out of it.

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The biggest thing I’d suggest for your senior cruise is to go on a ship that you’re going to get some sort of endorsement out of, whether it’s your PIC or TOAR. Everyone graduating from here has the exact same resume, you only need to put yourself that one inch above everyone else. Even if you don’t want to work on a tug or a tanker you need something to make your resume stick out from all the others. As a senior that’s what I’m starting to see, and all the seniors before me told me the exact same thing.

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I totally agree with Richard. I spent the better part of my 22 year career on ships where every morning we would wake up and decide what to do that day (research and eco-tourism).

Sure, we had occasional bad days (grumpy passengers or arrogant scientists) when I really wondered why I was putting up with so much grief for so little pay. But on the good days (and there were mostly good days: breaching humpbacks in front of the setting Mexican sun, kayaking along Admiralty and seeing brown bears in the streams, discovering an erupting underwater volcano (that made the news!)), I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to experience things with people that had just plunked down their entire life savings for the same experience.

Did I get rich from the money I made on those ships? Nope. But I made enough to pay the bills and put a little cash aside for later. More importantly, I always came home from each hitch damn happy, which kept my home life happy.

As my dad said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life again.”

See my thanks for those posts I agreed with, but to your situation, see the world, do what you thing would be both fun and a good learning exp. You will work very hard on your cadet voyage, but make it worth your while. Try to stay away from a coastal tanker, we worked the shit out of cadets, but they learned an awfull lot. I hope you can find a containership that goes foreign

:rolleyes: A lot of good advice here. Not sure I’m as qualified to remark as some of the others…

Let me ask-

Why do you want to work on ships?

Which is more important- making a lot of money- or enjoying yourself?

Do you want to travel constantly- or do you want to be home more often?

Is working of ships a means to an end- IE to make money to start a business- or do you want to work on ships… to work on ships?

Would you be bored if you sailed the same river/harbor/route the rest of your life?


There are tradeoffs to everything-

  • DPO- great money- not so great view…
    *Cruise ships- great view… not so great money…
    *MSC lots of seatime-not so much home time…

You have to really think about what matters to you…

And that may change after a while- you may get married and decide you want to be home daily (or get married and decide you DON’T want to be home) etc…

What are your goals? Priorities?

It is difficult to make a decision at a young age. You have done the hard part, by at least deciding on a career and getting into a school that will give you an education. For me, what I wanted out of life has changed many times. In high school, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, so I went through the process of getting into the Air Force Academy, but ended up not getting an immediate appointment so I changed my priorities and went to Kings Point (like many there, it is not uncommon). I also know that I would not have been happy in the active service, or at least as happy as I was at sea. As an engineer, of course.

We all know how shipping changed in the 80’s, and like many others, I ended up sailing on ocean tugs and ITBs. In fact, I was on one of the earliest of the ATBs, created by the twisted mind of Robert Bludworth. Somehow I managed to stay out of the oil patch. Just sailed through it from time to time.

Once I got married and took responsibility for the kids that I may have produced, I no longer enjoyed going to sea. I turned down a job offer for permanent employment with Sabine Tankers and moved to Houston to work for ABS. Great job. Not a whole lot of money, but exposure to all sides of the maritime world, all flags, all facets (offshore, too).

After ten years with the Bureau, I was offered the job I have now, as an energy loss adjuster. I use everything that I have learned in my past jobs, and more. I am sent all over the world to work, and some really nasty places from time to time. Yeah, at times it can get tedious, but it is a job, and I get fairly well compensated for it. Better still, I enjoy it.

I guess my point is, in response to your question, that thre is no one type of vessel or assignment that is really better than the next. What you are setting out to do now, may likely be just a step to something else. I know that I never set out to be an insurance adjuster, but I like it very much, and I have been doing this job longer than any other in my career.

Often the best ship and the best position is the one that you can get.

I have a photography business on the side, and am in the motorsports media. It pays little to nothing, but I enjoy doing it. At least I am in a position to do that, too.

Now here, ladies and gentlemen, is a true sailor.

[QUOTE=cmakin;23980]Once I got married and took responsibility for the kids that I may have produced…[/QUOTE]

Yeah, goodness knows how many kids I’ve got out there. :wink:

As my dad said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life again.”[/QUOTE]

Your dad obviously never worked on a tugboat!

I love working on the water, and in fact, I don’t think I could ever do anything else (except maybe brewer!). But, while I am still perfecting my beer recipes, I’ll continue to make my living on the water.

If I could do it all over again, I would go to the Maritime Academy! I didn’t even know those places existed when I graduated high-school.

I imagine there must be tremendous pressure when approaching graduation to find the “best” job, make the big bucks and drive the big boat. My advice, seriously: fuhgetabouit! Postpone the start of a mind-numbing career as DPO operator in some small room on some large ship and go do something that will spark some passion for a career on the water. That’s right: go to Alaska and get a shitty paying mate job on a small expedition vessel for a summer and wake up (almost) every morning, drink a cup of coffee and say WOW! this is f*cking amazing! Or, go to Hawai’i and run a dive boat, learn how to dive and check out some of the amazing stuff below the water line.

Unfortunately, it is hard to make a living doing these jobs. At least, its hard when you have the wife and kids and mortgage, car payments, insurance, etc…I now work on tugs, but spent the first nine years working on mostly passenger, and some research vessels. The pay was shitty, but the jobs were enjoyable. Tugboats…not so much. But, they pay the bills, and now that I am a little older, and priorities are a little different, that’s okay. What I love now, is coming home.

My theory is that the more enjoyable a job is, the less they have to pay people to do it. Case in point: the most enjoyable job I have ever had, hands down, was Capt. of a converted mine-sweeper doing expedition-style wilderness cruises in Alaska. Sadly, an AB on a west coast tug makes more than I did (daily) as captain in AK. But, it doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

The fact of the matter is: that there is nothing romantic about working on a Tugboat. People always say “you work on tugboats? Aw, that must be so cool.” Um, no. It is a bunch of guys who don’t shower enough living in too small of a space who usually don’t like each other very much. As a result, the pay is good. So, before you let the sirens lure you in with the intoxicating joysticks and touchscreens of the DP world, or the burly wires and ropes of the tug boats, take a deep breath, and do something you will really love (even just for one summer). Otherwise, you run the risk of being another grumbly, thrice-divorced, DUI-having curmudgeon that I have to share my tug boat with.

Good luck out there!

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In hindsight I would have done my commercial cruise on a tanker just to get the PIC. Even if you don’t see yourself sailing tankers it would be good to have your PIC because you may need it some day.

Great thread. I just discovered it! My toughest decision is deck/engine. My love is the deck dept. but the economy is pointing to engineering. I saw a program at one of the schools that give syou 2 weeks on deck, then 2 weeks below so you can see the differences. Maybe not a bad idea… now only if I could remember the school… :frowning:


[quote=RDEagan;25045]Great thread. I just discovered it! My toughest decision is deck/engine. My love is the deck dept. but the economy is pointing to engineering. I saw a program at one of the schools that give syou 2 weeks on deck, then 2 weeks below so you can see the differences. Maybe not a bad idea… now only if I could remember the school… :frowning:


I don’t know how they do it now, but when I went to KP, they were on a four quarter system. You didn’t officially choose between Deck or Engine (or Dual) until the end of the second quarter. Those who thought that they would go Engine had to take courses in basic nautical science and seamanship thier first quarter. Likewise, the potential Deckies took basic Marine Engineering their first quarter. For the second quarter, the surviving Plebes then took the the opposite courses. THEN we made our decision between working for a living or catching rays.

Also for part of every Cadet’s Sea Project, there was a part that had to be done in the opposite department. Like I said, I don’t know how they do it now.

Oh, and to Capt. Fish, did I sail with you on those tugs? Nah, couldn’t be me. I am only once divorced. And that happened AFTER I cam ashore.