Looking to transition to commercial shipping/towing

I left the cubicle rat race in 2003 when I got my 100-ton near coast license with sail endorsement. At that time all of my experience was limited to “sail-training” vessels. Great for line handling skills. Great for learning about center of effort and center of resistance. Lousy for learning about navigation. Terrible for learning the the regulatory environment that commercial mariners deal with every day.

So I got on a 145-foot mega-yacht with with every type of electronic equipment imaginable. I was the second mate. Great navigating experience. Lots of international boat movement - constantly going to new countries and new ports. Great for learning about high-end epoxy painting and deck maintenance. Good for experience working with the regulatory environment. The big negative - I was in my late 40s in an industry where I was constantly being told that it is “a young man’s game”. It is an industry with 25 year-old deckhands and 35 year-old captains.

So I figured my best option was to get a bigger license where age would not be such a determining factor. So it was back to school, going the mate route - taking every class imaginable.

Now I have a 1600-ton mate license. I have worked as captain of a 90-ton square-rigger, chief-mate on a 200+ ton square-rigger and third-mate on a 2500-ton passenger ship(foreign-flagged so I used the 3000 ITC side of my license). The latter vessel had great boat movement, required daily compass corrections using celestial sights, used Titan software for safety officer work requirement, required all the drill requirements of a passenger vessel etc… All in all, a great learning experience. The other side of the coin: foreign-flagged, no job security, zero benefits and low pay.

So what to now? I don’t have DP experience. No towing experience. No fuel transfer experience. And I need to get some financial stability.

I need 60 more days as mate/master to sit for my 1600-ton master upgrade. I have about 550 days over 200-tons so I am about halfway up the hawsepipe for third-mate unlimited but only have about 160 days over 1600 tons.

I would not mind jumping through more hoops as a deckhand if it there is a clear path to getting back on the bridge on a commercial vessel that has a good compensation package. I have talked to a couple of companies about integrated tugs but have not got much feedback other than “join a union and sit in the union hall”.

Thanks for any insight you might be able to provide.

Oh yeah, my age… Just turned 54. I just finished an eight-month stint (half-at sea/half maintenance) yesterday.