When people ask what you do for a living

So, when I am home and I go out to do whatever my daily life away from the ship leads me to doing that day, I inevitably run into someone who ends up in conversation and will ask me: “What do you do?”

When I first entered the maritime field I thought that this would be an easy thing to tell people. Now, I have learned that I would just rather lie to them and give them some mundane job that everyone understands. As soon as I tell them that I am a Mate in the maritime industry, it leads to so many follow up questions. “What is that?” “You work on a charter boat? ( I live in a tourist coastal town so there are lots of charter boat guys here.)” “Oh you mean like tug boats?” “You must travel the world and see all kinds of exotic places!” “Barges?” and every other string of questions you can imagine!

I have yet to find someone who knows what a Mate is. Also, in my industry (Oil field) the actual job difference in the captains and the mates is pretty blurred. Though I know that in other industries it is not this way.

People think that their is some hidden romance in this industry. Possibly before my time there was but now I think we all pretty much do the same things, get phone calls and get answers from the office as to what you should eat that day for lunch… hahah. Most people that I talk to think we are either like Captain Ron, sailing wherever the wind takes us or possibly like Jack Sparrow and we have this free spirit to roam the seas, going port to port vacationing!

The one that really gets me going is when I end up meeting a charter boat captain that tries to tell me he understands the struggles of dealing with the USCG or how hard the tests are to get his OUPV. How rough and treacherous the 15’ seas he was in last week with 23 foot boat were (especially when I know the seas were 4 to 6 at best).

What is your experience with this? Most of you have been doing this much longer than I have so I would be interested in your stories!

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I usually simply say ‘I work on boats.’ I’ve gotten extremely cryptic and evasive since I"ve gotten older. I guess the romance has been gone for a while. If the person that asked me what I do seems legitimately interested, then I’l go into more detail.


Yeah, I feel like people get more interested. Also, I never know whether to call them ships or boats.

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My stock answer is a work on a tug out of NY. Most people assume it’s an assist tug. So I enlightene them and tell them it is not. If they truly seem interested I will tell them a few stories. My most memorable tales only get shared with shipmates.

I mainly get the "fishing boats? " nope, ships… “like, tug boats?” No, like a ship… "like a barge? " no, like a f@#&ing ship… “ohhhh…”

I assume they are lost at that point and I can’t really describe it more clearly than a ship…


“Soooo like you work on like a cruise ship?”

I usually just tell them I’m a gas station attendant. They look at me with distgust and the convo is usually over pretty fast.


Gotta love the fishing charter guys that get offended when you don’t call them CAPTAIN.


I have learned over the years just keep it simple, it’ s usually just small talk. The people that ask, they really don’t give a sh… anyways.

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Haha I see them on the news and at tournaments all the time calling each other captain… kills me. Introduce themselves as captain to people

I bought an outboard engine from a guy who introduced himself to me as “captain Davey”. When I met him I asked what tonnage and what he did as a captain. He looked at me confused and said “oh no, captain like cap’n… you know, like captain crunch?” I just looked at him in disbelief…

That’s what I get for living in a tourist area…


I wish DSD could type - but NO lay off the keyboard.

On my immigration forms I put “Mariner”. I sometimes tell folks that I’m a federally tested and credentialed knot tier.


Drive boats, drink coffee, and tell bad jokes.


Assassin for hire is good for explaining the constant coming and going. The old standby is sound man/boom mic operator for a porno company.


I tell people I work on research boats (true) like on National Geographic or the movie Titanic and they kinda sorta get it until I tell them my numero uno job above everything else is to make sure the shitters flush.

Because making sure the shitters work really is more important than the next big underwater discovery. I’m not joking and I wish I was.


The running joke among my friends is that the CIA is still trying to figure out which watch-list I belong on. Lot of mysterious one-way flights purchased on short notice, some from countries I never flew into.

As an engineer, I’ve never really had a problem getting the basic description across. “I sail around on big ships and try to keep them running. When they break, I try to fix them. When they light on fire, I try to extinguish them.”…

…And if I’m feeling destructively honest, I can always substitute sit for sail and shitters for ships.

As long as I’m not the “best boy” on a gay porn set.


Gay porn pays big…

I thought that you did NOT work in the industry. . . so you really have nothing to say. . .


I know when I was sailing I faced the same issues. One question I got all of the time after I told someone I sailed, was, “Where are you stationed?”, like I was assigned to a base. At least in most port towns, many people had a little idea of what it is I was doing. Outside of that? Meh, I would just fake it.

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When I tell people here I’m a mariner they usually ask if I know so and so, it seems everyone knows someone either active or retired. Course you can’t swing a dead cat in this part of Maine without hitting a fishermen.