The Stupid Newbie Thread

I didn’t see anything of this sort posted, so I guess I’ll open a topic – my first on gCaptain – to ask what I’d call “Stupid Pre-OS questions”. I’m in the process of a career change and have been trying to figure it all out.

I’m sure if your family’s in the trade you’re raised to understand the steps and paperwork, but I’m coming at it sidewise with no experience other than my father having worked a bit of time on a fishing boat in Alaska. I’m 27, living in Seattle and looking to go to sea.

====Stupid Newbie Question One: Certification====
Now, operating without a mentor, I’ve done my own research, and from what I can gather, here’s how I think it goes:

[B]TWIC[/B] --> ([I]CG-719k/e[/I]+[I]CG-719P[/I]+[I]CG-719B[/I] and associated drug tests, physicals, etc.) --> [B]MMC[/B] --> [B]STCW-95[/B]

Now, it’s at this point that my understanding of the process starts to fall apart. I’ve gathered that the course for the STCW-95 involves… well, I get from Don Pedro’s Advice for Newcomers to Ship Work 6-9 months of a seaman’s vocational school, whereas every actual school I’ve looked up, especially in the area, says they do it in 5-7 days. Something doesn’t add up here. What am I missing?

Extra Credit: Seaman’s Book/Seaman’s Medical Certificate. What are they, do I need them, where do I get them? Is the latter different from the CG-719k?

====Stupid Newbie Question Two: Unions====
I’ll freely admit I’ve never worked in a skilled trade before. Until now, I’ve trained people to use computers, something I’m quite good at. What I have gathered is that in the Trades, one should be a member of a union if one wishes to actually work. All right, I’m game. I went out and did some research. Starting from zero, I found:

• SIU - The Big One, handles the east coast, gulf coast, (some) inland waters and (all of?) international shipping.
• IBU - Seems to be in charge of the west coast and (some) inland waters.
• Various officer/specialist unions that are at the current moment of little application to the aforementioned Stupid Newbie™, unless there’s one with a mop and bucket in its logo.

Now, I know unions tend to be a sensitive topic, but I honestly don’t know stuff, and would rather know stuff before going into this. Sorry if I’m stepping on anyone’s toes. Speaking of which…

====Stupid Newbie Question Three: Boots====
A bit of a sidetrack here, but an entertaining one. I know I’m not going out on deck in flip-flops, nor do I want to show up wearing better boots than the Bosun. What do I need to know about footwear at sea? Steel toes, I assume, but what else do I need to know and what’re your recommendations as per brand? I don’t give a damn about flashy, just functional.

====Stupid Newbie Question Four: Positions====
From what I understand from my reading, one starts as an Ordinary Seaman in either Deck, Engine or Steward’s department, but nothing I read seems to hold a sensible line as to what’s what. Some sites say there’s no OS position anymore, just AB/jr. and AB/sr. Then if you’re in Engine, you’re something called a wiper? Gah!

====Stupid Newbie Question Four: Jumping Right In====
I get that this is a recession and thus a stupid time to change jobs. I don’t plan to quit my day job right away – not until the economy improves and there’s a need for workers. That said, when I start, where do I start? Do I walk the docks? Do I go to a corporate website? Can one jump right into international container shipping, or should I expect to spend a decade or so near-coastal before I earn the right to go further? Realistically speaking, what do I plan for?

Many thanks to all of you for answering these questions. I really appreciate it.

-Charles

Before it goes to far we need to know were you want to go in the industry.

Do you plan to get into the wheel house, engine room, or stay on deck your whole career? The sooner you know the sooner you can start getting your ducks in a row to start moving up the line.

Do you want to sail around the world on a tanker or container vessel, working tugs that move barges and ships around, the Gulf of Mexico working in the oil and gas industry delivering supplies and people to platforms and rigs, or shudder cruise ships were you work with tourist?

How often do you want to be away from home? Months, weeks, or days? Same can be asked for time off.

To answer some of your questions:
You are correct in that you need to get your TWIC first. Then an MMD if your going to be on anything over 100 tons. Then your BST. STCW does not equal BST, but a part of STCW. Although everyone thinks it is. BST is only 5 days. The 9 month thing on that dudes website is not necessary, although there is a program like that at the Merchant Mariners Academy at Kingspoint.

All of that seaman’s book and medical stuff if strictly blue water stuff and is handled by the unions if you go that route from my understanding. But yes they are seperate from the CG form as that is what you have to get filled out when you hand in your stuff for your MMD.

As for boots only thing you need to worry about is are they steel toed and can you ware them for 12 hours. Don’t worry they will be scuffed up and dirty in a few weeks just like everybody. Its the guys who’s been “working” out here for a while and his boots are still new looking that I worry about.

There is a good thread of on what to bring on your first hitch, so look that up for info.

You will start out as an OS on deck most likely. Don’t worry about the rest.

As for finding work, where do you want to work dictates how you find a job.

Sorry to ask you more questions and not answer very many of yours, but getting your head spun around and being confused is part of the game. Just wait until you decide to start getting your license the the fun really begins.

[QUOTE=Jemplayer;40328] Then your BST. STCW does not equal BST, but a part of STCW. Although everyone thinks it is. BST is only 5 days. .[/QUOTE]

I always have to explain it to those who don’t understand this, I have heard so many OS say they already have STCW when we discuss all the STCW courses needed when you get licenses. Many never even turned in their certs to the CG and have nothing but course completion certs.

STCW is like a pizza…and BST is only one slice of that pizza. Depends on your license/rating as to what parts of that pizza you need.

There are tons of threads already going w/ “start up” advice, I suggest you spend a lot of time reading through those…many have updates from the greenhorn about their progress and experiences.

Good luck, and like Jemplayer says…you have many questions that need answering before you get many straight answers.

Hi Charles, and welcome to the forum.

Since you’re in Seattle, you should consider going to work for Washington State Ferries. You don’t have to make it a career, but you can trade your toilet cleaning skills for paid training and seatime toward your next adventure. You’ll wind up with your AB and a lot of the training required for STCW, courtesy of the state of Washington. Plus, you’ll get to spend some time on the water, to see if you like it and if you want to move on to bigger and better things in the industry.

[QUOTE=Jemplayer;40328]Do you want to sail around the world on a tanker or container vessel, working tugs that move barges and ships around, the Gulf of Mexico working in the oil and gas industry delivering supplies and people to platforms and rigs, or shudder cruise ships were you work with tourist? How often do you want to be away from home? Months, weeks, or days? Same can be asked for time off.[/QUOTE]

First off, thank you to everybody who’s responded. As for where I want to go and what I’m after, the reason I’m looking into a career change is to get away from customer service jobs, so the last thing I want to do is kiss tourist toes on a cruise ship if I can possibly avoid it. I would like to travel internationally though, so the idea of container ship work is appealing.

Within any of those paths, the engine room definitely has some appeal. I’ve got the mechanical knack and interest, though I’ve not taken any formal courses on the subject. Is the new wiper expected to have, for instance, a large engines maintenance course under his belt when he applies?

As for time/distance from home, at this point I’m single without kids, seeing my family only once every few months anyhow. I do look forward to some time off. Is most container/tanker work of the 6 months on/6 off variety, or is there a different standard to expect?

[QUOTE=Jemplayer;40328]
To answer some of your questions:
You are correct in that you need to get your TWIC first. Then an MMD if your going to be on anything over 100 tons. Then your BST. STCW does not equal BST, but a part of STCW. Although everyone thinks it is. BST is only 5 days. The 9 month thing on that dudes website is not necessary, although there is a program like that at the Merchant Mariners Academy at Kingspoint.

All of that seaman’s book and medical stuff if strictly blue water stuff and is handled by the unions if you go that route from my understanding. But yes they are seperate from the CG form as that is what you have to get filled out when you hand in your stuff for your MMD.
[/QUOTE]

All right. I’ve got my TWIC appointment coming up in early August, and just did my physical and drug tests this last weekend. Thank you, all, for your corrections on STCW. This course cycle at PMI looks like it includes what I need for the STCW course cycle. It seems fairly comprehensive, though it does mention the assumption of two months or so of service first. I’ll give 'em a call this coming weekend, as well as stop by the Seattle IBU hall and see what the deal is with Washington State Ferries jobs. They all seem to be on-call at entry level, which seems pretty strange, as you’d have to have a job with literally zero commitments 7 days a week, if I’m reading that right, or is there a regular shift and then on-call time, as in the medical industry?

Thank you all! Off to work, and I’ll get the rest of the replies out this evening!

Check our the Military Sealift Command. I think they are hiring OS’S but not for long Good luck

Thanks for the heads-up! Given though that I’ve got a 6-8 week wait for my TWIC to come through, then however long for my MMC, followed by BST, I’m not sure I’ll be ready before the hiring season is over :slight_smile:

Appreciated anyhow!

[QUOTE=ctishman;40370]Thanks for the heads-up! Given though that I’ve got a 6-8 week wait for my TWIC to come through, then however long for my MMC, followed by BST, I’m not sure I’ll be ready before the hiring season is over :slight_smile:

Appreciated anyhow![/QUOTE]

Go to BST asap, no need to wait, BST takes 5 days. IMHO, TWICs don’t take 6-8 weeks even though that may be the advertised time. Try walking in, they’ll likely take you and then walk in again when you’re informed that it’s ready for pick-up–it’s all been done before. Then apply for the MMC which at the entry level shouldn’t take vary long. Chance 'em.

Shortcut for you: after TWIC enrollment you can take the receipt and send it with the MMC application. You don’t need to wait for the actual TWIC. The enrollment receipt will suffice. Also I believe there is no STCW-BST endorsement given on the MMC so you can go ahead and apply for the MMC b’4 your STCW-BST course. Summary: TWIC enrollment receipt, Physical, Drug Test, MMC Appication and Appointment with your local USCG REC, “bid-a-bang” you’re done. Once you have the TWIC, MMC and STCW-BST course certificate your ready for employment. As Doug Pine said Washington State Ferries is good place to start and MSC is good for newbie as well. If you go deck aim for your AB ticket and RFPNW. If you go engine room aim for QMED and RFPEW. Something else you could look at http://www.nwffenviro.com . This outfit is providing contract personnel to man our communications room onboard MSRC vessels http://www.msrc.org . Computer and Networking background would be a good fit but not required.

Thank you for the information, both of you! I’ll put in for vacation time from my current job to get the week off, and go to BST!

Edit: That MSRC gig looks hot! I do have quite a bit of computer background…

Okay, thanks to everyone who was awesome with round one! I go in for my TWIC tomorrow. Got my physicals, drug tests, etc. handled, enrolled in BST class at PMI. Now it’s time to do some waiting. Round Two:

====Stupid Newbie Question Five: Marlinspiked?====
When it comes to knots, I’ve been trying to learn as many as I can, but I can’t seem to find any official reference as to when/if I need Marlinspike skills, which knots I’ll need, what the standards are to which I should tie/dress them, etc. The newbie Ordinary Seaman, coming onboard with no background, needs to know what, approximately?

====Stupid Newbie Question Six: Jobs====
My eventual dream for this career is to work transcontinental containerized or bulk freight. Does one need to work their way up to that sort of job, working ferries and smaller vessels first, or can I go ahead and drop into a Maersk or Hyundai office on day 1 of my search? It doesn’t look like the big ones are unionized, so what would that mean?

It is really great that you are being so proactive, especially with regards to your marlinespike skills. There is no ‘official reference’ as to when / if, but The American Merchant Seaman’s Manual comes pretty close.
I’ve got two lists for you. First one is the list of knots you will ultimately need to know how to tie (and what they are used for) to get your AB. Second list is the knots that I think (and I know others will weigh in with their own opinions, which is great) you should be able to tie confidently the moment you step onboard.

USCG required AB knots:
[I]“After completing the splice, the examiner will select ten (10) knots/hitches from the following list. Those marked with an asterisk (*) must be included in the selection. The applicant must tie seven (7) of the knots/bends/hitches correctly to successfully demonstrate proficiency.”[/I]
a. *Bowline
b. *Clove hitch
c. *Square knot
d. *Becket bend
e. Carrick bend
f. Rolling hitch
g. Stopper hitch
h. French bowline
i. Running bowline
j. Bowline on a bight
k. Fisherman’s bend
l. Timber hitch
m. Catspaw
n. Figure eight
o. Barrel hitch
p. Round turn and two half hitches

IMHO list:

bowline
round turn & 2 half hitches
clove hitch
square knot
becket bend
And my personal favorite: Trucker’s hitch with a locking hitch to finish it off.

Thanks! I’ll take that list and start working it immediately! I’ve also ordered a copy of the book you linked. Good thing to have around.

Everyone has sent in their opinion. All good comments. I can give a comment about shoes.

EVERYPLACE will require you to have steel toe shoes. If you are going to be standing on steel decks. lifting, pulling, hauling and yanking stuff you will need EXCELLENT quality, Broken in shoes. If you are going to be on petroleum transporting vessels (either tankers or barges) not just OIL resistant soles, but actual soles that have traction in oil, gas grease are necessary.

IMHO, REDWING workshoes (although ridiculously expensive) are the only thing that I have found to fill the bill. But at over 120 bucks per pair they are steep. Ive seen guys come on wearing rubber soled Kmart work shoes, who then have to use ducttape to hold the sole on. A LONG time ago I was on during an oil spill. the 2nd mate, deckhand and myself ran like hell to the bow to open the empty tanks next to the overflowing one, and by the time I got to the bow I was the ONLY one standing (in ankle deep super unleaded) after running up the deck through the cascading gas! So I KNOW redwings work!

I found these websites that helped me with knots. Maersk is through SIU if you eventually want to ship deepsea you will have to go through a Union.

http://users.mo-net.com/district8WR/members/knots/knots_hp.htm

http://www.animatedknots.com/indexboating.php?LogoImage=LogoGrog.jpg&Website=www.animatedknots.com

http://www.netknots.com/html/boating_knots.html

also Morrow Guide to Knots

http://www.amazon.com/Morrow-Guide-Knots-Sailing-Climbing/dp/0688012264/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280959079&sr=8-1

Thank you for the boot info! I’ll check out a red wing dealer around here on my next day off.

Also, thank you for the info on the knots and Maersk. Out of my own curiosity, how do you join a union? Being the newbie I am, I went down to the IBU hall in Seattle, only to find out that

a) It wasn’t a hall. It was actually more like a small office in scale
and
b) they didn’t seem to have any method of joining. How does one become a member of a union? Is membership mutually exclusive? E.G. if I join IBU, am I screwed with SIU?

[QUOTE=ctishman;40976] How does one become a member of a union? Is membership mutually exclusive? E.G. if I join IBU, am I screwed with SIU?[/QUOTE]

Look on their websites, there is a page explaining joining.

While you are waiting for your first job, you should check with local community colleges for a course. The main campus of SCC lists a marlinspike course. Here is the link… http://www.seattlecolleges.edu/DISTRICT/collegecatalog/courseList.aspx?col=All&searchBy=Keyword&keyword=marlinspike. Many two year colleges have programs where marlinspike is part of the cirriculum. I did mine at a small technical school in Wilmington, NC. Good luck!

[QUOTE=mslilith2000;41011]While you are waiting for your first job, you should check with local community colleges for a course. The main campus of SCC lists a marlinspike course. Here is the link… http://www.seattlecolleges.edu/DISTRICT/collegecatalog/courseList.aspx?col=All&searchBy=Keyword&keyword=marlinspike. Many two year colleges have programs where marlinspike is part of the cirriculum. I did mine at a small technical school in Wilmington, NC. Good luck![/QUOTE]

Well, that school IS pretty close to where I work. If it’s an evening course, there’s a good chance I could swing that. I’ll check into it! Thank you!

Greenhorn,
I am in the same boat you are.(no pun intended) I am an accomplished French trained US based chef working at a country club on Lake Ontario. I am single now and have always had a love for the water and boats. I intend to be a competent sailor before I die. So…I figured why not just get a cooking gig on a small to medium sized sailing yacht and so be it. How ignorant I was. After all the research I have done I was surprised to find out the credentials I would need!! I too have applied for my TWIC and hopefully it will be here in a week. Then it’s off to MMC cert and all the paperwork. This is all affordable but then I will need to travel probably to Florida or maybe Baltimore for the stcw-95 training. Then I guess I can apply for jobs. My focus is primarily to serve as a chef on either a luxury yacht or possibly a container / cargo ship and do some traveling. But I really want to be an accomplished sailor. Is there anything else I could be certified for to become more desirable?
Thanks
Tolkon