Go Sail A Rust Bucket – 10 Reasons Why

Photo by cmiper Each year hundreds of cadets graduate America’s Maritime Academies looking for a Third Mate job with the country’s best shipping companies. Polar Tankers, Transocean, Matson… the names don’t change and the number of positions set aside for newly licensed officers rarely widen. Only the top cadets will win these spots, the rest are left to join unions or sail with less respected companies. While not making the cut seems like a sure path to becoming Giligans next skipper, you may actually end up better off than your classmate. Here are the Top 10 reasons why:

10 – A Learning Experience

Sure the new Vessel Management and Integrated Bridge Systems sound impressive but Captains are not looking for a mate that knows what buttons to press on a console, they are looking for someone who can think through what happens when the buttons are pressed. Years studying manuals is simply not as effective as months spent tracing cargo lines and rebuilding values.

9 – Management Skills

A chief mate is only as good as his crew. On the Rusting Rover, undermanned and in poor condition, even the simplest jobs can quickly because an “All Hands” event with mates and seaman doing the jobs together. By working closely with the crew you learn what makes them tick; knowledge that will serve you well later in your career.

8 – Networking

While the Marine Superintendant knows a lot about the fleet’s new ship he is more likely to have sailed the rest bucket. All companies have a ship “everyone” has sailed “back in the day” and by merely mentioning your rig it won’t be difficult to get them sharing sea stories at the next company picnic.

7 – Hard Work Gets Recognized

The reason Joe Perfect got the job with Polar is because companies recognize it takes a lot of hard work to get a 3.9 GPA and Joe will likely work just as hard for the company… but as the old joke goes; “What do you call the last member of the graduating class? Mate!” Five years into your career no one will ask what your GPA was. What they will say is ” wow, you spent 5 years repairing leaks on our worst ship. You must be a had worker.”

6 – Learn Different Ships

Your new company may not have the impressive pay scale of Transocean but it may have more flexibility is ship assignments. While the offshore king has only semis and the more coveted Drillings, traditional shipping companies have contracts aboard a wide range of vessels. The breadth of your experience is what will get you a master’s job by age 30, not your previous pay scale.

5- World Travel

The best ships of the biggest companies have the high dollar contracts. Matson isn’t going to send it’s best ship tramping around SE Asia, it will be put on a liner run to Hawaii. The M/V Rust Bucket, however, will take grain to Africa then refit to pick up containers in Singapore.

4 – Failure

Failure is the best learning device. With skyhigh dayrates the gem of the fleet is rigged against failure. With redundant designs, new equipment and the company willing to pay expensive 3rd party contractors at the first sign of trouble the mate aboard the gem of the fleet is unlikely to be tested with failure. Conversely Danny Salt, three voyages away from the trip to {insert shipbreaker} has a much better chance to witness critical failures at the worst possible times. These failures will test his ability and he will grow with the experience.

3 – Beats Working 9-5

The facts are in and the jury has convened, shipboard “managers” are now spending more time behind the computer than hitting the deck and junior mates aboard new ships can now spend weeks sitting in control rooms, bridges and chart rooms. This puts them at a disadvantage. When the big cargo tank needs to be mucked in August and the stripping pump dies will the Chief Mate know how to fix it? Can he accurately determine when the guys are at their breaking points? Will he have the self-confidence and knowledge to grab his boots and help the guys fix the pump?

2 -This is great!!

Read any blog on the topic of happiness, productivity or selling yourself for a promotion and the key ingredient is a positive attitude. Nobody like to hear the new Captain say “On the M/V Pride of the Fleet, we did this or had that!” while every sole aboard will appreciate the one who says “WOW you guys run a top notch operation her on the M/V Pride Of The Fleet, I’m so glad to be here.” Your outlook, job satisfaction and motivation to get things done will be higher when upgrading to a new vessel than moving down to the Rust Bucket that has a ten page deficiency list.

1 – Meeting new people

No one stays longer than they have to aboard the M/V Bucket ‘o Rust. From unqualified or inept people hired off the street to the fleet’s best captain who’s asked to do one hitch as a company favor, the number of short service employees is going to be highest on the worst ship. For better or worse each person who passes through your ship will have a lesson to teach even if the next captain’s only purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.

No Worries Mate

So before you get too depressed about your 2.0 GPA and graduation just months away, lower your standards and reap the rewards later in your career. For a wise old bosun once told me; “Never trust a Captain that doesn’t smoke like a chimney, drink like a fish or has never sailed a working ship.”