Older fool looking to go to sea

I’m 45, with an MA degree in International Relations and a collage of various low paying jobs on my resume that make me look like there is something wrong with my brain. Right now, I’m a substitute teacher and actor living in New York City. I always loved sailing as a younger fool, and my granddad told riveting stories about WW2. Well, not so riveting. I think he was slightly drunk on the handle of vodka he kept as mouthwash, but at that point I understood to be respectful and to focus in.

In any event, yes, I am entertaining the merchant marine, at this late date. Why, you ask. Well, I don’t have a family. What woman would take me? I need money. Who doesn’t? And I LOVE being out on the water: most of my experience with this is from sailing as a young fool. I’m not afraid of high spaces, or cramped spaces. I have an iron stomach. I learn good, and I pick things up. The drawbacks of me are: I’m not a huge chap, am no weakling, but not a hefty fella with bone crushing farmer’s hands. Perhaps more like a woman of above average strength, and with the wits to match! I’m old to be starting. I have eczema on my hands that is averse to intensive, frequent washings: something that kept me out of the medical field.

My question is, is there a path I could chart that might be more reliable than some, or even achievable, toward a 15 year careerish thing. I’m thinking sustainable body-wise. As one ages, the body breaks down. I’m thinking a role where it’s more likely for an aging greenhorn such as myself to get into without being the object of too much scorn, and then advance a little without buckling to potentially one day afford his own double wide. Nothing too fancy.

So is deck with its long boring but romantic watches better than engine in this situation? Or is engine, with its abundance of brain work and more structured promotional ladder (seemingly), better? Could I arise to the rank of officer in either case? Is one case easier than the other for a relatively older fart such as myself? Is there a class of ship that, given the current economic and technological situation, has advantages in terms of career (thinking about those wind farms)? Is Piney Point and bad idea? I do like the idea of Deep Sea. I am not paying for another MA degree, no way. Is there a better path among paths? How would you curate this venture if it were you?


1 Like

What makes you think that?

Yes to both.

How about an MS degree?

I’d go to an academy. It’s not uncommon to see people your age there.

1 Like

I’m going to do you the honor of being direct with you. I have made hiring mariners the most intensive part of my profession for the last twenty years. I have made a psychological study of it. And everything you have written tells me you would not last long in the field, and make many people miserable if you tried, chiefly yourself.

I have staff that interviews, vets, tests, evaluates, selects, and documents applicants with microscopic attention. We have applicant registers that go back nearly thirty years, corelated with personnel evaluations for those that are employed by us. And all of that data, based on what you have written, indicates any career you would have as a mariner would last just a few years.

Your avocation as an actor is one tip off. The personality that enjoys being an actor is diametrically different than that which enjoys being a mariner. You might be a mariner for a few years, but you would be acting at being a mariner, and eventually tire of the role.

How do I know this? Because of personality testing, and because of keen observation of hundreds of mariners, many with your same personality characteristics. Not just while they work for us, but also after they quit. A mariner’s career leaves a backwash of seatime letters, reference checks, and nowadays social media presence, which makes passive tracking of past employees easy. Mariners showing the same personality markers as you show in your well written post move from seagoing job to job for a few years and then drop out of the profession.

Now, if your intention is to do no more than that, samp!e the life for a few years then move on, Piney Point is fine. But three or four years of an MMA for a career that would last for no more than five years might not be the best move.

Let me state that there is nothing wrong with your personality characteristics. You could do the job. And you obviously have ample intelligence. You would just be dissatisfied with it. I am not being mean spirited. If you are bound and determined I wish you a sincere good luck. But as one old man to another , I’d steer clear of the profession. We have little time to waste.


Going to sea doesn’t fix what’s wrong with you.

It just makes you wetter.


Take your power back by using words properly. Words are powerful things, that is why it is called “spelling” don’t call yourself a fool or other people will associate you with being a fool. Don’t talk about your past low paying jobs because that will create the same pattern for your future. Sailing can work for you to save money if you make the correct moves. You can go to piney point but it takes almost a year to finally start working. You should consider working on a cruise ship, they have entertainment positions where you might be able to use your acting skills. In the meantime yes, it seems you have another problem that would require therapy but I don’t think it would stop you from working on a ship if you wanted to.

Just a quick search brought up this:

Edited: the reason I suggested entertainment department on a cruise ship is well you already know about acting and entertainment, they get VERY good treatment onboard ships…lots of time for shore excursions etc. Then while you are there you can pick the brain of the engineers and deckies to find out what it’s really all about. I don’t know what the pay is, it is likely less or foreign ships but you still get treated like gold with NO expenses. Then if you really want to make the jump you can make an informed decision and may be able to transfer right from on board.


Life is like a box of chockolate.U never know which one U gonna get.

You may listen to “experts” who claim to detect your “vibrations” but my advise is to follow your instinct . And stay assured it is a true story. Good luck.

(387) The nurse who decided to go to sea - Day of the Seafarer - YouTube


At your age, do not go into the engine department. Modern engineering on deep sea ships is much more strain on the back than the brain, especially for jr officers.

Your best bang for the buck? Be an AB unlimited on a container ship that spends most its time at sea.


My advice is more a collage of the life at sea.
It is based of my experience - a drop in the ocean coz no two experiences are alike.
Life as a mariner is not the same as sailing on a boat. These are ships but called boats… big difference.

The average mariner specific intelligence is a 2.5 GPA - at best, the requirement of the very best academy.
Much less of it will be evident on board. Simply put, at best you are less than good at what you doing for every two people you come across. The reason - you do not need intelligence to run a boat.
You need brawn on the unlic side and banter on the deck side. Simply put, you nothing but a sea trucker and don’t let all the big talk be the evaluator.
The engine side is more brawn and brain which is why most do not stick around unless they really like it.

All the talk of HR tracking traits is the result of the new world trying to make the world a bot place, not a better place. Most mariners have their backs against the wall and are there for the long haul coz their licenses are as good as bath tissue ashore. Moreover, they are hooked on their pension.
Most ships are not like home and in port you may not be allowed to step off. You are working. There is no drinking or doping. Only smoking is allowed and a lot of smokers.
The bitching is endless and for the most part there is a hierarchy in the bitching. The lower you are the more you need to listen haha. Use your phone and swipe even if you changing settings. The result - most learn how to bitch but stay to themselves. It is like prison and you hold the key and can get out whenever you’d like. You just don’t coz all you hear is bitching. You then gravitate to people who bitch at the same freq as you coz you are a bitch - you just don’t know it. When you come home, the wife may call it PTSD… lol

For the most part, the guys do not matter, ships do and your license is what they need. Running the ships is key and by that I mean not being responsible for any shit.
Unless you can walk on water, leaving if you miserable is not the same as on land - call and be done.
You save a lot of what you earn. You get your meals for free (on some boats they want you to pay… lol). So do prisoners. For the most part you are paid for the sacrifice you make not for what you capable of which is 2.5 or less. Zero would also be acceptable so long as there is an NMC endorsement attached.

A lot of the people ashore characterizing this profession were once upon a time seafarers who will not answer the fundamental… WHY did you leave if it is such an endearing profession? Then listen to them bitch. They are the top of the bitching hierarchy.
If someone says you are a great mate and a good guy, that is the best feeling in the whole maritime world. He may be drunk but he still means it.

You also have the PITA unions to deal with (dues and vacation take aways funding the organizational employment agency) - the proverbial parasaprophyte supposedly taking care of you, your job and your family… lol. They are not going anywhere but avoid bitching about them coz you know the result of group think.

Take it or leave it, you going to be miserable and alone, but is there an option ashore?
You a mariner who has to work with other mariners.
Just my opinion, not up for discussion.
Good luck.

1 Like

Great response. Thank You!

Thanks for your note. What would you say the ideal personality type is, for someone who gets into the field and loves it? What’s your ideal candidate like intellectually?

@Freighterman1 is probably right. At age 45 with your education and personality you probably won’t last five years on a deep sea ship. You might very well not make more than one trip. Nobody would blame you. On the other hand, that’s your choice to make.

I suggest that you try yachts, fishing boats, and/or tugboats first. Your personality and education might be well suited to yachting. Make some money, get some experience and seatime, and then try deep sea if you want to.

Don’t waste your time on piney point. It’s not necessary.

At 45, you are still just a kid to many of us, and your age is not a limiting factor.

I think you might be a good fit for yachting.

1 Like

A yacht captain or CE can be 45. Deckhands and hotel staff are typically
young and fresh looking.


You aren’t too old and you’re in luck given where you live. The industry is short staffed and you could probably have a job in no time. The question you have to really answer for yourself is what you’d like to do. If the idea of months away from home appeals to you I’d go talk to someone at SUNY about their grad program and try to get a big license and ship out. If staying local is more your thing and you just want to work on the water, look to tugs/ferries/dinner cruises/launch boats etc. Get your MMC and start applying. The maritime world is a great place to make decent money and have long stretches of time off, but it is hard no doubt. Kind of like any job to be honest. But also be prepared to not make any money for a few years…


The job is not a job. It is a life. A job is something you shed at 5, and on weekends. Not so life at sea. So you must have a personality that enjoys monotony, seclusion, and loud noises. There are people who go to sea that don’t like the life, lured for financial reasons. They are quite often miserable people to be around, and drink too much.

A crew is a hierarchy. To be happy at the life you must have a personality that accepts this. You can never get away from it. You will be told when to get up, when to sleep, when to eat, when to shit, seven days a week. No one will care about your intellectual accomplishments ashore. You are a cog at sea. Without cogs the engine cannot turn. You have to find your self worth in this.

Successful deck officers often have the typical personality profile of a standard company exec, with minor differences. They tend more towards the big picture than the detail; the job is detailed in many aspects but the officer who gets obsessed with one thing is going to ignore something else and get bit hard.

Good officers have a large emotional motor, meaning they can shrug off setbacks, the negative attitudes of others, confusion, and other emotional flotsam that would send the normal person to bed or to the bar. Cops have enormous emotional motors. Shoreside execs have good sized ones, but not as large as seagoing officers. The trait can manifest itself as arrogance or uncaring.

Great officers can tend towards unsociability. Highly social officers who need to be chummy and friendly with everone they meet will rarely be great. A personality in the middle is best. The very best officers have a gift for dealing with people.

One factor common to great officers: they tend to have a need to constantly prove themselves to themselves. Eagle Scouts make good officers. The back of their brain is constantly whispering that they need to work on the next merit badge. There is always something undone that needs doing. They feel miserable if they aren’t doing something. They wake at 0300 wondering what needs to be done next.

CEOs of the biggest corporations have this in spades. Ditto Steve Jobs, Jamie Dimond, Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin was the poster child. MM officers are not as strong in this aspect, but those officers who have a little of it tend to shine more than those that don’t.

The opposite personality type are those people who feel they are born perfect and therefore anything they do will be ok, or can be fixed later. These personalities are often garrolous, chummy, and witty. Good at selling themselves. Sleep like a rock.

Salesmen are like this. A great salesman is always looking for the next big deal. Not just for the money but for the approbation. The performance, then the applause. (Salesmen and actors share much the same personality). If a salesman does everything right they will be immediately noticed and rewarded. That’s the thrill.

Now, salesmen make great dinner companions. Sales is a noble and lucrative profession. But salesmen make poor MM officers. If an officer does everything right no one will notice. That is the point of being an officer. From the standpoint of the home office the best officers are the ones you never hear about.

Intellectual firepower is, I find, overated in the profession. I hire academy grads. I promote people from the hawsepipe. I prefer the latter, but the former will catch up in a year or two. Where I work navigation skills are paramount, and I don’'t see any difference between the degreed officer and the high school graduate in this respect. A high school graduate with a great work ethic is better than a college graduate with little, when it comes to mariners.


I like the idea of emotional motor. I often use the term emotional bandwidth. I find that teaching requires a lot of this.

I think these positive and negative traits you are describing are universal in most situations. There’s also a lot of blur and commonality/overlap/bleed over time in the professions you mention.

Isn’t everyone lured to sea in part for financial reasons?

1 Like

Mariners work on or near in the water because that’s who and what they are.

Guys that just do it for the money are not really mariners in their bones. They are guys that are just temporarily, for however long, doing the job of Mariner for money.


Yes. Most people can do the job. The question is, will they stick with it?

Well, everyone needs to make a living, so in that sense, yes. But I’ve met plenty of people who go to sea because that is what suits them. They and the job are hand and glove. And since they fit it so closely they do well at it. If they do well at it they gain the approbation of other people who are good at it. Which is the only praise they care for. Money is secondary.

I should also say that there are many people in it just for the money. Just as there are many people who go to sea because they tend to go to hell once on land.


Plenty of old fools working on boats. Go for it. But maybe not for a certain Seattle based company.


I don’t think many companies today can afford to be too fussy about the pursuit of employees who perfectly fit the mold, if they want to keep their boats fully crewed.

The days of only having one career for one company for 30 or 40 years are long over.

Companies come and go. Contracts are won and lost. New competition emerges. Boats breakdown. Subchapter M dry dock inspections have forced the sudden retirement of some boats. Few seagoing jobs are even real steady jobs, most are just a series of short term gigs.

Life happens to employees. Going to sea works better at certain stages of life than others. There are times when the call of the land, or family are to hard to resist. Shoreside jobs are more competitive than they use to be.

1 Like

No need to worry about that as he’d never make it past the CIA/NSA level personality stress test during his interview :roll_eyes: