Life transition - how do I get a real taste of ocean shipping?

I’m making a life transition. after 14 years of schooling and working in a career that never worked out. Never been on the ocean before, but was born literally across the street from it (Corpus Christi, TX, USA), and have always loved it, and wanted to go out in it. I’ve lived in a couple countries and lots of the US, and love travel, and have always wanted to see the whole planet. So I’m thinking of international shipping.<br>Before I go spend time and money at schools, I want to get a real taste for what it’s really like. How do i go about this? <br><br>I do not want anything to do with military, I don’t go for uniforms, or shaving everyday either. I do not know what positions that I might like to do, I would want to be able to experience a wide variety of jobs on-board to find that out, and just to be well-rounded. If after a couple of voyages I still like it then I would certainly get licensed, etc.<br>I am not nationalistic. I don’t care which country owns a boat, or what flag it flies, etc. I do care that I work with decent people, on decent boats, and most people speak at least passing English until I learn their language.<br>I have a BS in computer science plus a couple years of physics, and a few years science in general, so I’ve been generally absorbed in books and computers. I work hard and am honest and love to meet decent people from everywhere. I’ve also done general handy-work around the house (decks, bathroom), done some wood-working and construction, and work on my own truck. I can learn most anything.<br><br>I want to talk with people who have travelled to ports all over the world. To get some of your knowledge and experiences and ideas for how I could begin my taste. If anyone knows of other forums on the internet I would love to go to those also.<br><br>How does signing onto a ship work? How do you find ships with openings? What do I need, if anything, to know or be able to do, to sign on as unlicensed, unexperienced? How long do I get signed on for? Is it just until we get to the next port? Or is it until we return to the port I signed up from? Can I just get off at any port and spend a few days exploring then find any ship going someplace I want to go? And what is the pay and life like? I have a few small debts and bills in the US that I’d need to pay each month. <br>And if anyone could give me some understanding of how international shipping works in general with all the different countries involved, with different laws, and standards, and languages, and the unions and international organizations as well? (I just started reading wikipedia articles then found this site.)<br><br>thanks in advance<br>James

Have a look at the thread called “Maritime Schools”. There are others as well that will get you some answers. Come back with more questions if you’re still interested in a life at sea.

<blockquote><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>To prepare yourself for a Merchant Marine or Navy life, try this:<br><br>1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>2. Replace the closet door with a curtain.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>3. Four hours after you go to sleep have your wife whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and mumble, “Sorry, wrong rack.”</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>4. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of your bathtub and move the shower head down to chest level.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>5. When you take showers, make sure you shut off the water while soaping.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>6. Every time there’s a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you’re nauseous.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>7. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it to “High.”</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>8. Don’t watch TV except movies in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch, then show a different one.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>9. Leave lawn mower running in your living room 24 hours a day for proper noise level.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>10. Have the paper boy give you a haircut with dull sheep sheers.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>11. Once a week blow compressed air up through your chimney, making sure the wind carries the soot across and onto your neighbor’s house. Laugh at him when he curses you.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>12. Buy a trash compactor but only use it once a week. Store up garbage in your bathtub.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>13. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread, if anything. (Optional: Canned ravioli or soup. Do not heat!)</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>14. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>15. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can, then run out into your yard and break out the garden hose.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>16. Once a month take every major kitchen and laundry appliance and electric garden tool you own completely apart and then put them back together. Do this every week with your lawnmower.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for 5 or 6 hours before drinking.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>18. Invite at least 15-20 people you don’t really like to come and visit for several months.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>19. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>20. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills on your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit you head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>21. Lockwire the lugnuts on your car.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>22. Bake a cake. Prop up one side of the pan while it is baking. Then spread icing really thick on one side to level off the top.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>23. Every so often, throw your cat into the swimming pool, shout “Man overboard, ship recovery!”, run into the kitchen and sweep all the pots/pans/dishes/silverware off of the counter onto the floor, then yell at your wife for not having the place “stowed for sea.”</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>24. Put on the headphones from your stereo (don’t plug them in). Go and stand in front of your stove. Say (to nobody in particular) “Stove manned and ready.” Stand there for 3 or 4 hours. Say (once again to nobody in particular) “Stove secured.” Roll up the headphone cord and put them away.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>25. Put a lamp shade on your head, tuck your levi trouser legs into the tops of your socks and sit on the floor of your closet with the light out until some one yells, “Secure from general quarters”. (PS: no smoking either.)</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>26. Buy a dumpster, paint it gray and live in it for 6 months straight.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>27. Run all of the piping and wires inside your house on the outside of the walls.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>28. Pump 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your basement, then pump it out, clean up, and paint the basement “deck gray.”</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>29. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down, trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>30. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays turn your water temperature up to 200 degrees, then on Tuesday and Thursday turn it down to 10 degrees. On Saturdays and Sundays declare to your entire family that they used too much water during the week, so all showering is secured.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>31. Raise your bed to within 6 inches of the ceiling, if you don’t have a closet shelf.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>32. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5 am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Reveille, Reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.”</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>33. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6 am and read it to you.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>34. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock the bathroom door for 12 hours, and hang a sign on it that reads “Secured - contact OA DIV at X-3053.”</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>35. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 3 pm.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>36. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.)</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>37. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>38. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours before going anywhere. This is to ensure your engine is properly “lit off”.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>39. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>40. Repaint your entire house once a month.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>41. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>42. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, randomly losing every 5th item.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>43. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>44. Sew back pockets to the front of your pants.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>45. Spend 2 weeks in the red-light districts of Europe, and call it “world travel.”</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>46. Spend 5 years working at McDonalds, but do NOT get promoted.</font></strong>
<P><strong><font face=Arial,Helvetica>47. Needle gun the aluminum siding on your house after your neighbors have gone to bed.</font></strong></P></blockquote>

I love the tongue and cheek description of sailing. Gave me lots of laughs. And I get that its not glamorous, and probably downright miserable sometimes. Which is one reason I want to go out on a voyage or 2 before going to some school. I need to know if I can take the bad with the good.<br><br>Looking at school is premature at this point, but I’m doing so to see if I can get something out of it.<br><br>What I really need right now…<br>How do i go about getting signed on to a ship? Where do I go to ask about unlicensed and unexperienced openings? I guess we don’t have cabin boys in the 21st century, but is there not someway that people can still start out completely new to it?<br>I can get to either New Orleans or Corpus Christi ports for now. Is there one single office that each port has that will list all the ships who need crew? Or do I have to go ask at each ship? Or are there a bunch of different organizations that each keep track of some? Or what? I figure that I’ll have to be close enough that i can get there whenever the ship in need is in port for its couple of hours or whatever.<br><br>And also… about “seeing the world”<br>Of course just being in port a couple of hours is not seeing the world. Don’t people leave ships at ports and get other ships? Is this not done anymore or what?<br><br>thanks again<br>James

The only way to get a job on a ship or tug or a workoat is to go to school first. You just can’t jump aboard anymore. Times have changed. There are cargo ships that carry <a target="_blank" href=“]paying passengers, that would be one way to get a first-hand feel for being at sea. Also, <a title=“The Workboat Academy” target=”_blank" href="]here’s a website that does a good job of explaining how to get started in the maritime industry. It is PMI’s workboat academy site.

I did the same thing from a career as a marine biologist, about 5 years ago. I’m about to sit for the 3rd mate’s exam, myself. <br><br><br> The schooling part that everyone talks about is no BS. You need to take a 1-week course called Basic Safety Training. It’s a lot of fun, although there’s some work involved. Do a google search to find a school in your area. costs about $800. <br><br> You’re going to need a merchant mariner’s document, or Z-card. Go to to get the application forms- the application, medical exam and drug test forms. <br><br> Getting set up for your first job is a pain in the butt because of the paperwork involved. It’s not actually difficult, but you need to do it in a timely fashion to not go crazy. Shoot me an email and I can help. <br>

A friend at the academy was asked if he was planning on taking a shoreside or shipboard job upon graduation. He said “No way I’d enjoy sailing”.<br><br>The instructor replied “How do you know untill you’ve tried it”<br><br>My friend said, “You’re right and I’ll make you a deal. Tonight at 0400 I’ll wake up, open my dorm room window and stare at the waterfront for 4 hours… if I like it I’ll take a job at sea!”<br><br>Not too far from the truth… at least much of the time.