Value of Sail / Outdoor Training for Mariners

An interesting fact of the company: Many of the mates are from Maine Maritime. Fantastic school. Superb students. Of course, exposed to the entire spectrum of the merchant marine.

They come in through theSummer Mariner Program. We have our pick from a list of applicants. Always hard to choose three people from such great candidates. Sure, the money is great for an internship. BUT…

Part of the program requires the trainees to row 130 miles over a week in an open boat, no motor, no electronics, no GPS, camping ashore every night with grizzlies and cougars as neighbors.

Most mariners wouldn’t do that for any amount of money. The shirkers, malingerers, and layabouts would never think of it. Only the most driven and hard working MM academy students select themselves for employment here. Which is the point.

Later, with other internships they go else elsewhere. Other companies. And yet we have plenty enough who apply here after graduation.

Why? Because they like the work. Don’t overthink it. I read in these threads about government owned companies in meltdown, and problems with Jax ABs, and companies with severe hiring problems. And yet given our outlandish hiring tests we’re doing fine.

If you want to join the military and keep your fingernails clean, join Space Force. If you want to get your hands dirty, join the Marines. Which one has the rep?


What kind of disability/ life insurance coverage do you offer for those participating in this adventure?

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In recent years, we have had a few coop students from Maine Maritime. At least a couple of them had done previous coops at Coastal. That was a big factor in why we chose them over other coop students.

I pleasantly recall a young AB that came to us a few years ago from Coastal. He’d never been on a tug before. The only reason he was hired was because he had worked at Coastal. Within two months he was one of the best tugboat ABs that I’d seen in a long time. That reminds me, I need to try to get that kid back. He’s undoubtedly a good Mate by now.

There are a lot of older guys around in Alaska who have worked at Coastal (before cargo was palletized) or at its predecessor, Western Pioneer. Tough, strong, hard workers with cargo know how. Good men.


That’s funny, but the priorities are misplaced.

Coastal’s training program in beautiful British Colombia sounds a lot like a mini version of Hurricane Island Outward Bound School’s expensive tuition 28 day leadership course on the Maine Coast.

Outward Bound is another source of good mariners.

This is the kind of thing that the Academies should be doing for freshmen orientation.

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I have minimal experience with Outward Bound but itn’t that a diversion program for young criminals? It sure was in Boston years ago. A few townies in my acquaintence growing up did it to avoid being tried as an adult for assorted felonies or avoid the being given the Enlist or do 18 months option… Point being, if my impression is correct, MSC is already having a magical time dealing with Diverted felons.

We almost did that at Maine Maritime Academy a few years ago. We were building out a program in cooperation with Outward Bound but the Provost shot it down for no apparent reason. We even had external funding. Some of us are trying to improve maritime education and training but there is a lot of resistance to making changes that produce better mariners.

For what? What does this offer an unlimited tonnage graduate? If I’m rowing a boat and navigating by Cnav/Tnav I’ve got way bigger issues going on, namely what happened to my ship and why am I not in a covered, motored life boat?

Kids can do outward bound or try to get into CTI’s program if they want an experience like that. Or they can just do it on their own time. Academies have enough requirements to graduate with a license already, no need to add a bunch of extra bullshit to say “I did something hard that no one has to do anymore”


Hurricane Island Outward Bound School

It’s an outdoor leadership education program. It teaches confidence, self-reliance, teamwork, leadership, survival, and basic nautical skills. It’s also an incredible bonding experience for a team that trains and perseveres together.

It would be a very strong start to four years at an Academy.

Why would Coastal Transportation be spending money on a similar program for its new employees if it didn’t make them better employees and enhance profits?

A quick look at the Outward Bound website shows courses focused on kids 16-18. I don’t see the courses that they use to have for adults and corporates executives.Things change to fit the times.

Like a lot of private schools, 911, the Great Recession, and Covid were very difficult times for them.

I’ve never heard anything about an Outward Bound at risk youth program, but maybe they had one at some point in time. If so, it wasn’t their flagship program.

The Outward Bound alumni includes a lot impressive and successful people. A lot of good sailors too. They have a strong alumni network.


Agreed. This career isn’t about being the toughest or getting bragging rights. CTI’s little adventure program seems to be more about leveraging Stockholm syndrome on employees to reduce turnover without raising pay or benefits.


Coastal is paying top money in Seattle. I’m not aware of anyone paying more.

They only require a license restricted to fishing vessels under 1600 tons. No STCW required either.

They are not a union unlimited tonnage steamship company. They have a different niche.

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Exactly my point.

Deep-sea the new third mate is essentially in a training position.

Different requirements on a vessel running in pilot waters with the captain also standing a watch. Mate is expected to be able to a lot more in that case.


So the mate should be able to row the vessel through pilotage waters? If the vessel loses power the mate should be able to carry on via Tnav and Cnav without calling the old man? Put her up on the beach and light a fire for the crew? The captain’s still the captain, I doubt he’s telling me the mates “don’t call me you should be able to handle everything yourself”

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Can we split this part of the topic off to another thread?

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It’s not about a specific set of skills - it’s about developing sea sense. The CG does sail training on the Bark Eagle and the Navy also does sail training.

My first job as mate was on an Aleutian freighter. Alaskan fisherman more or less just expect the mate to know how to navigate and handle the ship, or at least be able to very quickly learn… The ones I sailed with did anyway.


Nobody gets it until they have done it. All classroom navigation training is theory. You can pass it all and still not be a good deck officer.

But the SMP removes all bullshit. In the SMP errors of calculation or judgement have immediate personal consequences.

The fundamentals of IP navigation requires accurate tidal predictions, respect for the force of currents and wind, and knowledge of the tidal gates of the waterway.

When we get trainees they may know how to calculate time of slack water. But they don’t know what the numbers mean, not really. When we are done with them they will never forget what will happen to their ship and their crew if they get that prediction wrong.

The trainees do all the planning and navigation. The CTI skipper only interferes when death or serious injury are at stake. If the navigator for the day screws up a tidal prediction then the entire crew suffers. Maybe an additional day of rowing in rain because they couldn’t get past a tidal gate before darkness. That navigator will never forget that mistake.

Get caught under sail in a squall? The navigator for the day should have selected the bad weather bolt-holes for just such an occurrence. Did they reckon in the wind direction from the weather report? Do it right and you’ll sleep in a comfortable camp. Screw up and everyone spends a sleepless night on a tiny rock, clutching the tent to keep it from collapsing in a gale, and taking turns making sure the boat isn’t swept away with a five knot current…

There is no bullshit in sail-and-oar travel. Such travel is fundamentally inefficient. You are completely at the mercy of wind and current. Which is the point. Every movement of a sail-and-oar boat has to be carefully planned ahead of time. The penalty for mistakes is sweat, sore muscles, sleepless nights, and abject humiliation in front of your crew. It’s not a multiple choice question with 70% passing.

Fuck up, everyone suffers. No faster way of learning.

If, after you get your license, you work on a ship where a pilot comes aboard at every port and you can lean on them for navigation, such intense learning doesn’t matter. There is no consequence for ineptitude.

But if you work on a tug or a fish tender on the IP you had better drive the key lessons of piloting deep into your bones and never forget them, because YOU are the pilot.

When an AB comes up to me and says they want to be promoted to mate I tell them I don’t want to hear it until they can answer this question with a single word: What is the difference between a mate and an AB? The SMP drives the answer to that question into the trainee’s gut in just seven days.


Except it’s done by a company with top pay, benefits, and training. Try again.

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That’s sad this should be required for all. It’s a great learning experience. Makes you a competent Mariner


The CTI program is top notch. I would recommend it to anyone seriously considering improving their skills as a Mariner. I would like to steal some of your people.

CTI guys are no joke. Do y’all load some cargo with a boom and stay too?


Yes. 4 out of 5 of the boats use yard and stay.