Monday, July 22, 2019

An ordinary seaman

We are under way westbound in Lake Ontario, headed for the Point Breeze Harbor inlet. We decked the scooters this morning in light rain and dropped lines in Rochester just before noon. We have calm seas with a moderate swell from the north.

Last evening we opened the mail, which was waiting for us in the office when we returned from our trip. I was pleased to find in there an envelope from the Department of Homeland Security containing the culmination of a process I started nearly four months ago; to wit, my Merchant Mariner Credential.

Back when we were in Fort Lauderdale for the winter I enrolled in the 100-Ton Masters License course at Maritime Professional Training (MPT). I omitted the description of my time spent there from my massive Fort Lauderdale update because, perhaps superstitiously, I did not want to mention it until it was in the bag.

In fact, it was a significant part of our stay there. The class was two full six-day weeks, and on the first day they were clear with us that we'd have no time for anything else. They were right; after each long day in the classroom I went home with a metric ton of homework, and I basically just took a break for dinner. I selected my course dates to overlap with one of Louise's trips to California, since I'd be poor company anyway.

The class culminated in a set of four proctored USCG examinations, and along the way there were three more exams relating to the required FCC radio license, First Aid and CPR, and the optional but included module for Commercial Assistance Towing. I also had to go to a USCG-approved doctor for a physical and a drug test, and apply for a biometrically secured Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).

After that was all in hand, MPT helped me put together my application package. The specific license one qualifies for depends on the amount of sea time accrued and the size of vessel in which it was accrued. It took me a full five years of cruising Vector to accrue enough sea time for even the most basic license.

In the 6+ years we've been cruising, I managed to accrue enough time both inland and offshore to qualify for what is colloquially known as a "3-in-1," which is an Officer qualification as a Captain in waters inshore of the "boundary line," a Mate in "coastal" waters offshore of the boundary line, and an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV), which is a limited Captain license both inshore and coastal for uninspected vessels carrying six or fewer passengers. The CG no longer prints the OUPV qualification on the credential, but it is implied by the combination of the other two ratings.

One of the things that MPT did for me that I would not have thought to do myself was to suggest adding to the credential application all the entry-level Unlimited Tonnage ratings that require no sea time, and so I now also hold ratings as an Ordinary Seaman, a Wiper (unlicensed rate in the Engine department) and a Steward. I guess if I ever needed a job on a US-flagged cruise ship, I can make your bed.

In part due to the USCG backlog stemming from the last government shutdown, and in part due to my TWIC being mis-coded when it was issued, it took the CG a full three months to process the application, and my license was issued just ten days ago. I'm glad that, unlike some of my classmates, my employment has not been held up waiting on this.

Now that I have the credential in hand, I will be forwarding copies to our insurance carrier, who rate our policy in part on the amount of documented training we have. It should also come in handy if we ever want to charter a boat in some other part of the world where we can't (or would rather not) take Vector. And if I'm down on my luck I can get a job driving the ferry, or the dolphin tour. Or possibly making beds.


  1. Good work Sean. So from now on if we meet I have to call you Captain??? :)

  2. And just what are you qualifications in bed-making? Are there advanced courses?

    1. Louise claims I have none. But once upon a time, a long time ago, I had to make a bed with hospital corners and so tightly tucked in and squared away that you could bounce a quarter off it.

      Having watched a professional steward do it, I can say unequivocally that I am not well-practiced. But I did not get the "Food Handler" endorsement to my Steward rating, so serving you breakfast in bed is not an option.

  3. On a serious note, it'd be interesting to know how much this knocks down your insurance.

    On a less serious note, what drugs did you get to test?

    1. Marine insurance rating is a dark art. I have heard that it should be a few percent. We'll see.

      I got to test zero drugs, according to the test results.

  4. Congratulations Captain Sean! We've been holding our breath waiting for the news.

    Ok, last time I'm calling you Captain however... unless we're actually passing you somewhere and hailing you over the radio. ;)

    But seriously... well done, and congrats. You can come make our bed anytime.

  5. Congratualations! Never stop learning....

  6. Arrrr Capt Sean, now can you get your pirates license and start pillaging? Congratulations!!


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