During the last gulf “bust” after the turn of the century I got disgusted and got in a big truck for awhile to wait it out.
Around '06/'07 my phone started ringing off the hook. The job offers and day rates were too good to resist.
I parked my big truck and went back offshore to get my recency back then moved on to “trip pilot”.
Trip Pilot wages were through the roof. There were not enough hot bodies with a license to go around.
I got all I could while the getting was good but inevitably the economy took a dump and we went into another “bust” around '09/'10.
Things got so bad I had to go back to work as a deckhand just to keep food on the table. I’m not proud.
Now I am noticing a troubling trend for some.
I just got brought into a company as a regular towboat pilot to be groomed for a pilot or relief captain job.
I wish I could say it was my excellent boat handling skills and blah, blah that got me hired but the cold hard truth is all the older fellas that got 20 plus years on me are having a hell of a time renewing.
The HR man is looking to hire on 5+ wheelmen this year not because business is good but because he is loosing wheelmen left and right to the “medical crackdown” by the puddle pirates.
We just lost one to body fat.
We lost another to sleep apniea.
The guy that is posting me has PAD so bad he hobles around the wheelhouse in severe pain. He is lucky. He doesn’t have to renew until 2014. He may have a stroke before then but he has until then before “Doc” ain’t gonna sign off on them legs.
The pilot on here looks like Dom Deluise. He is up for renewal and sweating bullets because he is so fat he can’t get in the top bunk.
Companies started “steersman” programs back when there were not enough wheelmen to go around. They managed to flood the industry and bring day rates back down but accidents and incidents have gone way up (from what I have heard through sea stories).
My captain knows he is gonna have to retire upon his next renewal and he is looking for a reliable successor. He is more than happy to pass on his knowledge if you are willing to listen.
He wants to know that he is leaving his boat in good hands when he hangs it up and his relationship with the owner is one that he also wants to make sure the company is not put in financial jeopardy by incompetent wheelmen talking a good game but causing claims.
I wish I could say the same for more old timers like him. A lot of the old timers don’t want to train you or pass on tricks of the trade because the have insecurity issues.
If you do your job to the best of your ability and cyoa, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to training the next generation of wheelmen.
Some of these fellas think they are training themselves out of a job so they will trash you to the office when you really don’t deserve it.
I am one of the lucky few that has managed to get on a vessel with an old timer that is facing facts.
Morale of the story…
I am gonna be makin what i was and then some very soon. Guys with health problems are dropping like flies and I am on my 3rd issue. I am finally starting to get some respect and I get more job offers by word of mouth now than replying to job postings.
Now I just have to learn another lesson from the “ol timers”.
Take care of your health like you take care of your boat!