Tug interest

I’m a former deckhand when I was in the Coast Guard and was wondering if my skill set would be useful on a tug job as I’m considering sailing again and would like to consider making some money doing that again. I’m curious about the business. Also would there be a way from me going to a seaman and advancing to like a tugboat mate and how does that work?

Do your due diligence and come back with some specific questions would be a good first step if you’re too lazy for that maybe Tugs or the maritime industry isn’t for you.

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Um… Not to sound like a smartass, but I specifically asked about advancement in the business. Do we not need reading comprehension skills when working on tugs? We did in the Coast Guard…

And I specifically stated do your due diligence you where in the coast guard one would think through osmosis you would have absorbed something.

As for your question how do you advance on a tug or any other vessel
1 Show up
2 Put in the time
3 Do a good job
4 Show interest
Lastly don’t be a smart ass the USCG has some career path information on there web page also all the information needed to answer your question of how to go from OS to Mate.

Some ex-USCG guys prove to be excellent deckhands, but it’s much much more work on tug.
Unless you have a lot of USCG seatime it will be a long path to mate.


Just google “tug jobs”.


Yes, your prior experience will help you get a job. Yes, deckhands do advance to mate positions evetually.

If you get a job just focus on doing your deckhand job well. Don’t even talk to other crew about advancing to mate until you have completed no less than one solid season as a good deckhand. It will take @5 years if all goes well. And that’s just to get the license, getting the job depends on your work performance and if there are any openings.


I started out on CG buoy tenders and worked my way up on tugs. And trust me it’s not unusual for coasties to have little knowledge of the commercial marine business outside or the MST rates. Call the national maritime center and have them send you an entry level packet and go to the website and read up. The CG looks good on a resume but it’s a different business for sure. I came up on the CG’s work boats so the transition was a little easier than if all of my experience was on the white hulls.

All my CG time was all on the white hulls, I worked a few tugs as mate, worked up to unlimited master.

I’m going to say 50%. Thinking about the enlisted guys that I worked with about half could probably switch over without too much problem.

It is an adjustment though. My first job at sea after getting out was with NOAA. On of my shipmates at the time would claim that NOAA was a half-way house for ex-coasties.

Former skill set helpful? Sure. Can’t hurt. Many recent academy grads have an academic knowledge but no practical. Not to disparage the grads because they at least had their shit together enough to graduate. You would, I assume, at least know how to make a line off to bitts.

Advancement? Depends on where you are in life. I agree that it will take at least 5 years before a QUALITY company considers promoting an AB to Mate, depending entirely upon you of course. ABs make a passable wage for a single guy (again, at a quality company) but if you’re currently putting kids through college, for example, it won’t be enough. FYI - a few of the good companies - including the one I work for - won’t even look at you for an AB job on an ATB unless you have an unlimited deck license (currently).

It was said earlier on this thread to contact the NMC for an info package. That’s good advice if you want to learn the specifics of what it takes to get the requisite licensing, endorsements, etc. Reading through it, you may be a little discouraged. STCW alone will keep you busy for a couple years on your time off. Big problem if you have young kids at home. Then there’s licensing - not hard but time-consuming to study. And no Capt. or Mate would want you to study on watch. Easy to say you could study off watch but, with a 6 and 6 watch rotation, that puts you at dangerous levels of sleep deprivation and you cannot sustain that. And studying at home requires complete devotion to the task.

I don’t mean to discourage you but the task ahead of you could be daunting. Again, if you’re further along in life, the risk/reward may not be in favor of going for it.

Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.

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A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time ready to work and learn with a good attitude.

Cooking skills, and mechanical skills make a big difference in hiring and advancement. Every crew wants a deckhand who is a good cook onboard. Most companies appreciate a cost effective deckhand/cook who knows how to shop and utilize leftovers.

The same can be said for a deckhand/engineer who fixes things.

There are “quality” small companies too, where progress is faster. I have seen green deckhands move up to mate in five years. I have seen experienced, hardworking ABs with a good attitude become mates as soon as they get their licenses.

At some companies being a good Tankerman is the fast track to becoming a mate.


In my experience, just about anyone with the proper credentials can get themselves hired, at least once. Just by being in the right place at the right time, and willing to do the hitch.

However staying employed is an entirely different matter.

Being a good ship mate is 50% of the job on a tug. Nobody wants to work with a lazy, stinky, dip chewing cigarette smoking bag of sh-- that doesn’t want to do anything. They will eventually run you off the boat. Guys that are conscientious, cook, clean and be clean usually fare better, even if they are not that good throwing lines.

I am also a former Coastie. My seatime there got me my first AB card, which in turn got me my first civilian ship job. Right place, right time, right card, and dumb enough to take the job. The ship needed an AB immediately for a trip to the Med and I walked through the door.

Good call!