Is it possible for me to have this career?

Hello everyone, I am a 24 year old relatively healthy man who is currently in the process of choosing a new career. To date my most prevalent job history is in middle to high level culinary and restaurant management and (currently) local government. Obviously I know it’s too late to join an academy, but I feel my other options might already be non-existent based on my situation.

When I was 19 years old I was charged with a DUI (underage) and convicted of a reckless driving upon a plea-down deal. The deal involved me passing a drug test on the spot, which I did. If it matters I blew a .03 which is .01 above the limit for underage minors and we’ll below the .08 required of adult drivers. The probationary period ended a little over 4 years ago today. This event ultimately dissuaded me from trying to join the navy.

I was wondering, based on seasoned experience in today’s environment, would it be worth it for me to even try to work in the maritime commercial space? And if so where does someone like me even begin?

It’s not too late for an academy. I can’t speak for the Coast Guard, but I would check with them before going to a school for 2-4 years and then finding out it’s an issue. The school may help you with that. No matter what be truthful.


Noted, I do think a conversation with the coast guard would be productive no matter what they say.

The other thing is, while I’m doing okay financially, I’m not well off enough to pay for an expensive schooling experience (nor do I have the time.) Is schooling typically 100% necessary?

You can get the basics from the NMC website, get your credential and start on deck/ engine room and work your way up. It will take longer and is becoming increasingly difficult with all the other classes. You can get a limited license in about 2.5 years depending on the program.

You mentioned you currently work in the culinary biz. Is that where your interests are? Or do you want something else.

A good cook is ALWAYS welcome. Seadog is right, Not sure if that is what you are looking for. My guys would carry your bags up the gangway. Do contact USCG to explore your options. You are not dead in the water because of a mistake more than a few young (And Older) people make.

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I actually transitioned out of food two years ago because of poor working conditions/bad working hours + little time off/ bad PAY

Currently I work in a county government doing clerical and “operations” work. Not very exciting but it’s got all the regular perks.

If I’m being honest, preferably I’d like to do actual ship work but…

I could be convinced to put the chefs coat back on if the position looked good though; I always enjoyed high level cooking. It was everything else that killed it for me. I do not have a culinary degree though.

There are lots of folks working on ships, tugs, etc that have had much more sordid pasts and lapses of good judgement than you. If one mistake as a teen was a deciding factor, there wouldn’t be too many folks working out here.

With that being said, it would still be prudent to research if you would encounter any pitfalls with becoming a credentialed mariner.

You may not be allowed in canada, so that may be a pitfall with prospective employers.

There will be some kind of schooling no matter what path you take. Both will be expensive but in theory pay for itself over time. You can either look into one of the maritime academies (quickest) or get your entry level credentials and do it on your own (hawsepipe.) There are also options for schooling thru some unions, but fewer and fewer employers are reimbursing for schooling because there are a surplus of qualified people out there these days. This forum has lots of info on these different paths. Good luck!
I will say, knowing how to cook/being capable of cooking on a boat and willing will definately give you a leg up.


In this biz you don’t need a culinary degree. But whatever you do it should be something you enjoy or have an interest doing. I have run across far too many people bitter in life towards the end of their careers. Soulda, coulda, woulda but never did.

That said, look at the SIU’s apprentice program. It will give a taste of all 3 departments if unlicensed is what you want to start off with.


A little clue. Most don’t have a culinary degree. I will tell you, if you are good, the Captains will steal you from another boat/ship if they can or have a bad cook. . I don’t know what the pay is now, but it wasn’t too shabby compared to shoreside. My other son worked in the culinary field ashore for a while. I agree, hours were bad and pay not that great. Some of the fellows on this site still working at sea can perhaps help you with that aspect. All pay is different. Do at least look at SIU as Seadog has suggested.

Nominated for the understatement of the year,


You will likely always be able to find work but wages in this industry are not keeping up at all with accelerating inflation in the same way shoreside white collar wages are. It is not going to be the middle class job it once was if present trends continue very long.

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If the conviction was for reckless driving then you have not been convicted of DUI and there is no need to say you were. Unless you were.

They still ask about traffic convictions other than misdemeanors., including reckless driving. Be honest on your paperwork. Mr Cavo would know for sure.

What actually appears on your criminal record?

Get a TWIC and MMC (endorsed as OS, Wiper, and Food Handler) and preferably STCW Basic Training then look for work. If you’re an experienced cook, keep a very clean galley, and can cook three meals a day for 14 people on your own (including cleaning the galley and dishes) I might be able to get you a job sometime in the near future.

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