Friday, November 14, 2008

much ado

There is a lot of planning going on here at blog HQ/my room.
So much to do.

You see, the US Coast Guard is tasked with doing everything on the water, and is constantly being asked to do more. Along with their unstated mission of stifling the US merchant marine through ridiculous and ridiculously expensive and restrictive licensing policies, the Coast Guard also stifles the merchant marine through nationalization and centralization of the licensing system, thus making it impossible to discuss licensing issues live with the people actually doing the processing.
And so it goes. Remember when the Coast Guard was mostly interested in saving lives?

Yeah, me neither. My dad swears that it was true, though. Long time ago.

You see, let's go through the training and certification for deck watchstanders in the US Merchant Marine, now, and 20 years ago. This is based on what I have been told by my shipmates, who are great guys but may, indeed, have been goofing with me, a little.


Rating Training (and cost) certificates required (Cost)

Ordinary Seaman Basic Safety Training ($1000) Merchant Mariners Document ($220)
TWIC CARD ($135)

Able Seaman Above plus sea time, Lifeboat school above plus STCW certificate,
($1000) exam fees ($400-600) Rating Forming Part of a Navigation Watch,

3rd officer ($30,000), includes 26 weeks of classes for mandatory certificates in Watchkeeping, Advanced fire fighting, Bridge Resource Management, Terrestrial and Coastal Navigation, Celestial Navigation, RADAR, Automatic Radar Plotting Aids, Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems, Search and Rescue, Emergency Procedures, Shiphandling, Medical Care Provider, Cargo Handling and Stowage, Stability and ship construction, and some others, too. At the end of this, a comprehensive examination ($500 more) including medical review, pre-exam evaluation and acceptance for testing, and the exam itself.

Now, lets look at 1988, the same deal.

Rating Training (and cost) certificates required (Cost)

Ordinary Seaman on the job Merchant Mariners Document ($25)

Able Seaman sea time, Lifeboat school ($200) above, with AB endorsement
exam fees ($40-50)

3rd officer On the job-training. ($500)includes Radar observer exam and all exam fees.

Now, I've met some recently-upgraded 3rd mates in the last two years. Training wise? I am NOT impressed. My small-boat time prepared me far better than their classes, it seems. It seems like the hawsepipers I've met were taught how to pass a coast guard exam, not how to safely and efficiently run a watch... and here's the funny part. The experienced hawsepipers I've met are some damn fine seamen. It must be that the winnowing out process works slower than with the academy grads. I hate to say this, but in my own limited experience, the academy grads are far better at learning and integrating new experiences into their skill sets. I'll happily admit to correcting some seriously whip-smart kids fresh out of school on how to not blow up a ship or run over a small boat. One more than one occasion, I tried telling a new hawsepiper almost anything, and it's like I shit in their cornflakes. It's not like I'm critiquing subjective stuff, either, . I'm talking about almost anything, from stripping cargo tanks to marlinespike seamanship, the real meat-and-potatoes stuff.

This makes me nervous, 'cus I'm going to be one of those new hawsepipers, soon. Will I turn into a prick who takes offense at suggestions? Will I become one of those people, an armchair commander, able to quote the CFR's from memory, but unable to box the compass? You know, the ones who probably prefer masturbation to sex? Or am I going to be one of those cool guys I meet at the bar at school, unruffled, professional, like James Bond but with less stick-in-ass?

Well, we'll come back to that next year at this time, and I'll have your answer. If there isn't a poop or booger reference, you can assume that I'm either a dick now, or that my mom complained about my language again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting comparison between the hawsepipers and the academy grads. I'd hypothesize that the recent academy grads are more open to correction/instruction from older mariners because that is what they've been receiving for four years (along with the realization that they still have a great deal to learn). The hawepipers, well they've come up the hard way and have seen it all before. Good luck with them.