Monthly Archives: January 2013

AB Complete

GREAT SUCCESS!  Today was the last day of the ABLE SEAMAN course.  There were two tests given with 50 questions each.  I passed with 92% (missed 4) on each one.  Reviewing the missed questions, there were a couple I really just guessed on, but more commonly I made a stupid mistake and either didn’t fully read the question or knew the answer and marked the wrong choice.  70% on each test was needed to pass.  After the testing was done, I was issued a certificate that will be presented to the Coast Guard when I turn in my paperwork, physical, applications, sea time, etc.  I will also take in my Basic Safety Training and Life Boatman certificates.

This course was taught by a retired 30 year vet of the Coast Guard, who also holds an unlimited master ticket.  He shared lots of sea stories that helped to tie into the material we were studying.  Everyone at Compass Courses was terrific, friendly and very helpful.  If you are looking for a place to take some courses, consider going here.

Here is a display set up at the school showing many types of safety gear.  Many of these are discontinued or out of date.  It is neat to see how some of these work without it “going off”.

Start of Able Seaman class

  ABLE SEAMAN (AB) Class this week.  Yesterday I arrived 30 minutes early, got registered and took a seat and then waited for everyone else to register.  It took about 45 minutes as they also had a 100T captain course going on upstairs and all of those students were also registering.

 Class finally started and we jumped right in with “Rules of the Road”.  Lucky for me, I’ve been exposed to all of this stuff before and I’ve been staying pretty active with it for the last few years.  The people who have never seen it before have the glazed look in their eyes.  The other students in our class come from a wide background of nautical experience.  Some were Ordinary Seaman, others were on small cruise ships, coastal freighters, commercial fishing, etc.  One guy was a communications officer on an MSC ship for three years, but he said there was no pathway for advancement from there, so he was back tracking to start over as deckhand.  None of his previous three years of sea time as comm officer would count towards anything!

  Four people in the class, were only there for Monday and 1/2 of Tuesday.  They were taking the RFPNW Course.  Of course I was sitting there learning / reviewing everything they had to, so I walked into the office and asked if I could pay the course fee and knock that course off my list (RFNPW is a course that will be on my list soon and I will need it sooner than later).  Unfortunately, the USCG doesn’t allow for that and I will have to come back at another time and take the first 1.5 days of the AB course again.  Govmint for ya.

The rest of today, we did line breaking strength, safe working loads, helm commands, etc.  I’m enjoying the lessons, but I always enjoy nautical stuff.

Here is an eye splice I made in class.  The hardest part was getting started correctly.  I used Animated Knots for reference showing step by step.

Signed up for courses!

  It took a little bit of doing, but I offically begin classes at Compass Courses in Edmonds, WA on Monday next week.  I talked with them a couple of different times and just before I signed up I decided to ask the professional mariners on the web forum GCaptain for any reviews of the school before I shelled out the money to an unknown enitity.  All of the reviews were very positite, in fact more than I expected.  So I called to sign up and got ahold of a very nice man with a thick Northeast Accent who was filling in by answering the phones.  He is normally an instructor at the school, but he said all of the normal office staff were on other temporary assignments and should return the next day.  That next day was yesterday and I called multpile times with not answer.  First thing this morning my phone rang and it was the office calling me back and appologizing for the delay.

  I signed up for Able Seaman, Basic Safety Training and Proficincey in Lifeboat Training.  These all look very interesting to me and I am excitied to get started.

Welcome to Blue Ocean Mariner

Welcome to Blue Ocean Mariner!

  Join in and follow my journey from an entry level Merchant Mariner to an experienced Merchant Mariner.  My goal is to become an USCG Licensed 1600GT Captain, Oceans.  Currently I am at the very beginning of the hawsepipe or ladder on my climb to captain.

  So here is a little bit about me and why I’m choosing to change careers at 42.  I grew up in Everett, WA and Puget Sound.  My dad always had a boat while I was growing up and I spent many days aboard cruising the San Juans Islands, fishing, crabbing, rowing our dinghy when my dad was working on our boat at the marina, etc.  This was the very beginning of my love of the sea and endured through this day.
  Once I had my own family and was able to, I bought my first boat.  I called it Green Lightning and she was a flat bottom, aluminum jet boat that I used on many of the local rivers and lakes for salmon, steelhead, trout and duck hunting.  I also used her in Puget Sound for crabbing and salmon fishing.  I had that boat for about 4 years before I sold it to a buddy and I purchased a 26′ offshore fishing boat.  We had many great trips to Neah Bay, the San Juan Islands and all over Puget Sound.  My business was really doing well and I had the 2 foot itis, so the 26′ went up for sale and I purchased a 28′ with twin diesel engines.  This boat really changed my perspective on boating and fishing.  We had a very able craft to take offshore reliably.  We learned how to tuna fish and spent many days per year chasing them off the Washington Coast. 

  During this time, I decided I would like to get my Captain’s License.  I had no use for one, I just wanted to study for and get one.  So I signed up for a local course and wetted my toe into the world of USCG Licensing, requirements, etc.  I found the courses challenging and rewarding and in 2009 I was issued my “first issue”, or my very first license, also known as a “ticket”.  One of the things I didn’t realize is that to keep your ticket active, is that every five years you must renew.  In order to renew, you must have at least 360 days of sea service (days at sea).  This is very easy for someone who works in a job like a charter captain, ferry, tug, ship, etc. but not for a guy like me who doesn’t do this for a living.

  About the same time that my ticket was issued, the US economy slowed way down and my business slowed way down.  I decided to fill in the gaps a little bit and get some side jobs on boats to make some extra money and to get sea time.  I found an add for a delivery captain who was making yacht deliveries along the West Coast.  I contacted him and soon was delivering yachts between Seattle and San Diego or vice-versa.  I gained allot of experience and was still able to do my other job by phone when we were holed up in remote port waiting out weather.

  In the spring of 2011, I had a friend that worked at the Everett Vessel Assist.  Vessel Assist works on water very similar to the way that AAA works for drivers on land.  He was moving to Utah, so I asked him to refer my name so I could take his position.  I slid right into the job he left and was the relief captain on a 26′ assistance tow boat.  When a boat go out for a day of fishing or cruising and breaks down, they call Vessel Assist and we come and tow them or otherwise assist them back to port.  Sometimes they are in no danger and are anchored or drifting and the weather in very nice.  Other times, they are in high winds, or on the rocks, or don’t have any idea where they are.  I loved towing in other boats and did very good with it but it is very part time. There are usually only about 1 or 2 calls per month during the winter.  On a busy summer weekend, there may be as many a 8 or 10 calls per day.  I am the relief captain so I probably won’t see a call again until spring or summer.

  So that brings us to today, where my business is flat, the sea is calling my name and over the horizon is where I want to be.  Through many hours on the Gcaptain website, I learned about what path options are available to get me to where I want to go.  I have earned enough sea time to upgrade my ticket to a 100GT.  This is really the entry point into the commercial side of the maritime industry.  Most of the 100 ton captains are on charter boats, smaller ferries, tourist boats, etc.  In the oil fields of the Gulf of Mexico they could be driving a 200′ crew boat taking passengers and equipment to and from oil platforms.

  I am singing up for more courses today.  When I take in my paperwork to the USCG I want to add as many endorsements, upgrades as possible to make myself as marketable as possible so a company will take me over the next guy.  I am going to add Able Seaman, Oiler, Basic Safety Training and Lifeboatman.  These are all ratings / endorsements required to build the roots of my new career.  I will try to post as often as possible to keep you all up to date with my journey.