New Mariner / Career Change

first of all: thanks for all the advice i’ve picked up on this forum. i’ve been lurking for awhile, reading things here & there and trying to learn from other people’s experiences. thanks for the opportunity to do so.

my situation is this: i’m currently working in an office job making decent money, but i absolutely hate the work. about 3 years ago i got interested in sailing & boats, and have spent the time since then volunteering on tall ships, learning marlinspike skills, and doing a ton of maintenance. picked up a couple weeks of near coastal seatime as a volunteer deckhand (tall ship), bought a 40+ year old fiberglass sailboat and have been restoring that. took some ASA classes (basic sailing, coastal cruising, bareboat chartering), red cross first aid/cpr/aed. have made a lot of contacts in the tallship world, i’m well liked and respected (as far as i know) and valued for my work ethic; most of the people i’m friendly with are captains.

in december of last year it seemed like the prudent thing to do would be to get an MMD and TWIC, so i have that. i don’t have any felonies, drug problems, etc.

my dissatisfaction with my office job has been growing the more time i spend on the water, and i think i’ve finally had enough of it.

last week i started sending out resumes to the normal suspects that people have suggested when starting out – cruise west, blount/accl, linbald. i know the job market is tough, so i wasn’t expecting much. i thought i’d start out with the easy targets and slowly “carpet bomb” basically everything on the list at

well, cruise west called me back a day later, and i have the phone interview on monday. i’ve got a clear picture of the pay and the job; i think i know what i’m getting into, and i’m sure i can handle it.

when i add up my expenses, the cruise west pay is tolerable for survival, but not much more than that. i understand it’s normal to take bad work for bad pay when starting out, and i can accept that. it’s seatime, they’ll pay for BST, and i’d continue to look for better opportunities while doing it.

friends have suggested going for brown water tugs instead, but i don’t think they appreciate the job market there. i saw something recently about a line of applicants 1200 deep at kirby, who’s often suggested as a starting point in the industry, so i don’t have a lot of hope for opportunities there.

so: should i take the job if it’s offered? or should i ignore it and try to get on with a tug instead? if i were unemployed, this wouldn’t be a question – of course i’d take it. but it seems crazy to take something for $110-120/day when i could be making more elsewhere – if there really are any opportunities out there.

maybe i just got lucky due to the time of year (college kids going back to school)?

any opinions/suggestions?

thanks -

Considering the condition of the job market, you would be wise to take the job if it is offered. Great to start building seatime, get BST and start your career. And see if you really like it.

As someone else previously wrote on this site, it is easier to be looking for a job from the inside rather than from the outside looking in.

Incidentally, $110 - $120 per day is what you can expect on an entry level position in the oil patch.

Can you take a leave of absence from your present employer? If so I’d suggest you take the Cruise West job if only to get a feel for what it is like to work on a boat. If you don’t mind quitting your day job, take the Cruise West gig, work your ass off and start networking. In this business, one job often times leads to another, and the reputation you get from day one often sticks with you for years, good or bad. See the “work your ass off” reference I made earlier.

Keep in mind that the passenger vessel industry bears little resemblance to tugs and OSVs. Completely different animal in all respects except for the fact that you’re (usually) floating. If the passenger experience is less than enjoyable for you don’t let that sour you on the industry as a whole. You may like it. Many do, and have made quite successful careers in that niche. Many don’t, but use the job as a springboard to other opportunities.

Good luck.

Don’t forget to budget for expenses related to upgrading. You are in charge of your own personal dog and pony show. Get BST and anything else they will pay for. Start working on your AB ticket, Lifeboatman, MROP, RFPNW, etc. If you like it and want to make a career of it then you will need to provide the ladder you will be climbing.

I had almost the same scenario as you except I was de-hired during the downturn. I spent 6 months trying to get a job, any job. I had to pay for all my documents as well as my BST. Turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. Walked in to the right place at the right time and I have been “working” ever since and loving it. I go for as much seatime as I can get and invest every extra cent I have to hit my next step up at the earliest possible date. It ain’t easy, it’s not always fun, but I don’t want to do anything else. i have since replaced my income plus a bit.

Be sweet to get a leave of absence and test it out before you flirt with being miserable if you don’t like it.

The harder you work the luckier you get.

The issue I see is you are willing to leave your current job. If you are happy, ready and willing. JUMP.

But just so you know, these dinner, tourist boats are seasonal at best, and usually NOT a permanent full time gig. A great eye opener, but not a real career move.

Oh… Passengers suck!!! Just MHO

I know you have already had your interview but in case this is of any help…

You sound like me. I had an office job in a very tall building and was miserable. But I had a great view of the waterfront. I looked out the window one day and asked myself why I was up there in an office when I could be down there, on a boat. I quit a few days later and started to walk the docks in search of a job. Unlike you, I had no marketable skills in the maritime industry but somehow I lucked into a job runnine the galley/snackbar on a whale watch boat. For several months I rented hot dogs. The passengers paid for the hot dogs and within a certain amount of time they redeposited those partly digested hot dogs on the deck. I was also in my job description to clean the deck at any time anyone threw up. To top it all off, the captain was a real A$$!

Yes, it was miserable but far less miserable than being stuck in an office. I learned a whole lot, made some great connections, and got another job the next season. (In my experience, seasonal jobs are not a bad way to start.) From this lowly beginning I was able to move on to bigger and better jobs. In addition to tour boats I was able to work on research vessels and in oil exploration. I liked the passengers (for the most part) and remained in the 100T world for the bulk of my career because I was happy there.

Anyhoo… Grab the CruiseWest job. What everyone else is telling you is very good advice. It will give you a chance to get your feet wet, learn some new tricks, do some serious networking, and decide if you like the work or not. While it’s true that there there is great compitition for fewer and fewer jobs you sound pretty motivated. Stick with it and you will find employment that fits you be it on passenger vessels, tugs, or cargo. You definitely should do some budgeting and see what you need to survive in your current lifestyle. In that vein, put as much money in the bank as you can for a cushion during the off season.

Good luck!

thanks for the advice everyone. i hadn’t thought of the “leave of absence” option, so i’ll certainly give that a shot. i doubt it’ll work, but the other option would be quitting anyway, so nothing to lose in trying.

never got a call yesterday, so i either missed my shot, or the HR person was out/busy/whatever. left them voicemail, sent some e-mail – now i get to wait and see what happens.

if anything, waiting around the couple of days thinking about the situation just solidifies my desire. i wasn’t fully sold on the idea at first, but the more time i’ve had to kick it around, the more i just can’t say no.

will let you all know one way or the other when something happens.

here’s hoping somebody just had a cold on monday.

had the interview on friday. don’t think i’ll be taking the job, because it would end up being 6 weeks, and then unemployment until next spring.

details for anyone else who might find them useful:

pay is $110/day, no overtime.

they have 13 boats, but only 5 are us flagged. the rest are staffed by an overseas agency.

the 5 work mostly alaska/pacific northwest. at the end of the season (sept-oct), 1 boat goes south to do baja cruises; the other 4 do nothing. anyone looking for continuous work has to fight over the spots on the 1 boat, or find work elsewhere.

watches are 12 on/12 off, 7 days a week for 6 weeks, 2 weeks off, then do it all over again for the entire season. 2 deckhands per watch; 1 in the wheelhouse, and 1 doing general deckhand things.

~25 crew per boat including hotel staff/etc; 80-140 guests depending on the boat.

crew sleep 2-4 to a cabin, bunks w/ curtains, small head in the cabin.

you pick up the boat in seattle, portland, anchorage or juneau, wherever it may be. getting to seattle is out of your pocket. once there, they’ll pay up to $250 to get you to the boat, wherever it may be. anything over that is out of your pocket. same for getting back to seattle when the hitch is over.

they provide all uniforms/jackets/work clothes/etc except for boots. interviewer wasn’t really clear if they supplied foul weather gear or not.

no official knife policy one way or the other. most people have a leatherman.

medical coverage is optionally deducted from your check. not included with the job.

when you add all of this up, you’re making about $9/hr, working your ass off, no health care to speak of, and when the season is over (~5 months?), you’re unemployed.

i’m all for paying my dues, but damn, i may as well flip burgers.

If you sailed 3.5 out of the 5 month season would gross abt $12K and eat for free during that same time frame, plus you’ld have some seatime and experience earned and you mentioned BST would get payed for (abt $900); you can’t get any of that flippin’ burgers…Having said that, for me the job would be a no-go because there’re passengers involved.

You forgot to mention experience and sea-time. Can’t buy either one of those, and you can’t upgrade without 'em. The bottom of the ladder is usually in the muck. I went from a starched shirt in a management postion to cleaning toilets and doing all the stuff no one else would do. 12 hour shifts, 28 days on and 14 off. I do it all with relish because I use if for motivation. This industry is one that you can not leap frog ahead without going to an academy for 4 years. I certainly understand your hesitation but most of what you mentioned comes with all the jobs. If it was easy everyone would be doing it and it would pay even less. Get your AB with RFPNW and keep looking for work while you train. That rating in the oil patch gets you 300 something a day/about 70K plus a year. Like I said before, it is what you make it. Either you make it work or you stay in you safety zone. Yes it sucks. Hard choice, you bet. Oh, and don’t forget you will probably be working with some lame @$$holes. Most of them won’t be interested in what it takes to move ahead so you can leave them in your wake if you work hard. Good luck.

if the gig were longer than what it is, i’d probably do it. the pay is what i expected; i can survive on it, but that’s about all.

it being 6 weeks and then end of season is the real killer; there’s just no way i could do that. if they were offering the full season, i’d probably go for it, but the way it is now, i’d just end up unemployed in 6 weeks. the wife is supportive of the career move, but not of paying for my ass, so i need to find something a bit more steady.

i’m not above doing disgusting work – not at all. i remember sitting on deck of a tall ship scraping calcified shit out of a y-valve and actually enjoying it. (just don’t stick your fingers in your mouth.)

anyway. just figured i’d post the details if anyone else found them useful. i looked for as much information as i could about the place before i considered applying, i assume others do the same.

for what it’s worth, burger flippers in new york city make about $10/hr. i understand the pros & cons, this really is something i want to do, and i’m prepared to make the sacrifices required. it was just a funny juxtaposition when you put them side by side – didn’t mean it as anything other than that.

Sounds like you’ve pretty much made up your mind, but i thought i’d add that Cruise West’s finances haven’t been receiving the best press lately either…

By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
Industry watcher [I]Travel Pulse [/I]is reporting that Seattle-based Cruise West is seeking a capital infusion as it faces what its top executive is calling a “very tenuous situation” with its finances.The travel trade publication quotes an internal email to employees from the small-ship line’s chairman, Dick West, as saying he has had to secure a $1.5 million personal loan to tide the company over until a recapitalization can be arranged. The news outlets says West told employees he is expecting to consummate a deal for a capital infusion with a Seattle-based equity firm within 30 days.

full article:

I was up in Seattle last week at Fishermans Terminal and Cruise Wast has 2 or 3 boats tied to the dock that are seized by a federal marshal. Usually that means they are not paying their bills and someone has put a lein on the boats.

funny; they just called to schedule the 2nd interview for this coming monday.

should be an interesting conversation given the new developments.

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SeaDream Yacht Club

I read your bio. You’re still in NYC? why not go across the Hudson to the office of all the fast ferries. go down to the North cove dock and ask the guys there about jobs. I figured since you live there, why not!? They’ll probably let you go across to Hoboken for free to have an interview.
Especially since you already have your MMC and TWIC, your ahead of any one else walking in off the street. You could probably do this on nights/weekends, for a start to try b4 u buy so to speak.

Go to a seafarers international union hall (SIU) and you will be working on ships on the sea.