When you spend eight months of the year on a boat, thousands of miles away from your family and friends, in a small space with a group of usually pissed off people, well this thought comes up. Either you are just letting your heart rate return to normal after a foggy passage out of Fourchon during shrimp season, or someone outside of the industry asks you “how did you (I) end up out there?”
For many mariners there are really only a few answers to that question. The most popular being money. The simple fact of the matter is you can make a lot of money in a short amount of time out here. Even at the entry level, it certainly pays better to clean the toilets on my boat than at most office buildings. Whether they are a guy down on his luck who took a hitch offshore to make rent or pay for a unexpected kid, and then never went back to working ashore. Or the academy grad who had an uncle in high school that retired at 55 with the money he made on ships. At the end of the day money is a huge motivator for this life. At the end of the day it allows a man with little more than a high school eduction to either live like a playboy, or provide very well for his family. So am I out here for the money? To a certain extent, being well compensated sure helps, however that isn’t what led me here. It isn’t a primary motivator if you will.
There are also a lot of people out here, primarily because they didn’t really fit in doing anything else. That is they would probably end up in jail or rehab in an office setting, from over exposure to “normal people”. The fact of the matter is working on boats, ships, barges etc, you meet a lot of odd freaking people. Some are interesting, some are a bit sad, and some are so aggravating you want to run them up the mast with the bravo flag. The people you meet at sea may have a lot in common with the people you would meet in a remote logging camp, or driving a truck, or manning a research station at the south pole. At least the non scientists at the south pole, the scientists are generally smart enough to stay in an environment full of naive co-eds. My girlfriend is a licensed therapist and social worker and we often joke that should she ever get a PHD, her thesis should be a case study of the personality disorders you encounter working at sea. So am I a nutcase not suitable to be let out in public with out supervision? Not quite, while a cubicle doesn’t appeal to me, I did think about becoming a naval architect or even a history teacher.
One group that you may think is out here are adventure junkies, adrenaline addicts. I’m sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t a large budget hollywood film. It is often said that working on boats is 99% boredom mixed in with 1% sheer terror. If things were exciting on a regular basis we would be piss poor at our jobs. I’m sad to say but for the most part the era of layovers in exotic ports, and high seas adventure is over. This is a business after all. So I don’t have potential for a red bull sponsorship. If i wanted more excitement I would have learned to play piano and find a job at a brothel on the wrong side of the tracks.
So why I am out here? On a boat for 294 days a year (according to 2012’s sea letter). If it isn’t personality disorder, money, excitement or lack of a better idea? That’s a easy question really; quite simple its love. I love running boats, ever since I was a little kid. I grew up in my dads boat yard and most of my childhood memories include the cockpit of a sailboat or wheelhouse of customers boat we were delivering. I’ve never been able to get enough of paddling kayaks, shifting yachts with the work skiff, anything salt water related.
So even when I am waist deep in paperwork, a deckhand has threatened to kick my ass for being a 12 year old punk, and the office is calling. I still love running boats.
The office view certainly helps.