New Old Guy, is the tug life realistic for me?

OK I’m 54, spent some time when i was young on commercial fishing boats between Oregon, Washington and Alaska out past Dutch. When I was a young guy in HS my plan was to make a life at sea. Friend of the family was an old unlimited captain and was on my way to getting on a Core of Engineers dredge then he got cancer and passed in 6 months. Was going to to Coast Guard but had too much fun and partied past that right after HS and ended up as a machinist and then engineer. Now I’m 54 years old and am seriously considering trying to get on a Tug. Am I nuts? I expect to work another 15-20 years. Although I’m older than the new young guys I’m also very stable and would want to get experience and move up.

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It’s doable for you as long as you’re still able and mobile. Work hard on deck, show up for work every hitch, and not be a psychopath and you will move up no problem.


Thanks for that. Luckily going the engineering route I’ve preserved my body pretty well.
Sounds like the next thing I need to do is get my physical and documentation taken care of.

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The average 54 year old can be a deckhand or deckhand/engineer. It’s not unusual to have no one under 60 onboard.

For the average 20 something, it’s a little more doubtful.


You can most likely outwork most of the young guys I have gotten in the last few years. I prefer older oilers these new guys are hit and miss.

Not to be partial in any way, but found the older fellows took a bit more pride in their work and knew when to duck, hold on, or both.

Not nuts at all. Hardest part on a tug I’ve found is actually staying in shape. Given all the good food around, its really easy to overeat your daily caloric intake in a 6hr watch. Just keep busy and shouldn’t be a problem…Good luck!

That is a task in itself. Surrounded with the luxury of a designated cook and good budget was hard pressed to stay in shape. As an AB-Tankerman, not too hard. Once I went wheelhouse, I think I was 180-185 lbs. When I retired, was at about 220 or so. I didn’t blame it on the cook. Don’t let your age hold you back. A skilled deck/engineer guy/gal is always welcome, no matter what the age.


You probably have a better work ethic than most of the young guys. If you’re good mechanically, you’ll be fine.

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Thanks for all the feedback guys. Couple questions about the next steps. Looking for jobs is it best done going straight to the local companies and or union hall? I live nearest to Portland, Oregon but given the type of week on week off should I be looking in Seattle and other areas in driving distance?

This site has a list of companies. I’d apply to anyone online and follow up with emails/phone calls. Tough to go visit offices/union halls now due to covid. I believe IBU SF is still closed. I know Curtin down in Long Beach is hiring. Network all you can too. As a heads up, I was located in the Bay Area and had a hell of a time trying to get in anywhere on the West Coast w/out an AB for tugs. I did dinner cruises and ferries to build seatime. I eventually decided to relocate to Virginia and got hired no problem. Probably a pay cut but getting wire work and experience for the eventual move back west. Just something to consider. Don’t get discouraged, but it might be a while/require you to travel outside the PNW/ west coast. Most companies on the east coast seem to be hiring at the moment. Good luck!

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Is MTVA - Tow masters still a thing? That sight looks like the info is pretty dated?

It’s dated for sure, but a lot of those companies are still around in some form or another. Under the jobs tab…you can also just use google.

This is a difficult time of year to be looking for a tugboat job in Portland or Seattle. There won’t be many jobs until April or May.

No problem playing the waiting game.

What’s the market like in Texas? Wife and I would love to go there at some point anyway.

i didn’t go to sea till i was 45 & wished i’d of done it sooner but moved up fast & retired cme oceans. damn the torpedoes!!

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