One of the coolest things to happen to me out here is that I was able to get my youngest nephew a job as Ordinary Seaman on one of our tugboats, and we regularly get to work together. Even better, his watch officer allows him to stay on board and visit with me when time allows for it, when they're not underway. He's been here a little under two years, but this is his last tour with us for now. In a few weeks, he'll be starting college.
My oldest brother lives an hour from the ocean, west of Boston, so my nephews haven't grown up on the water like I did. When T came aboard for the first time, at age 18, it was his first day working on a boat. Everything was new. By 18 I had over the 1,080 days at sea needed to be rated Able Seaman. I had a lot of advantages, and a bit of confidence from it. My nephew did not. At 6' 5" and underweight, he'd get knocked over by a stiff breeze. He was so fortunate in the next months to be trained by some excellent tug captains, and even though it was overwhelming, and he was still an overgrown child who wasn't used to an adult's job and an adult's environment, he was excited and motivated.
My nephew came aboard the HQ this morning- his watch officer calls me 'Uncle Paul' over the radio, too, screwing around with me. We had a great visit, and when it came time to get underway, he was utterly professional, utilitarian and precise, acting as an extension of the mate's eyes and hands- and I was very proud of him. He's put on at least 25lbs of muscle, and speaks and acts as a man acts, not as a suburban 20-year old. When I woke up again before dinnertime, he was here again, and we had another visit. Looking at our schedule, it's doubtful I'll see him at work again.
I often wish I had run away to sea before going to college, before impoverishing myself with a debt from grad school that would gag a goat and isn't worth jack shit to me while I'm on a boat. But the fact is that I DID do those things, and they may come in handy. I have options. If I lose a leg, I won't be homeless, hopefully. I choose to be here because I prefer to be here.
My nephew might be back. We might have ruined him. He's a big, cerebral kid with a penchant for complex math and a warm personality- he'll do well in college if he treats it like a trade school. He'd do well on a tugboat, too. He knows enough to keep his mouth shut when his captain gets a case of the ass, and when to bark back, now, I hope. He'll have options, too, after this.
And really, after working on a tugboat, college is going to be easy. Sit, take notes, study, drink, find interesting-looking women, repeat. He's going to have to deal with his peers being mostly kids. I'd imagine that'll be a touch lonely at first.
Going to be lonely for me too. It was so nice to be able to have time with family out here.
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