Trying to get to 3rd

Greetings, all. I’m currently an AB-Special and 100-Ton N.C. Master, looking at my options for getting my 3rd Mate U.L. I had previously planned to hawsepipe it, but SUNY’s ITM + 3rd program is looking better and better to me. I like that I’d be taking all the licensing classes from professors who know their stuff–rather than just studying the material online (gawd, how I hate online courses) on my own time. Also, the value of a solid alumni network and industry contacts would likely be great. And a Master’s in ITM would place me on, ahem, solid ground if I ever did decide to bury my anchor. So, I’m hoping that some of you will weigh in on the pros and cons of getting a 3M UL from SUNY vs. hawsepiping? Thanks a million.

Is the reason you have AB-Special and not limited or unlimited because you only have about 12 months of sea time? If so, you’ll need 2 more years for 3rd Mate, which will might take you 3 (calendar) years to get. That makes the time difference about the same for either method.

How’s your finances?

Student loans in the US are a brutal con job and for some a permanent albatross around their neck. If you plan on using them, make sure you work part time while in school to keep them paid down as much as you can. There is no guarantee you will get that magic job out of the academy that will allow you to pay your loans down in 2-3 years as many did in the increasingly distant past.

Maybe you already have your own funding secured. In that case definitely go to SUNY.

If you don’t want to go the loan route and aren’t already set cash wise, hawsepipe it.

Finances should never be minimized, but it is only one factor of many.
First, allow me to congratulate you on wanting to continue to advance.
Second, the job market is tough and in the US will likely be getting tougher for junior 3M. If you are already working FT as an AB, that is something else to factor in.
As you mentioned, the wider picture and network I developed at SUNY has served me fairly well. Even though I have come ashore.
Good Luck with your decision.

The hawsepipe part is more complicated than just opting for it if you can’t afford or don’t want to go academy. You should also consider and plan how you are going to get to 3rd Mate via the hawsepipe. Third Mate has specific sea time requirements, including time as an AB, and time on vessels over 1,600 GRT. Also, to work anywhere but inland domestic waters and the Great Lakes, you will need to meet STCW, and that entails quite a few courses. So you need to consider if you’ll need to pay out of pocket for those courses, and how you will fit them into your work schedule.

Goon input from all, but he said specifically he wanted 3M AGT, and wanted pros and cons of academy vs hawsepipe. I gave him my priority pros and cons of academy vs hawespipe

Thanks, all, for taking the time to reply and give me something to chew on. @jdcavo, I can’t pretend to your level of CFR knowledge, but I believe that I’d need another 1.5 years of sailing on appropriate vessels, after a few STCW upgrades–does the 180 days of watch-keeping requirement mandate RFPNW?–in order to test for 3M. And that’s assuming that I’m ready to take the test. I’ve got about 5 years of sea-time, but most of that is on <100 GRT vessels, two years of that is on rivers, and one is on small lakes on private sailboats. I could probably upgrade to a bigger AB ticket, but haven’t gotten my ducklings in a row. A big part of my conundrum is that I want to know things like stability calculations and celestial navigation by heart, and I don’t think that just doing a quick course or some self test-prep will give me mastery. I’ve always thrived in an academic environment, and unfortunately, I’ve never really found a mentor or sea-daddy to take the time to teach me everything I want to know. I believe that a concerted study, with nothing to distract me, would be just the thing I need. Initially I wanted to hawsepipe it because, with all the stupid enthusiasm of youth, I believed that I could learn everything on the job. I now know that to be impossible. You’ve gotta hit the books at some point, and I want to hit them hard.

Financing a few years at SUNY would definitely mean loans, but that doesn’t really bother me. I’ve never found anything to be remotely as interesting or suitable for me as seafaring, and I will probably do it my whole life. I don’t plan on retiring, but instead, building a vessel from the Greenheart Project’s open-source plans and sailing a packet service in some remote archipelago. I’ll someday just disappear, a la Joshua Slocum. Golf courses and rest homes scare the fuck out of me, and domestic life bores me to tears. I guess I’m trying to say that, all things considered, I’d rather be in debt and satisfied with life than debt-free and miserable.

I want to have mastery of the art and science of seafaring, not just a build my license. I think SUNY is probably the way to go for me.

I see that Grand River Navigation is advertising for ABs. It’s Great Lakes unlimited tonnage seatime that counts toward 3rd Mate the same as oceans seatime.

The Great Lakes is one of the few places that you can sail as AB on unlimited tonnage vessels without STCW and RFPNW. Getting STCW for an AB is not that difficult or expensive, and it doesn’t take an excessive amount of time.

AB OSV is easy to get. It only requires something like 4 months of 12 hour day seatime, and the OSV companies are hiring again. It’s unlimited tonnage seatime. To actually sail as an AB OSV you’ll need STCW.

I’m not sure about now, but a few years ago, under 100 ton seatime counted toward AB Unlimited.

Under 100 ton seatime does not count toward 3rd Mate.

You ought to get whatever you can for licenses right now. Seatime while holding a license sometimes counts toward other licenses, where it does not count for the unlicensed. Right now, you can probably get Master 100 tons Inland, you might be able to get Mate 200 or 500.

Going to an academy is well worth the time, effort, and expense. It’s a much better route for 90% of guys than trying to hawsepipe. In the 21st Century, a college degree will definitely pay off, especially in engineering.

If I were a young guy today interested in going to an Academy, I would major in engineering, and if possible Naval Architecture, and become a third engineer. I would sail for awhile as an engineer. Then, if I still had my heart set on being a 3rd Mate, I would go back to the academy for a graduate degree / license program that includes 3rd Mate.

Over the years I have known a few Academy grad 3rd Engineers that were tugboat Captains. A couple of them were tugboat owners. I’ve also known 3rd Engineers that were fishing boat and yacht captains.

I’ve met a lot of Academy grads who didn’t like sailing deep sea and switched to tugboats, yachts, fishing, etc., or simply got shore jobs.


This guys videos are on point.

I met up with a Hornbeck supervisor for the food orders of all the boats. He told me his son just got out of school $100,000+ and had to take a AB job on a tug because nothing was open for him right now. Also, A lot of people say to go the engine route as you will have way more jobs open to you how ever if you want to go the bridge that is on you. I think your best bet would be a school because you are going to need 1080 days on boats bigger then 1600T or you are going to get that restriction. In any case good luck. I am knocking out my 3rd classes at MPT but i got all my Sea time out of the Navy. If you are young enough that would be a much better path. Or you could get your AB license under you and keep trying for MSC. Shit I bet you could get close to 1080 days in one hitch with msc and have the money for most of the 3rd classes you would need to take at mpt. Cheap too with crew housing and them never canceling a class.

It’s 1080 days TOTAL, only half of that needs to be over 1,600 GRT to avoid a tonnage restriction. And, 3 years straight on a ship…?

Oh I forgot msc works 8 hours a day not 12 hours. Disregard i am retarded. But being msc it might take that long to get relief.

Go to school. I’ve never met a hawsepiper who in all honesty told me he/she was glad they didn’t go to school and I never met a 3rd that graduated from a school that said they wished they’d been a hawsepiper. If there are no shipping jobs available and you have to look for a land based job most folks don’t know what a 3rd mate is but they do know what a college education is.


Most people think that a third mate is some type of cabin boy.

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The problem with 3rd mates is it is hard for shore based employers to correlate the skills required on ship to those required on land. A 3rd really doesn’t have much to put on a resume compared to 1st or master that can point out the financial responsibilities and people they managed. Engineers can be understood by shore based employers. A 3rd engineer can at least say, “I can spin wrenches and fix things.” That may or not be true but it resonates with employers.