Wanting to switch

I’m currently an OS (hawspiper) aboard a Great Lakes freighter. Any of you who have been on one can likely agree that, in all honesty, it kind of sucks. I understand ocean sailing is an entirely different working experience, and I am really itching to try it out, although I’m still new to sailing in general. It seems to be just as hard to get your foot in the door of ocean sailing as it was to get a maritime job in general, so I’m wondering what my best bet is. I know I need to get my STCW before anything else and I already have my passport. Should I go to a union hall and wait for an opportunity that way? (I signed up with SIU when I was hired). I’ve considered going to Piney Point as well but I’m uncertain about it. Maybe some of you more experienced fellas will tell me that I have a great job and would be making a huge mistake by trying to leave it; maybe someone here’s been in the same situation, or has done both G.L. and ocean and can tell me which they liked better…let’s hear your input.

First you have to learn the lingo …

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They are hiring OS’s in the GOM. One big player has their own training center and that is an avenue for the STCW training.

Having been through MSC training, ECO’s training center is surprisingly very high quality and the instructors care about the standards. Overall great training center. Taking rigging, huet, and some other classes there you learn a lot.

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It’s really not that much different, I’ve sailed both Great Lakes and oceans. Just remember, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.


What specifically do you think would be different about an OS job deep sea? I’ve sailed Lakes a little, deep sea, and supply boats and the OS is one of the jobs that probably differs the least.


I’ve sailed as a Mate with three of the companies on the GL. I’ll willing to bet you’re with Grand River right now. That’s a shit show right now. If you want to better your career make the move to one of the Key Lakes vessels or consider going over to Central Marine Logistics or Interlake. Much better quality of life over there. If you have any questions about sailing GL, send me a PM I’ll be happy to answer what I can.

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If he is SIU, he doesn’t have much to pick from on the Lakes. Crazy times…at least GRN kept their schedules. 60, 90, or more without a vaca is nuts.

Before anything else, you should consider what “sucks” about the job you are doing as an OS on a ship operating on the Lakes. Now consider what might be different on a ship out at sea?

The task of cleaning toilets, mopping the decks, etc and the position of being at the bottom rung of the career ladder is much the same anywhere. Location might change the ‘ambiance’ of the job, but the job is mostly the same everywhere you go.

As others have commented on here, maybe change the company you work for (??) That could be an immediate fix. But the location … as an ordinary … I don’t think will change much about the OS job itself. Consider being on a tanker in ballast in the Gulf of Alaska in winter. Groovy. Toilets pretty much the same there as anywhere else.

To be clear, I’ve sailed as an ordinary and also, I even did a few weeks as a Wiper in the E/R. I hated that. But was happy (even at the time) to see what THAT was like working in the E/R 12 hours a day. i learned a lot. I mostly learned, I did not want to follow that career path. I have MUCH more respect for engineers specifically due to that experience. But that wasn’t for me.


Growing pains. Find your spot,move forward. Don’t bitch about where you’ve been. Hopefully , you remember that.