Is it possible to go back to sea at 41 years old? Maybe work as an AB/Deckhand?


I figured post a message here. I consider myself a long time lurker of this website. I have been contemplating renewing my third mate license. I graduated from Mass Maritime in 2001. I live in New Hampshire. I worked for the former Exxon Shipping Co. aboard their oil tankers. I only lasted 2 years. The captain on my last tanker decided to fire me for being incompetent. After I was fired in 2003, I became super depressed and began to drink heavily, watch porn, etc.

Right now, I am working in a call center for a Boston-based insurance company. I take calls from customers regarding premium rate increases on their policies. It’s a shitty job. I work 9-5 and wear a headset all day. I get yelled at by people on the phone.

So, anyway, back to the question of renewing my license. Right now, my license is in a Continuity status. I’ve been thinking about renewing my license and submitting my resume to Vane Brothers to possibly work as an AB if that is at all possible. Does anybody know anything about Vane Brothers?

I know that renewing my license will cost about $4000. I’d have to renew my TWIC, get a medical check-up, fill out the application, take a BST class, take a Tankerman-PIC class (I had a PIC endorsement on my license), and take a 1-day Radar Renewal class and also take the “take-home” test.

What about the 2010 STCW amendments? I previously took the 5-day Vessel Security class. Would I have to take that again? Would I also need to take the ECDIS class and Leadership and Teamworking Skills class?

I’m just wondering if it’s worth it? I mean, I haven’t worked in the maritime industry since 2003. I’ve basically looking for work since 2003. I’ve worked a number of low-paying jobs such as call centers. I even worked in a warehouse sorting auto parts for 8 hours a day making $12/hour.

I figured I’d post this message to see what kind of responses I would get. Go easy on me. No cruel and harsh responses, please.

Maybe James Cavo will see my post and offer me some advice.

Thanks for reading my post.

Is your license/.MMC current, and when was the last time you renewed? If still valid, what STCW does it have?

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First off, you are not old. Your Grandpa is old. And looking at your past not everyone is cut out to work in the wheelhouse as a mate, even after going to the trouble of an expensive academy education. If I was in your shoes I would look around for the closest school or license prep facility, take a day off from your “crappy” job, then go sit down with the rep from the school and hammer out what you need to do. Maybe this can be done remotely, I don’t know. If you only want to work as an AB you don’t need to have your mates license renewed. It might be just a class or two, pass the drug screen and physical, and any other minor things. It might be a good time to do this because the Coast Guard license offices are not allowing visitors due to the pandemic. It may work to your advantage. I have sailed with guys that came back after long periods away just like your situation. If you have a good work ethic, are healthy, and have good situational awareness you will be fine.

Hello Sir,

I appreciate you replying to my post. The last time I renewed my third mate’s ticket was in 2014. I did a full renewal. I submitted my application, got a medical exam, took the Basic Safety Training, Tankerman-PIC course, VPDSD course, 1-day Radar Renewal course and the take-home test.

My third mate license just expired in 2018. Right now, my license is in a Continuity status.


Good point. @Red.Right.Return you should bring your license out of continuity (just radar and passing a take home test I think) which should also bring your AB out of continuity. Go to work as an AB somewhere and once you’re employed and making money then do your STCW classes. Vane might even cover the STCW classes after you’ve been there a while if you work hard and are willing to learn.

Thats a normal part of my cycle when i’m at home!
All kidding aside, 41 isn’t too old. I would say the longer you wait and the older you get, the harder it will be to get back on the water if thats what you really want…so get after it sooner rather than later.
I sent you a PM.

You are in better shape than you think you are, some posters on here are giving good advice. Keeping the continuity is a good path with fewer headaches.

41 isnt old, even to be on deck. I’ve seen ABs that were over 65 out here.

Some of my best dedicated AB’s were in their 50’s and 60’s. Was more than happy to communicate with them after a well deserved retirement, it made my day to hear from them. When you get a good one, you protect his turf from day one. They can be an ornery sort at times, but kept the morale up and my vessel for the most part always looked good for the customers and vetting for new work. Never, ever looked down my nose at an AB, Cook, Engineer or Tankerman that knew their craft. As a hawespiper, I did all those jobs and could spot the good ones rather quickly… They were priceless regardless of age. My biggest task was the other Captains trying to steal them, and yes, am proudly guilty of the same crime.

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You are fortunate to have put the license (national endorsement) into continuity. Following is what you likely need for both the national and STCW endorsements.

You can restore the national stuff (license, AB and Lifeboatman) by applying for renewal (make sure to note you are in continuity). Since you do not have recent sea time, you will need to do an open-book test. It will be mailed to you and has two parts, one for Rules, and another for everything else except Nav. problems.

Since you last renewed, the rules on Radar Observer have changed. if you have one year experience using radar in the past 5 years, you do not need a course to renew the radar endorsement. But this doesn’t help you, your endorsement has expired and you don’t have the recent service. But, you can renew/restore the license without radar, you just won’t be qualified for radar. If you’re looking to start as AB, you might defer radar at this time, you can add it back by taking a renewal course and applying to get the endorsement.

Since you do not have recent service, you will need to re-take a course to get any Tankerman endorsement. It would probably be best to take a “Tank Ship Dangerous Liquids” course. This is for a Tankerman-PIC endorsement, but you can use it now to get Tankerman-Assistant, and use it again (within 5 years) after you get transfers and time on a tank vessel. Taking this course, for tank ships, gives you the most future options.

STCW is more difficult. Since you do not have recent service, you will need to take REFRESHER courses for the following, or re-take original courses:

Basic Training
Advanced Firefighting
Proficiency in Survival Craft

Make sure you take REFRESHER courses and not “Revalidation” courses, the revalidation courses are only for those with one year of service in the past five years.

You will also need to meet requirements for Leadership and Teamworking. You can do this with either a course, or assessments signed on a vessel. If you plan to start as AB, you might consider holding off on the STCW, or at least the OICNW endorsement and getting the assessments signed off on the vessel. You can do this with assessments nos. 18.1.A to 18.5.A in Enclosure (2) of NVIC 12-14. If you take a course, consider taking the Leadership and Managerial Skills course. This is for Chief Mates and Masters, and will also meet OICNW. If you take this course now, you may not need to take it again if you upgrade to Chief Mate or Master. There are also more of the Leadership and Managerial Skills courses available.

For the STCW OICNW, you will need an ECDIS course, or your endorsement will say it’s not valid for ECDIS. The same for radar, if you do not take the course to renew the radar endorsement on your license.

If you had VSO in your MMC, you should not need to re-take a course.

Perhaps others can opine on your employment prospects if you elect not to restore/renew STCW at this time. It would not be required for ABs on certain vessels, but even if the Coast Guard doesn’t require, some companies might.

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I was 47 when I started again. Was a Naval Officer in my younger days. Started as AB. It’s now many years later, getting pretty old and sailing 2/M or 3/M.
Good Luck.