There USED to be professional Deckhands!

Back in the day, when I was looking down at the deckhand on the bow coiling a line, I realized that he didn’t waste a motion, didn’t loose time, and expended as little energy doing a task that my other deckhand (30 years or so his junior) could do faster, quicker, and louder. BUT, when the young guy had pulled all the lines in, he had to recoil, neaten, straighten, and then secure. I would always demand that I get a call (especially in freezing weather) that they were done securing all the lines, so I could hook it up to the next job. Damned if the old timer would finish by the time he walked from the stern to the bow. The young pup would have to go back and forth a couple times to clean up the mess. This is NOT learned from a book. This is NOT learned by assumption. This is NOT learned by bad example.

Pay attention to the experience. Not only will it make your life, job, easier; it may save your life. You don’t have to ‘run around on deck’ to get the job done. But THINK about it. Do what is required and necessary. Don’t waste time doing things twice.

I had a young firestorm deckhand. He would routinely paint 10 or 15 gallons of deck paint a watch in summer. The other deckhand, an old duffer would struggle to get through 5. But you should have seen the quality of the paint job. The young guy’s paint job looked as if a freakin tornado went through. Splatter, Non skid, (or forgotten nonskid) sometimes forgotten hardener, messy paint locker, rollers forgotten about etc etc etc. But the old timer had 5 gallons applied, rolled right to the edges. No splatter. ALL paint equipment cleaned up, stowed, paint locker shipshape, and guess who I would have rather had as a teacher?

One excellent crew I had was asking how the Moran guys could throw a heaving line up the vertical side of a ship and literally hit the Monkey’s Fist inside a chock three, four or five deck up. My response was “Practice” Soon they were all out on the barge practicing. Almost each and every new Deckhand, and Cadet I have had always look at me as if to say: “Of course, I KNOW that, Duh.” Few actually get off their ass and DO IT. Show me a deckhand who actually perfects his craft, and I will introduce you to the next Mate you will be working for. But, keep assuming, and doing ‘just enough’ and You will be the [U]next[/U] previous Deckhand. If you want to excel, take the time to read. Study. And I DON’T mean the freaking XboxGame thing!

Unfortunately, “professional deckhands” are hard to come by these days, soon to be extinct from modern day tugboating.

When I was a kid in the mid to late 70’s, I rode on the local harbor tugs of the Baker-Whiteley and Curtis Bay Towing Co’s, learning on deck with the 2 deckhands that had been decking for 35 or 40 years. I couldn’t imagine better teachers.

We still did a lot of stern line and make fast work. Moving dead ships around the various shipyards, coal scow and lighter shifting jobs too. Of course, there were mostly single screw boats around, Curtis Bay having the only twin screw, 3300hp boats in the harbor. Baker-Whiteley was the place to see it all and learn.

They also showed me the importance of getting your job done, which did not mean just handling lines. Sanitary, chipping, painting, wash downs, making and hanging fenders and even making a pot of coffee. Only after I had a done my “chores” was I allowed to visit the wheelhouse or maybe even get to steer for a few minutes.

It was a wonderful experience for a kid that WANTED to work on tugboats and I often think of those old guys that broke me in when I am driving my 140,000 barrel tug & tankbarge around or when I get those rare opportunities to perform the duties of pilot around my way.

What is to become of this modern day tugboating when the professional deckhands are no longer aboard?

I understand both of the previous posts, but you both moved up.
Neither of you were professional deckhands.
Why was it okay for you to upgrade, but you bemoan the fact that some other guy doesn’t want to work on deck for 30 or 40 years.
What am I missing?

Is it that professionalism is lacking in the deck department?
Whose fault is that?
If you can’t train or manage your crew, maybe the problem is in the leadership.

100% correct seadog! I didnt want to be a deckhand for 30 years making $200 or so a day. Im showing my deckhand what i know and he needs practice but he does a good job for a guy with less than a year in it.

The reason there are fewer professional deckhands is that the companies do not value them. The salaries are far too low now in relation to other opportunities with better working conditions. There is no job security, There is a big difference between a professional deckhand and a boat cook, but too many companies want the hands to be both. There are too many company safety and social rules that micro manage a deckhands life. No fishing, no knife, can’t ever go ashore for a couple hours, etc., etc., etc. Also, related to the lack of job security, there are too many high tech company physicals and fitness tests that can turn a relatively minor injury or illness into a career ending problem.

In some places the companies have loaded up the boats with the absolutely lowest wage recent immigrants and “boat trash” that they can find.

Again, to the companies, a deckhand is just a warm body (that can pass the physical) and will put up with the companies shit for very low wages. they just don’t value deckhands.

I’ve got to agree with you there tug. I’d have to say that at least part of the problem with companies not seeing any value in deckhands is the line of AB’s out of most office’s doors. Most of my deckhands have been bitching non stop the past few months about getting paid less than other companies. But it’s supply and demand, why give the employees you are least invested in a raise when there is two knocking on the door for every one that quits. Never mind that none of the three know what dipping an eye means…

This was written to try to put out into the open the issue of why and how there is a loss in Deckhand professionalism. I can only instill good work habits in someone who HAS a good work ethic, someone who IS motivated, someone who actually has a good head on their shoulders. Too many guys out there have a shitty work ethic, and when you bring this up all of a sudden I am the asshole for critiquing it. At my age I am becoming less and less tolerant of such antics. Yeah, I can work with almost anyone. I can make sure the job gets done. I can do it safely. But, I SEE the BS artists for who and what they are.

Many Deckhands are more concerned with when the ‘movie’ is coming on, or when we will be back in cell phone range instead of actually doing their job, doing it ONCE, and doing it right.

Reading the last three sentences of the OP is the key.

This is not how motivated I was as a deckhand 30 years ago. But while that was brought up, I do recall being brought in to the Galley with the other two deckhands there. The second Mate was there as a referee.

I was accused of: “doing everything on deck” to try to make the other two deckhands look bad!
Of course my response as a brash 21 year old was: “I am not making you look bad, You are doing that all by yourself.” But that ended the bitching!

There are still good hands out there. For me being in my late 20’s I see a lot of younger guys come on the boat who seem to feel entitled and don’t want to earn their way into the wheelhouse. When I starting working on tugs as a kid the only way to get into the wheelhouse was to do every shitty job on the boat and do it to perfection. With a lot of new guys they are all in a race for the $, which is fine but some don’t want to take the time to learn how to do things the right way first. Just my 2 cents.

Yeah Cappy. Im gonna print this out and post in the galley hoping the crew will take notice. Thanks for posting.

ha i did alot of double work this last trip(being my first), doing things messy, plowing though things hoping everyone will see how good i was just to realize that slower was better actually in some cases, i learned this and next trip will slow down just a bit!

A poor workman complains about his tools. Train your crew up.

The best tug operators and mates are the guys who spent a while on deck 5-10 years roughly. My opinion Shit a mate on tugs is a glorified deckhand really. You have to know how everything works to have efficient guys in the wheelhouse. Sad to see it going away. You can definitely see the difference in guys who actually worked on deck to guys who spent year or so jumping thru hoops to Get up to the wheelhouse. Do I blame them hell no! That’s the way the industry has gone.

In the West Coast style of tugboating, I agree that a mate is more of a bosun once you are inside the sea bouy. The company figures that the captain can train just about any deckhand to be a watch standing mate outside the sea buoy.

If a deckhand will put up with the company way of doing things and how the company treats him, from the company’s point of view, he has the most important qualification for being a mate.

The OP is correct in the lack of professionalism. The root cause is much, much deeper.
It is NOT restricted to boats, it’s across American society.

Insert ANY profession into the mix, and the observation holds true across the board.

Tru dat… But there are few other professions where my life can depend upon such slovenlyness.

The tool analogy holds true. Especially when someone shows up with MAC tools, craftsman, or Chinese made crap from harbor freight. There is a difference between the inherent quality of the tool itself. There is only so much ‘polishing’ possible. This is NOT about all deckhands, but ones who aspire to heights above where they should be concerned. Maybe later. Maybe in a year. Maybe in 10 years. But they need to know there are different levels of competence. And as a Deckhand in all likelihood they probably aren’t the most astute judge. YET.

The tool analogy is quite appropriate. Some people don’t even know that there IS a difference in tool quality. They just ASSUME, hey, I am the same as them, so I deserve the same they have. Not so.

[QUOTE=lemurian;78611]A poor workman complains about his tools. Train your crew up.[/QUOTE]

I am hardly a “poor workman” complaining about my tools.

I try to show them the right way, but most have that glazed over look in their eyes when I teach them the basics like right handed turns on the bitts or even how to do proper sanitary. It reminds me of the old saying about those needing help with drug or alcohol addiction; you have to want to help yourself. I can’t force you to get clean or in this case, force them to want to learn how to do their jobs correctly.

Frankly, I’m burned out from the constant turnover and doing the deckhand’s job from the wheelhouse. Even when you get a good prospect, they learn a little and move on to other outfits for better dough or get transferred to other boats. Running your own personal deckhand school gets very old after a while.

I only see the situation getting worse as more and more ATB’s are added to the various fleets. Deckhands will simply become sea-going janitors, as traditonal towing skills are no longer employed. That I wouldn’t mind so much if they choose to be good, sea-going janitors and do their jobs in a professional manner.

If today’s deckhands want to move up into either the wheelhouse or go into the engine room, I don’t have a problem with that. Just lose the attitude and learn your job on deck before you think you’re ready to sit in the big chair and do my job.

A poor workman complains about his tools.

This comment is a riff on an old saying. Hard to convey that it was meant tongue in cheek by tapping on the keyboard.
I’ve had a new guy to train every hitch for over a year. The academy grads have been the least experienced. And motivated. The last guy took to hiding from me during watch. One exchange: “Mop the galley deck.” Reply: “I did that yesterday.” Hmm. I try to become more like the Honey Badger, and count the rare successes whenever they occur.

[QUOTE=lemurian;78611]A poor workman complains about his tools. Train your crew up.[/QUOTE]

Yes but it’s also the small, easy and simple things that are forgotten. I can’t tell you how many stickers and signs are askew on my rig. How long does it take to line up a sticker so that it’s affixed parallel, or even close to parallel, to the deck? This is something you learn how to do in kindergarden!

Then when I made a point of telling the maintenance department about the problem they go and order a half dozen carpenters levels. When I tell them why that won’t work they get defensive and p-o’d.

Yes this is a pet peeve of mine but only because it shows ever visitor, including USCG inspectors and new rig hands, that our rig has a culture of sloppiness.

I’ve never understood the whole lazy mentality for one reason IT LOOKS BORING AS SH!T.

Sitting around waiting for orders, making a 2 hour job stretch to last all day, taking 1 hour shit breaks, staring at a video game for hours on end, etc. These all sound to me like evil forms of mind numbing torture.

I’ve always worked hard at learning my trade for two reasons. It makes the day go by more enjoyably and it leads to better job opportunities (more $$$).